Antique Dressers add so much charm and beauty to a bedroom! Of course, most antique dressers feature quality materials not commonly found in modern bedroom furniture.
Before the era of pressed wood and laminates, most dressers were crafted of solid hardwoods. However, some may have had decorative veneers to decorate the drawer faces and the top. Most of the time, this adds to the value of an antique dresser, if all the veneer is in tact and in good shape.
But before we get to the value and price of dressers, let’s explore the history and design of antique dressers.
Antique Dresser Versus Antique Chest of Drawers
A little terminology first: “antique dresser” and the term “antique chest of drawers” can be interchanged. However, a slight difference you will find is that antique dressers usually have accompanying antique mirrors. Also, antique dressers are usually a bit lower and wider. Meanwhile an antique chest of drawers is typically taller and narrower than a dresser. But both have drawers and are used principally for storing clothes.
Antique Dressers in the Pre-1800’s
Commonly, in the late 1700’s to the early 1800’s, you will see early Federal dressers. These dressers have some very beautiful features. Fine furniture from this period often features incredible mahogany or walnut woods and very fancy veneers. So, for instance, on the front of an early Federal dresser, you may see what is called “book-matched” veneer that appears to flame outwards from the center.
This process involves selecting fine mahogany that has a very dramatic veneer and slicing it very thin. Then it means matching the grain on either side, like opening the pages of a book. Often, these early dressers also had bowed fronts, which made this effect even more striking! Most often, the hardware of an early federal dresser features solid brass oval Hepplewhite style pulls, or Chippendale style pulls.
Occasionally, you may find some carving on dressers made in the Pre-1800’s. Dressers in the William and Mary style are somewhat rare in the United States. These early pieces sometimes have surface carving applied to the drawer fronts and lovely tear drop style hardware.
Antique Dressers in the 1800’s
Antique Dressers in the 1800’s varied in design and wood throughout the century.
One of the most common style for the first quarter to the first half of the century are called “Empire Dressers.” Empire Dressers have a distinctive style and shape, usually sitting about 4 feet wide and about 4.5 to 5 feet tall. These types of antique dressers often have a larger top drawer that may extend further out than the others, although this is not a hard and fast rule.
Some antique Empire dressers have carved columns, fancy veneer work and glass knobs. Typically you see a rolled scroll or bun foot. Others have simple turnings on the sides and wooden knobs. Likewise, you can see Empire dressers made of simple poplar or fir, to very fancy cherry and mahogany ones.
You can find that this range in design often relates to the region, as well as the wealth of the owner. Of course, wealthy merchants and businessmen would have commissioned more striking and unique dressers for their homes.
Antique Victorian Dressers
By the mid to late 1800’s, Victorian fashions took the United States by storm. Victorian Dressers often have very showy designs. Of course, you may see a tendency for Victorian Dressers to touch the ceiling, with elaborate carvings along the mirror and base. Sometimes, they have marble tops, carved handles and even spots to put the candlelight!
People tend to love Victorian Dressers for their drama. For this reason, many people choose to put Victorian Dressers in more public spaces in their homes, like the foyer. Often, they are too glamorous to hide away in the bedroom.
That said, there are also simpler antique dressers from the Victorian period. Such often have very sweet and humble designs. Often made of oak and with tall oval mirrors, these late period Victorian dressers still look great in any bedroom in the home.
Antique Dresser Values
Antique Dresser values can obviously range from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars. Of course, the design complexity, rarity, condition and provenance often will make a dresser extremely valuable. These would be rare to find and often this level of antiques comes with written proof of provenance. However, there are still some antique dealers who have such fine pieces in their collection.
On the other hand, more modest versions of these antique dressers can still be found on the market today. In fact, you might be surprised at how reasonable these pieces may be today. Sometimes you can find an incredible mahogany Federal Period dresser for right around $1500!
Even better, if you are on a budget, you can often find an antique Empire dresser or Victorian Dresser for much less than that. In fact, there are Empire dressers and even fancy Victorian dressers on the market today for less than $600.
We dedicate a few hours a week to sourcing some of the best deals on antique dressers out there across the country. So stop back often. We are always looking for quality, beauty and a great price!