Salesman's Sample or Child's Vanity?

greenthumbfishFebruary 26, 2010

Hi Antiques forum!

I usually hang over at the HD forum, but when a friend asked me about this, I was sure y'all could probably help...

Dimensions are:

H 25.5"

W 42"

D 16"

Any info you can provide would be most appreciated. If you need better/more specific pics, let me know.


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I would think a salesman sample would be easy to hold in one's hand.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2010 at 6:29PM
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Salesman samples were made to scale like miniature trains are & they went with a horse drawn or Ford truck type wagon with several different samples & lady would pick item she wanted & pay part, I think & rest when he came back through with the full sized item. My dad is 93 & he told me about how it worked. Plains states didn't have many stores & traveling salesmen were main way to get things. The general store in town just had staples,cloth,etc. No place to keep much furniture or stoves etc, so furniture cos. made them up & brought them to you. It is a very nice piece but another possibility is a spice cabinet, they were beautiful. Have you checked the drawers out on bottom & look inside where they were to see if might have a secret compartment if so it would be salesman sample as folks liked a spot to hide their money or gold or maybe piece of jewelry. Many desks had hidden compartments.What are drawer sides like? Even dovetails or uneven? Any marks on bottom, take drawers to good daylight as mark may be faded or use an LED-the new flashlights that are like daylight( & you can really see what you dropped)!!LOL Hope someone else has more info.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2010 at 12:27AM
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The height doesn't make it child size. I have a pair of dressers that are 25" high. Apparently furniture was built "closer to the ground" in those days. That's a beautiful piece. Looks like a desk.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2010 at 8:39AM
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I'll bet it had a top piece with a mirror, at some point. I wonder if the legs were cut down. I also think it might have had a center drawer instead of that apron--don't know why, but the apron looks like it doesn't quite match.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2010 at 1:06PM
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Very interesting! Thanks all...

According to her, there's no maker's mark on it, but don't know if she checked the drawers, will have her look for secret compartments and dovetails. Yeah, I think it's that 16" depth that makes it look child like. I inherited a small desk from my grandmother that's tiny by today's standards, but it is 24" deep. idee, I thought about the apron too, hmmm.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2010 at 1:40PM
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Childrens toy furniture was smaller than salesman samples & usually not nearly as well made. The samples were the real thing in a reduced size so they used all the same woods & hardware except it is smaller in scale. You could find a piece of furniture made for a child that is very finely made but it would probably have been commissioned by a wealthy family in which case it would be very well marked. Salesman samples had to look great as folks didn't change furniture often & wanted a quality piece. A desk would have been a luxury in the Dakotas, Iowa, Nebraska, Mn. but in places like Black Hills my great grandmother did washing for miners & they trusted her to hang on to their gold, she did their "books" for them as many could not read or write. She was a poet,my dad has 100 of her poems & she was published in a Mn. paper each week. She would have been a perfect customer for that item. That would have been her"fancy" piece of furniture whereas the rest of the furnishings were made from logs cut by her husband. They lived in sod hut near a river in their early marriage.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2010 at 11:52PM
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Salesman's sample furniture existed in the 19th century and before. It's use was mainly to show to stores...
That desk was made in the 1920's. It is neither a child's desk nor a sample, but simply a lady's desk.
A salesman's sample would have been hand made, and I'll bet that desk shows machine made dovetailing.
Linda C

    Bookmark   March 2, 2010 at 9:51AM
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I'm not even close to being am expert like Linda, but I was going to say a ladies's desk before I even saw her post. Had no idea as to the year. ;o)

    Bookmark   March 3, 2010 at 6:51PM
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I was trying to find you a picture of my dressing table which is fairly close to your piece, if maybe a bit earlier. The front apron is similar so I think yours is appropriate. I actually have a few of them and most are smaller than we'd think of desks and dressing tables to be now a days. At 42" long I highly doubt yours was a salesman sample, and the scale seems a bit large for a child's piece but I suppose that's a posability. I think more likely it's either correct as is, or it's missing a portion of it's legs (which I'd guess is correct). Either way, it's a decent little piece :) If a bit short :) I use one in my dressing room and have others in our guest rooms.

A real salesman sample or childs piece would normally be hand made or at least "finer" made than that piece. This little dresser is a sales sample:

It's all hand done, and very nice (for scale the toilet is 20" tall as is the sink). It's an exact replica of the piece that was included in the sales literature with it...which shows the same dresser in a larger size.

Your piece is likely later than a typical salesman sample would be (probably late teens at the very earliest but I'd guess 20's as well). But it's cute :) If you don't have a child for it and want to ship it to sell I'd be interested :) It would be adorable in a little girls room.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2010 at 10:20PM
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I believe she is interested in selling, igloo, but I think the reason she asked about it was because she doesn't know what it might be worth. I'll certainly ask her about it though. Thanks!

    Bookmark   March 17, 2010 at 12:37PM
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Greenthumbfish your friend's vanity/desk is an attractive piece.

I'm new to this forum, and far from an expert on antiques. I'm enjoying many of your stories tho and love old things as many of you do.

I wonder if this piece originally had casters which would make it a bit taller. Many old furniture did and if you turn it over you may see holes in the legs where the caster stems fit.

We also have to realize that many people were smaller and often chairs lower 'back when'.

There also could be a possibility that it was a custom piece for a small woman.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2010 at 1:51PM
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IGLOOCHIC: I would be interested in selling. Will be glad to get shipping costs if you'll give me your zip code.

By the way, my husband examined the vanity and is convinced the legs have not been cut.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2010 at 5:23PM
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I'm sorry I missed this post. I was sick with the plague this week LOL

But sadly..I was so in love with the idea of this piece that I bought it a couple of weeks ago at the goodwill. Someone had donated it (not exactly but still a very similar piece). It was 99 bucks so I couldn't pass it up since DS is driving me NUTS playing at my vanity LOL Sorry :(

    Bookmark   March 28, 2010 at 7:12PM
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Thanks for the info. Glad you found something and didn't have to pay shipping. At least now I have an idea what it's worth. I'm going to put on Craigs List. Since things at Goodwill are usually real bargains, I'm assuming I might be able to get around $200. Do you think that would be about right?

    Bookmark   March 29, 2010 at 10:35AM
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I'd ask 350 for it and move if necessary (at least that would be normal in my area). The one I purchased was a bargain but it's the goodwill :) You expect that! I would have paid more but didn't want to cut one down so finding one already cut was a gread deal :)

    Bookmark   March 30, 2010 at 12:05PM
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