Old Camphor Chest Identification & Value (Guide 2023)

Fed up with applying surface oils to keep the bugs and moths away? What if I told you that there’s a chest that repels insects on its own? Well, it’s not magic but a magical, antique Camphor chest!

These large, carved chests have all the futuristic features you can think of – locks, pest-defiant aromas, carvings, and handles. Plus, antique lovers love their aged, handmade joints too! So today, these have a huge demand, valuing up to $1000!

So if you want to buy or sell such an old camphor chest, here’s how to identify & price the REAL ones!

Key Takeaways

  • Antique Camphor chests have a lot of carvings, of which the Dragon, Phoenix, Political, Floral & Maritime ones are rare and expensive.
  • You can identify old Camphor chests by their menthol-like scent, dovetail joints, Ivory inlays, and Brass locks.
  • Vintage Camphor chests with Lacquer, Painted, or Inlay finishes cost more due to their handmade details and age.
  • You’ll get two types of old Camphor chests – Trunk style & Box style. Of these, the trunk-style ones are large, handmade, and precious.

What Are Antique Camphor Chests & How to Spot Them?

Antique Camphor Chests

Before we start valuing your old Camphor chest, let’s understand what it really is!

Camphor chests are crude, hand-shaped camphor wood trunks from China, Japan, or Korea, which are loved for their prickly scents, motifs, and natural pest resistance.

But, if you want a truly antique & precious camphor chest, try to spot these features:

  • Intricate mythological carvings – Dragons, Phoenixes. Flowers, Birds, Boats & Trees
  • Ornate Brass hardware with Ivory, Wax & Mother of Pearl inlays
  • Outlined wood grain with a semi-gloss Honey Oak lacquer
  • Rectangular or trunk-like walls & Dovetail joints
  • Natural Insect, Mold, Moth & Mildew resistance

When Did Old Camphor Chests Evolve & How?

How old do you think Camphor chests are? From the 1600s or 1700s? Well, the first Camphor chest dates back to the Middle Ages! Large and carved, these 1500s chests were thick and aromatic. And since they used local Asian wood, these were rare worldwide.

Then, in the 1700s, different Arab traders introduced them to America. They even used some of those to save their clothes from sea bugs. And people called them ‘sailor’s chests’ for the same reason! But these were really heavy!

So, by the 1800s, makers had moved to lighter, plank-style designs. And since they were better insulated, people used them for storing precious items like gold, silver, and silk.

Finally, we had the industrial revolution, where steel became the hero product, even for chests! Besides, it was lightweight and moisture-resistant too! So, people ditched the thick camphor chests and opted for metal ones!

2 Types of Vintage Camphor Chests & Their Estimated Values:

People tweaked the existing designs & sizes with time, giving us these two types of antique camphor chests:

1. Old Trunk-style Camphor Chests

Old Trunk-style Camphor Chests

Ever seen the large, 30-35 inch sailor chests in museums? Well, those are nothing but the trunk-style camphor chests costing $300 – 4000. You can spot them by their floral or animal carvings and molded locks. Also, these have dovetail joints and leather linings.

2. Vintage Box-style Camphor Chests

Vintage Box-style Camphor Chests

These are small 6-10 inch chests for clothes, jewelry, and medicines. You see, the 1700s people couldn’t carry huge trunks on cycles and carriages. So, they made a simple mini-version with interlocking joints & metal lining. And these usually cost $20 – 2500.

6 Factors to Identify & Appraise Antique Camphor Chests

Now let’s see how other factors like age & style affect your old Camphor chest’s final resale value!

1. Antique Camphor Chests Age & Features

Antique Camphor Chests from the 1700s

We all know that ‘Old is Gold,’ surprisingly, that’s true for antiques too! Like, the earliest, 1700s chests cost more due to their aged finishes. But the new 1930s chests are cheaper, as they are plain! So, tracing your chest’s age & years becomes extremely important!

And here’s how you can do that:

Antique Camphor Chest YearAgeUnique & Collectible FeaturesRough Cost
1700s224 – 323 yearsLarge, durable chests with animal and floral designs, rope ties, and leather lining$900 – 8000
1800s124 – 223 yearsElaborate Natural, Mythological or Historical designs with Brass hardware and metal lining$500 – 5000
1900s94 – 123 yearsSmall, lightweight chests with geometric or Art Deco motifs, simpler handles, and painted finishes$120 – 3000
1930s84 – 93 yearsModern & Minimal designs with carved Ivory or Mother-of-Pearl inlays, Steel handles, and hinges$40 – 1200

Try to get old Camphor chests with brushed brass hinges, locks, clasps, and handles for an old make.

2. Vintage Camphor Chest Styles

Different styles of Vintage Camphor Chest

You’ll get antique Camphor Wood chests in four styles – Carved, Inlaid, Brass-bound & Plain. Of these, the carved ones cost more due to their old, colonial designs. But the plain ones cost less since they might have machine-made joints and finishes.

Let’s check the costs:

Old Camphor Chest StyleSpecial FeaturesAverage Value
Carved Camphor ChestsThick, hand-carved chests with Historical, Natural, Mythological, or Political designs$1200 – 8000
Brass-Bound Camphor ChestsSmall, Brass-style chests with brushed Brass lining and decorative hardware$900 – 3500
Inlaid Camphor ChestsLarge, trunk-style chests with Ivory, Mother-of-Pearl, or Precious metal inlays$100 – 4000
Plain Camphor ChestsGeometric or Art-Deco-style chests with polished or painted finishes and linear grain patterns$40 – 1500

Get Camphor chests with Geometric, Floral, or Chinese Rosewood inlays for the best value.

3. Old Camphor Chest Patterns

Old Camphor Chest Patterns

Not all Camphor chests have Federal or Colonial motifs. Some Sailor’s chests also use regional Landscape and Maritime carvings, while others have Calligraphy. So, let’s see how to appraise such chests!

Antique Camphor Chest PatternsEstimated Value
Flora & Fauna – Flowers, Trees, Birds & Other Animals$1200 – 4000
Mythology & Religious Symbols – Dragons, Phoenix, Deities & Scenes$900 – 2000
Landscapes – Rivers, Forests & Villages$500 – 2500
Geometric & Abstract Designs$80 – 1200
Historical Motifs & Calligraphy$300 – 1500
Maritime Designs$100 – 2000

4. Antique Camphor Chest Finishes

Do you know that different Camphor chests have different wall finishes as per age & Region? For example, the earliest 1700s chests had lacquers and inlays, while the 1900s used paint. So, each has different features & textures that affect the cost.

Let’s see that in the chart below:

Old Camphor Chest FinishesHow to Identify Them? Average Price
Natural FinishSimple, semi-gloss polish with a soft sheen and stroked appearance$900 – 5000
Lacquer FinishGlossy & Smooth finishes with clear or yellow-colored coats$500 – 4000, as per the condition
Painted FinishClear & Matte finish with hand-painted strokes$100 – 1200
Brass-bound FinishSmall chests with intricate brass lining, latches, and other decorative hardware$300 – 2500
Inlaid FinishIntricate Ivory or Ceramic finishes with extra moldings & meshwork$800 – 4000

Pick antique Camphor chests with Milk, Cement, or Enamel paint surfaces for the best returns.

5. Vintage Camphor Chest Locks

Vintage Camphor Chest Locks

One more visual tool to check if your Camphor chest is old or not is its locks! It’s so that the earliest 1700s chests had manual brass or padlocks. But, by the 1900s, makers used concealed or combination locks too!

And here’s how to identify & value them:

Old Camphor Chest LocksHow do They work?Average Value
PadlocksWork on simple, hinged metal plates, wire loops, and a lever-like lock$900 – 5000
Built-in & Concealed LocksUse an integrated locking mechanism with pull-out tumbles and keys$200 – 1500
Combination LocksOpen with a specific series of numbers or symbols instead of keys$100 – 900
Hidden & Decorative LocksThese are usually hidden under a sliding panel or plate. Work on simple lever locks and keys $500 – 3000

6. Old Camphor Chest Hinges

Old Camphor Chest Hinges

It’s not just the locks! Even other hardware – hinges and straps affect the final resale value! So, just open the lid and check your hinge’s shape. If rectangular or decorated, it might be an old 1800s hinge. But if it looks gray & shiny, it might be a cheaper 1900s hinge.

Here’s a list of all old Camphor chest hinges, with features and costs:

Antique Camphor Chest HingesEstimated Value
Butt Hinges (Foldable & Rectangular)$900 – 5000
Strap Hinges (Elongated Brass Hinges)$500 – 3000
Piano Hinges (Continuous, Running Hinges)$100 -1200
Decorative Hinges (Brass Hinges with Carvings & Inlays)$200 – 2000

What’s the Color of an Antique Camphor Wood Chest?

Most of the antique camphor wood chests are light brown, beige, or buff-colored. But some varnished ones might have some Red, Olive Green, or Gray streaks too!

Do Old Camphor Wood Chests Smell?

Yes, old Camphor chests smell like Mint or Menthol, especially if carved and unlacquered. But they don’t smell much if they are painted or lined with metals and leather.

Is an Antique Camphor Wood Chest Completely Safe?

Though a camphor wood chest is safe, it still contains some alkaloids that might irritate the nervous system. So, don’t sand it completely; apply lacquer or seal on the edges.

We hope this article helps you sort & price your old Camphor chest and its unique features using the price tables! Remember, the more antique and unique the camphor chest, the more valuable it is!

But it’s not just old camphor chests that are precious; antiques like ‘dressers’ or ‘old trunks’ also attract collectors. Want to know why? Join me now!

Judith Miller
Judith Miller

Judith is an antique expert with nearly 20 years of experience in the field of antique identification and valuation. She has reviewed over 30 thousand vintage items and has worked with numerous antique shops. She enjoys seeing new places, attending antique shows and events, and sharing her knowledge with people! Know more about me

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