Antiques: TV series boosts value of game table – Ottawa Citizen

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Q My cousin recently purchased this wooden inlaid chess table online from a lady in Switzerland for the equivalent of $520 Canadian. The lady originally bought it in France but knew nothing about its origin. It measures 60 cm in diameter (23.5 inches). There are four identical markings on the top and we don’t know if they are just ornamental or script. Any information would be greatly appreciated. Thank you and best regards from my Swiss cousin and myself.

Monika, Ottawa
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A Chess is very popular at present thanks to the Netflix series ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ and game boards have been popular for quite some time. Your table is 20th century but hard to pin down a more definite date. The contrasting marquetry (inlay) is impressive and the strings of ‘checkered’ inlay remind one of Persian techniques and I have an uneducated feeling that it might be Persian script in the four dark wood highlighted lozenges. The various exotic woods used are impressive. Its perfect condition is testament to its vintage age and will help with its salability. It is certainly a unique conversation piece. It will not be a surprise to see this table tagged at $1,250.


 Q I have had this small bottle for decades and have forgotten how I acquired it. I thought it was a perfume bottle until I recently watched a video showing that it is a Chinese inside painted snuff bottle. The artistic process is fascinating. The bottle is 7.5 cm high (3 inches). The stopper broke off leaving the spoon inside the neck of the bottle. I’m curious about age and value and if it can sit in the window with my other perfume bottles. Thank you. 

Sue, Guelph, Ont.

 A Your ‘interior painted snuff bottle, with its ovoid flattened sides was painted by a Chinese artist. This form is part of the highly refined snuff taking tradition of the Chinese – unchanged for over 350 years. The bottles were carried in the large cuffs of the taker’s garb. These have been a favourite to gather in numbers since they don’t take up much room but at the same time they provide a tremendous ‘amount’ of artistry. To paint inside brushes with just one or two bristles were used. This has a common scene which was supplied to the Western World in great numbers from the 1920s on. The tops are often a stone of some kind and you should be able to have it repaired. I haven’t heard of the sun fading these. Earlier collecting times found these bringing higher prices than today’s markets. It is a pleasant sample worth $65 today.


Q This wagon has been with me for at least 70 years, which my parents purchased when I was a boy. It saw a lot of play time with me giving my sister rides.  Sold by Simpson’s, this “Hill ‘n’ Dale” was a heavy wagon constructed of wood and heavy steel frame unlike today’s plastic ones.  It measures 101.5 cm long (40 inches).  It is in surprisingly good shape for its age. Thanks for your opinion.

Wayne, Cornwall, Ont.

 A Dating to the late 1940s or early 1950s your heirloom probably cost about eight dollars at the time. Robert Simpson opened his first store during 1858 in Newmarket, Ontario. The business became serious competition for Eaton’s of Canada. Toys still hold a fascination for adults and your wagon is also an advertising item – a collecting category that is very strong at present. The white wall tires will attract interest and the sloped bottom is unusual. This will bring out the inner child for auction buyers with a ride worth $125.

 John Sewell is an antiques and fine art appraiser. To submit an item to his column, go to the ‘Contact John’ page at Please measure your piece, say when and how you got it, what you paid and list any identifying marks. A high-resolution jpeg photo must also be included. (Only email submissions accepted.)

* Appraisal values are estimates only.*

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