Danielle Arnet

Q: I work for a lady who has a large, original Versace trunk that was her grandmother's. It is in great condition.

This lady is 80 years old and would like to sell the trunk. Who do we contact to get fair market value and someone that would appreciate such a treasure? She also has a smaller Versace trunk in New York.


A: The reader adds that the owner's family "traveled the world and even trekked across Egypt with this trunk on a camel's back." That would place it at a time when travel was a novelty and well-heeled travelers made Grand Tours of Europe, the Orient, and the Middle East. Tours as a fashion started centuries ago, but venturing into Egypt dates this around the turn of the last century to the 30s, when there was a mania for Egyptology.

My immediate thought was ... Versace? Born in 1946 (and died in 1997), Gianni Versace influenced fashion on many fronts, but he was never known for travel trunks.

Marvin Miller, owner of www.thisoldtrunk.com, agrees. The Indiana collector, researcher and restorer has worked with trunks for 40 years. But he has yet to see a Versace trunk.

"I believe the reader is writing about a Vuitton trunk," he told us. Founded in Paris by Louis Vuitton in 1854, the luxury goods firm has produced travel trunks since the beginning.

Today, early 20th-century LV trunks and suitcases are immensely popular with collectors. Some actually use them. Others display them as decorative objects.

Before Vuitton, trunks had rounded tops, so rain would run off. He introduced a flat top, boxy trunk and covered it with canvas, which kept the trunks airtight and lightweight. Vuitton's flat trunk was stackable, and soon it became the most desired trunk and a distinctive status symbol. In 1896, the company introduced the famous L. Vuitton signature design on the canvas coverings.

Back then, the rich and famous traveled with a flotilla of Vuitton trunks and luggage. Today, those old trunks in good condition sell high. One, along with two LV travel boxes from the same era, sold for $16,250 last December at Christie's. The auction database www.artfact.com lists others sold this year at $6,000 and $3,660. A small trunk brought $1778.

Simply put, Vuitton trunks, made in a variety of sizes and styles, were and still are the most stylish travel accessories ever made. Seeing them at auction, I always marvel at the quality of inside work in each piece. Amazing.

The best way to sell a good object is to place it before a large public. The trunks are too valuable to be sold online by a novice. An auction that happens simultaneously in person, online and with phone bids is best.

Any good auction house will no doubt be thrilled to sell the trunks. I recommend that you check Vuitton trunk results on www.liveauctioneers.com. Note which auction houses achieved good results. Then send images and watch the estimates roll in. Be selective when you consign. Let me know how you do!

FYI: Marvin Miller will give historical background for a trunk if digital images and info are sent to marvin@thisoldtrunk.com.

Q: Any info on a 62-inch by 81-inch blanket passed down in the family? Woven-in date is 1851 or 1821.


A: The "blanket" is actually a woven coverlet. Between 1820 and 1870, the loomed throws were part of a thriving industry. They are called hand woven, even though the process was semi-mechanized.

Coverlets are a collected form of folk art, with fancy examples most prized. Some incorporate sayings or patriotic motifs. Others have florals, flags, animals or names woven in. Dates of make are more common.

Demand is cyclical. Around the Bicentennial, when a craze for everything "country" swept the nation, craft shops stocked new "old" coverlets by the boxfuls.

Collectors always buy the very best. Value depends on color, pattern, regional interest, renown of the weaver (usually male) and condition. Recent auction records show results from $75 to $150. Some were up to $200, and a singular one with stars brought $950.

AUCTION ACTION: The universal domed Western Union Telegraph stock ticker invented by Thomas Edison and made between 1873 and 1900 has become a collector favorite. Surviving examples in great condition are rare: Those that escaped World War II scrap drives were ordered destroyed in the early 1960s by Western Union. An original on a cast iron base with a cracked and repaired glass dome thought to be original sold for $9,775 in a recent auction at James D. Julia. The ticker sold with an original wooden cabinet pedestal with cast iron base.


Question: What invention boosted the production of coverlets more than anything else?

Answer: French inventor Joseph-Marie Jacquard created an attachment that added a graphic element to textiles. Fancy "jacquard" prints became the ideal. Source: "Coverlets and the Spirit of America" by Joseph Shein, now out of print.








Collecting - Vuitton Trunks Are Highly Collectible, so Find a Good Auction House