do I go about finding out the history of my sampler?
Finding out the history of a
particular sampler is no easy task, as generally, the Sampler
would not have been stitched for a specific purpose such as to
commemorate an historic event or place, they were simply
examples of an individuals ability to stitch.
However, there is one particular type of sampler that would have
been stitched to commemorate an event. These Samplers are known
as 'Mourning' or 'Memorial' Samplers. They generally portrayed
records of the death or deaths of particular family members, be
it the children, parents or whoever. The details would go to
give the names, birth dates and death dates. Another variation
of this theme of Samplers is the family tree type, which as the
name suggests gives details of family members close to the
Having all these dates is all well and good, but there is one
key element that is essential if you are to succeed in tracing
the history of your piece, A location, place name. If you have a
place name or you know where the sampler originated from, then
your next step would be to find records of the person who worked
the sampler. In England, local government authorities (or
councils) hold records of births and deaths going back to as
early as the beginning of the 19th Century, and by obtaining
this information you can gradually piece together the background
behind this individual.
Local churches will also contain records of christenings or
baptisms as well as marriages. Records
such as the ones I have mentioned
are readily available to the general public, but be prepared to
pay, and also be prepared for disappointment, You won't always
be successful in getting all the information you want.
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it possible to clean my sampler and improve its appearance?
There is very little you can do to
improve the appearance of a sampler once it has got stained,
soiled or torn, your only hope would be to leave it in the hands
of a professional restorer.
However the things you can do are as follows, If the sampler has
a dull dirty appearance this usually because the glazing is
dirty and the linen ground is contaminated with dust particles.
clean the glass?
the sampler from the frame, taking care not to damage it and
remove the glazing. Clean the glazing using
mild soapy water, don't use hot water as this will crack the
glazing, and be aware that as the glazing will most probably
be old, it will not be as strong as modern glass and
therefore extra care must be taken when handling it. Set the
glass aside to dry thoroughly.
likely to be
samplers in extreme cases can simply fall to bits! Don't
expect to be able to remove all of the dust, if you have
been able to remove 30% of it, then you have done well.
do remove the dust?
remove dust contamination from the linen use a low power
suction cleaner with a fine nozzle and this will remove
loose dust from the linen. Be aware that age will have taken
its toll on the linen and
I clean the Sampler using water?
NO!, The coloured silks of the day
would have been dyed without colour run protection, and
therefore, the slightest hint of dampness will result in a
colour mess which will destroy the appearance. Once your
sampler has colour run damage, it is almost impossible to
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is the value of my Sampler?
Depends what you mean by value, be it
monetary or historic. I have a sampler in my collection that
is probably worth only $450 but as an ancestor of my wife
worked it, it is worth a lot more to us. (This sampler is
featured in Sampler Showcase as the Emily Shelton Sanders 1858
From a monetary point of view, the value of a sampler depends
on several factors;-
is worn, stained and torn, it won't be worth a
great deal. I have a Sampler in my collection that is dated
1817, and it measures 22 inches by 23 inches, but because it
is in a poor condition, (badly holed and faded) I only paid
$50 for it.
more detail that a Sampler has, the more value it has. For
instance a sampler that is in A1 condition, but only has
initials, won't be worth as much as Sampler that is in the
same condition having details like 'Grace Booth, her work
aged 12 years March 1817 Keathley'
Detail doesn't just stop at names and dates, The value is
also determined by the appearance of a piece, pictorial
samplers tend to be more sought after than traditional
Where you buy Samplers from
affects how much you pay for them. Buying a Sampler in the
UK is usually cheaper than buying in the States, because
the demand for them in the UK is not as great.
It is very difficult to give a set
of values and say that one type is worth X amount and another
type is worth Y amount, simply because every Sampler is unique.
If you have a Sampler that you want to know the value of, why
not send me an e-mail with a description and/ or a picture, and
I can give you an idea of what It may fetch at auction.
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can I buy a decent
The best place to obtain Antique
Samplers is at Auction houses or Sale rooms. Every city in the
US or UK will have an antiques auction house or sale room of
some kind and each one will have a sales catalogue in advance of
a sale giving details of lots and a guide price for each lot.
Each sale room will also have viewing days prior to the auction
where you can view lots before you place a bid on them.
If you cannot get to the viewing times, then an alternative will
be to ring up the sale room and ask for a condition report
together with a Polaroid of the lot, most sale rooms do this
free of charge and post them off to your home address whereby
you can leave a proxy bid over the telephone.
auctioneer will bid against you
until the reserve is met. (a reserve price is the minimum
price that the seller is prepared to sell a lot for)
Obviously, if someone in the room bids against you, then the
price rises until either the opponent bidder drops out or
your maximum of $700 is met in which case, you lose the lot.
A proxy bid is a bid for a lot
which is left by you if you cannot attend an auction, you
simply telephone the sale room, leave the maximum amount you
are prepared to bid for a lot, and the auctioneer will bid
on you behalf against anybody else in the sale room. The
major disadvantage is that you don't see what kind of
competition there is against you in a sale room, therefore
there is no guarantee that you will be successful in you
much should I bid on a lot?
This depends entirely what you
are prepared to pay, you can bid any amount you like, the
more you bid, the greater chance you have of winning that
lot. In most catalogues, there is a guide price given with
each lot. For instance, if the guide price was $500 - $600
this is the figure the auction house expects to get for the
lot, I would be inclined to leave a maximum bid of $700.
Even though this is more than the guide price, it is the
most that you would be prepared to pay, not necessarily what
you will pay.
If the Auctioneer starts the bidding off at say $350 and no
one else in the room bids against you, then providing there
is no reserve, all you will pay is $350. if there is a
reserve price, then the
Be aware that the amount you are leaving to bid is the
hammer price only, most sale rooms charge a buyers premium
of usually 10% - 15% of the hammer price plus any associated
tax on the premium. So for example, if you won the auction
and the hammer price was $650 ($50 below your maximum) you
would have to pay $650 + 10% + tax on the 10% which in the
UK is VAT (17.5%) which makes a total of $650 + $65 + (17.5%
of $65 = $11.37) which makes a grand total of $726.37.
Auctions are generally the best place to get hold of antique
samplers, as there is choice and also you can get a really good
deal. However, auctions are inherently unpredictable one day,
you can pick up a Sampler for literally peanuts, another time,
the price might soar. I was at an auction in the city of
Salisbury in the UK, and one particular Sampler had a guide
price of £300 - £400 and it actually sold for over ten times
that amount, (£4,200) so it is a gamble, but auctions can be
great fun also!
Another good place to buy Samplers if you don't want the hassle
of auctions, is from a reputable antiques dealer, but generally
you will pay more, as the antiques dealer will probably have got
the Sampler from an auction and so it will have his or her mark-up
put on the sale price.
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