Antique Appraisals

What’s It Worth?: Inherited quilt has value beyond family ties

By Terry Maurer

This Lone Star quilt and an early children’s ABC book printed on linen are collectible.
This Lone Star quilt and an early children’s ABC book printed on linen are collectible. Contributed photo

American-made heritage quilts — hand-pieced and hand-quilted — can have good value. In today’s What’s It Worth? we review one such quilt from an inherited collection. We also answer another reader’s question about their antique children’s book — printed on linen.

Q. This quilt was made by my grandmother or my mother — or perhaps both working together. I know it dates to at least the 1950s, and may be as old as the 1920s. It is part of a larger, inherited group of quilts and we have enough so every child and grandchild will receive one. What can you tell us about style and possible value? — Michelle in Richland

A. We were able to inspect all the quilts in Michelle’s inheritance and they are uniformly in excellent condition and of good value. Of course, the family sentimental value is priceless.

This particular quilt is in the popular “Lone Star” pattern and measures 87 by 77 inches. It would be perfect as a wall hanging or on a double bed.

Values of heritage American quilts have been on a seesaw for the past three decades or more. As early as 1993, The New York Times reported the resurgence in quilting and the impact on the market from inexpensive, poorly made imports from Asia.

Quilters 25 years ago were complaining that cheaper imports based on popular, traditional American designs were causing prices and sales to drop. That situation has only gotten worse in the past quarter century.

We know some Northwest antiques dealers who once specialized in American quilts have stopped carrying them altogether. They tell us it has just become too difficult to sell authentic older quilts. The imitations can have identical patterns and, if customers only want the “look,” the imports are available at bargain-basement prices.

This quilt is hand-pieced and hand-quilted using plain-colored, polished cottons. That can create a challenge to dating quilts, as patterned fabrics allow for much more accurate estimate of age.

That said, Michelle has ironclad provenance on all her quilts, and that only adds to their value. To ensure that the history passes from generation to generation in the family, it should be written down.

Quilt shops carry special fabric that is prepared to be printed on by computer. Once information is filled out with full names and life-dates of the maker, this fabric can be hand-sewn to the back of a quilt so the story of its history is not lost.

To protect family heirloom quilts for future generations, here are some care tips. Wrap them in clean fabric — a discarded bed sheet works well. Do not place in plastic bags or plastic containers.

At least once a year remove quilts from storage, air out (a guest room bed gives you room to fully open them), then refold along other lines than before. Repeated folds in the same place can weaken quilt fibers and cause them to eventually split.

Because of its large size, exceptional condition and excellent workmanship, this quilt would be fairly priced at between $300 and $500.

Q. This small “ABC” book has been in our family a long time. It belonged to a grandparent. It is printed on linen fabric and, except for some folding at the corners, seems to be in good condition. The book measures 7 by 10 inches. Can you give us some information about its history and a possible value? — Darleen in Kennewick

A. The publisher of this nice little book — M. A. Donohue of Chicago — came out with many children’s titles in the late 1880s and into the first part of the 20th century.

Located in Chicago, the center of the American publishing industry at the time, Donohue was known for lower priced editions of popular works of fiction of that era, as well as juvenile books.

This children’s alphabet primer was part of their Our Pets ABC series and was No. 870. Other titles by Donohue included Puss & Boots, A for Apple Pie and Babes in the Wood.

It is fully illustrated in color and depicts the boy soldier on the cover riding his hobby horse. The interior is equally well-illustrated.

The 1911 edition is the “first,” and first editions always are of interest to collectors. This book would appeal to those interested in children’s literature and perhaps even collectors of early 20th century illustration.

Condition is good to very good for the age of this book. We have seen them priced from $25 to $100.

Terry K. Maurer, Tri–Cities personal property appraiser, is a senior member of the Certified Appraisers Guild of America. For possible use in a future column, direct questions on your antiques and collectibles to What's It Worth? by email to tchwhatsitworth@gmail.com.

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