US Coins

An antique dealer’s wood coin cabinets offer elegant option

Topping bidding of several numismatic cabinets at Brunk’s auction of the Peter H. Tillou collection were these two cabinets that each sold for bids of $1,500 on Sept. 29, 2022.

All images courtesy of Brunk Auctions.

Peter H. Tillou was a well-known antique dealer and like many dealers, also was an avid collector. In its tribute to him, The magazine Antiques called Tillou “an extraordinary man” who “often explained things first speak first to his soul and that connoisseurship and scholarship follow from there.”

His varied interests included weapons, African art, pre-Columbian pottery, Greek and Roman antiquities, Old Master paintings and coins. His Sept. 29 to 30, 2022, estate sale at Brunk Auctions in Asheville, North Carolina, however, offered five wonderful coin and medal cabinets. His medals also sold in the same sale, offered in various group lots. Brunk’s president Andrew Brunk said, “The sale is like a microcosm of the man.”

James Kilvington, an antique dealer and friend said in an appreciation, “Peter had boundless energy and a penchant for the hunt,” with “a wonderful appreciation for things of beauty and the history behind them.”

In an era before third-party slabbing, collectors relied on coin cabinets with individual spots for each of their coins, to house and display collections. Hidden compartments are occasionally included in these, adding to the charm, and they are characterized by sometimes extravagant design flourishes. Two of Tillou’s cabinets sold for bids of $1,500 each.

A 19th century British seven-drawer cabinet had a shaped top over two arched paneled doors, each drawer featured ebonized knobs, and the dovetailed drawers had mahogany linings. It measured a modest 16 by 16.75 by 11 inches.

More opulent was a possibly Dutch 18th century cabinet with four inlaid, dovetailed drawers above an ebonized cornice with butterfly and floral marquetry inlaid doors. The 15 finely fitted inlaid interior doors carried similar decoration, with the full case measuring 27.5 by 20.25 by 10 inches. It featured scattered typical veneer losses consistent with its age, replaced feet and retouches to the ebonized surfaces. 

Those looking for something even larger would find it in a British 19th century 28-drawer cabinet with a removable carved cornice in an ornate Classical style, with two glass doors opening to reveal graduated-size drawers having mahogany and red cedar linings and bone pulls. Paw feet add to the character. Approaching 30 inches high, it was the biggest of the bunch, selling for a bid of $1,100.

Those with more modest needs and budgets might be attracted to a flame mahogany table top medals cabinet with a double door enclosure, the lock present but without a key. The interior of each of the 23 drawers featured felt lining and circular spaces of various sizing, with a total measurement of around 14.5 inches square. It sold for a bid of $500.

A bid of $900 captured a classical mahogany brass mounted medals cabinet from the 19th century, broadly described as a medals or valuables cabinet, featuring a molded top over two paneled doors revealing five interior dovetailed drawers with mahogany linings. The tidy case measuring 16 by 21 by 17 inches featured recessed brass pulls, inset brass carrying handles, and sturdy turned feet.

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