Antiques: Banjo strums a valuable tune

Article content

Q I inherited this four string banjo that was purchased by my stepfather in Toronto during the 1920s or early 1930s. There are names on the top end and it has its original case with the key for the lock, instruction books from the 1920s and bakelite picks. I would appreciate your thoughts on this instrument’s history and value. Thank you.

Advertisement 2

Article content

Brenda, Ottawa

A Mark Stutman, an instrument restoration specialist and 0wner of Folkway Music in Waterloo, Ont., provided his insight on your banjo. This ‘Vegavox’ brand was a professional line built by Vega of Boston from the late 1920s into the 1930s.  They were the company’s ultimate evolution of the banjo, and are highly regarded by tenor banjo players.  Your banjo was made at a time when production was lessened by the new popularity and dominance of the guitar. Hence, there aren’t large numbers of them existing today. This is a Vegavox 1, which was the most basic of the four Vegavox line models. A serial number hidden inside would date this precisely but it is in keeping with your information. It looks all original and in very good condition.  The original case replete with the tuning wrench and case key are nice to have along with the picks and method books. Playability is significant to value which Mr. Stutman points out can only be judged in hand to determine any needed restorative costs. In ready-to-use condition, he estimates that this instrument will command $2,500.

Advertisement 3

Article content

Christmas print.
Christmas print. Photo by Supplied

Q My mother was a huge fan of Christmas and she always brought this print out, titled ‘Christmas – The Yule Log’ to display for our festive season. The image is 19.5 x 25.4 cm (7.75 x 10 inches). The margin contains the names Buss and Cook along with “Hand Coloured by Hope Haines” in handwriting. Any information about the history and value about this print would be appreciated.

Vince, Waterloo, Ont.

A This is a steel engraving (a type of etching) produced in 1851 by engraver Henry Cook, who was known for bookplates of portraits and decorative subjects. The scene of a monarch sitting on a log is done after a painting by Robert William Buss (1804-1875), who was known for theatrical and historical scenes. Burning a yule log became a traditional Christmas activity. The engraving was likely published by J. Hogarth, 5 Haymarket, London, England. Hope Haines was an artist from Toronto who later settled in St. Marys, Ont. – an expert in tinting antique steel engravings during the 1960s and 1970s. Your rare print is worth $350.

Advertisement 4

Article content

Butler table.
Butler table. Photo by Supplied

Q Many years ago, my late mother received this lovely folding side table as a thank you for providing excellent care to an elderly lady when she was a nurse many years ago. The vertical height is 91 cm (36 inches). I cannot offer any additional information other than it has stood proudly in our living room for many years. There are no identifiers, so any information you could provide related to the origin, the artist or the manufacturer would be appreciated. Best regards.

Geoff, Kitchener, Ont.

A Your petite tilt-top butlers table is based largely on the late 18th-century designs of English cabinetmaker Thomas Sheraton, who produced several ‘work tables’ for fine dining. The trestle base is identical to his cheval mirrors and his furniture was often hand-ornamented, like yours with flowers and classical motifs including Morning Glories and a bow and quiver filled with arrows. The burled wood and fine cabinetry indicate an expensive piece when sold originally. It dates circa 1900 and is very likely a top English manufacturer when firms were inventing new designs while respecting tastes for earlier styles. It is a practical conversation piece worth $350.

ohn 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.*

    Advertisement 1


Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

Leave a comment

SMM Panel PDF Kitap indir