How much is my antique curio cabinet worth?

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Mearto Specialist:


Delia has nearly 30 years of experience at regional and international auction houses in the United States, and is also currently the editor of an art and antiques trade publication that tracks market trends, auctions and antiques shows. Delia is a generalist in glass, ceramics, silver and other metals, fine art, textiles, antiquities, wines and spirits, stamps and currency, collectibles and dolls and toys. Additionally, she is a specialist in 15th to 21st Century furniture from around the world. Her extensive professional network of appraisers, curators, dealers and collectors has proven to be an invaluable resource in her work for Mearto.

Have you recently inherited or purchased a curio cabinet and want to know its value? Mearto provides quick and affordable online appraisals of antique curio cabinets. All you have to do is click on the “Start Appraisal” button above and follow the steps to send us information about and images of your curio cabinet. One of our qualified and experienced specialists will review and get back to you with a fair market and insurance value, typically within 48 hours.

Have questions about the valuation provided, or would you like some advice about selling your curio cabinet? We are here to help! Our platform allows you to chat back and forth with a specialist to ensure that all of your questions are answered.

What is a curio cabinet?

Curio cabinets are designed to hold and display valuables; they are valuable items themselves. There are various forms and styles of curio cabinets that have been introduced over the years. But is it a different name for a cabinet? Not really. A typical cabinet can be used to display any item you have at home (school, office, or anywhere the cabinet is used). Curio cabinets are designed specifically for displaying antique items. Often, these antique cabinets display related items such as collectible toys, sports memorabilia, and figurines, among other things.

What is the history of the curio cabinet?

The technical definition of the term "curios" is a rare and unusual object. It is therefore not a new trend in the world of antique collecting. In fact, collectible curios have been sought after since the time of the Middle Ages and in the Renaissance period.

During the 15th to 16th century Europe, the wealthy intellectuals traveled across the continent. This resulted in the exchange of information and artifacts becoming more popular. With the amount of artifacts available, the collectors had to find a way to store those artifacts properly. Curio collecting became a subsequent option for these antique collectors. It was a favorite pastime for the rich and famous. They needed a way to showcase all the things that they have collected during their travel within Europe and outside of it. There were collections from Asia, Americas, and Africa, and they vary from works of art, sculptures, and tribal artifacts, among other things.

The purchase and collection of curios eventually caught on during this period. The need to use curios to display their antique collections developed into a more significant meaning. It was collected not just for entertainment but also for learning and scientific exploration.

The use of the term 'curio cabinet' was not used until the 1700s. This is when actual cabinets were used by personal antique and artifact collectors. Since then, personal antique collecting gained more popularity and they are used for showcasing special heirlooms and rare antiques.

What major collections originated as curio collections?

Over the years, there are numerous notable collections that were developed from the use of curios. Here are some of them:

  • Milan’s Museo Poldi Pezzoli
  • London’s British Museum
  • Austria’s Chamber of Art and Curiosities
  • Leiden’s Boerhaave Museum
  • Russia’s Kunstkamera
  • Paris’ Deyrolle

What are the different kinds of antique curio cabinets?

As mentioned above, there are different types of antique curios in the market.

  • Classic Curio: This is the ideal choice of curio for serious antique collectors. It is designed to hold a large collection of antiques. It is basically free-standing furniture that can display items of sentimental value to the owner. You can choose a style that can go with the theme of the room (or not).
  • Corner Curio: A corner curio cabinet is another popular type of antique curio that is sought after by collectors. As the name implies, it is designed to be placed at a corner of the house. It is also ideal for use in a small space. The curio is shaped like a triangle or with a pointed angle. This makes the back fit the angle of the wall, which fully maximizes any space inside the home that could have otherwise been put to waste.
  • Console Curio: A console curio is one of the oldest styles available that offers a more flexible than the standard curio cabinet. It is a smaller version of the standard cabinet furniture, which is used for displaying valuable items. You can find models with four legs but there are also legless models. The latter is designed as such to feature a lower profile display. Typically, the frame is made of wooden materials and comes with a glass face.
  • Half-Round Curio: There are two types of half-round curios in the market: semi-circular and curved variety. The semi-circular one is more contemporary in design. The use of rounded sides and glass provide an elegant touch to the style. Hence, it is sought after not just for its display purposes but also for its aesthetic value to the home.
  • Wall-Mounted Curio: A wall-mounted version of curio cabinet is ideal for those homes without any floor space to spare. Since it is wall-mounted, it is also typically smaller than other curio cabinets. As such, it is best reserved for storing smaller collectible items and antiques.
  • Mantel Curio: This is a mid-sized version of curio cabinets. It is larger than a console but smaller than a standard curio cabinet. This is recommended for use in smaller rooms. However, you can also find a wide range of sizes to fit the size of the room where it is intended to be used.
  • Open Curio: This is a rare type of curio because it does not have a door or back. Hence, it is similar to an open display cabinet wherein the items displayed are not protected from the elements. Since most antique curios are collected for their ability to protect (while showcasing) antique and collectible items, this is not as sought after as the other types of curios. It is growing in popularity among modern buyers, though.
  • Table Top Curio: This is another rare type of curio that is suitable for displaying miniature items. It is small enough to be placed on top of a table or mantel.

What are the various materials used to make curio cabinets?

Aside from the design, antique curios are also distinguished by the materials that were used for making them. There are different prevailing materials used in different time periods. However, these are some of the most popular materials used for making antique curios:

  • Wood
  • Oak
  • Glass
  • Pine
  • Cherry
  • Brass

How are antique curio cabinets valued?

Antique items, just like curios, should be preserved in their original state in order for it to preserve its value too. Hence, the first factor that should be considered when evaluating the value of curios is the condition. How similar is the current state to the original? While buyers do not expect to find antique items like curios to look brand new, it should be functional and has all of the essential components intact. A little wear and tear can be good though; it reflects the age and resilience of the furniture. Hence, you do not have to stress over some scratches or fading of the paint or color.

The authenticity is also very important. In fact, it is often the first thing that antique appraisers look into when evaluating antique curios for their value. It is important that you can provide documentation to trace the history of the curio cabinet that you have. If you do not have that document, you can have an expert appraiser look into your antique curio for evaluation. They can provide you with a certification on the origin and age of the item based on their findings.

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