Rare Victorian - Comparing Herter Brothers Marks – When Is It Authentic?

Comparing Herter Brothers Marks – When Is It Authentic?

Authentic Herter Bros Stamps Comparing Herter Brothers Marks   When Is It Authentic?

Marked, signed, or labeled furniture in the Victorian era is the exception and not the norm.  The higher-end furniture makers seemed to be as neglectful in this regard as any of the rest of the cabinetmakers.  One of the most successful high-end makers, Herter Brothers, occasionally branded their furniture with “Herter Bro’s” and two of those marks are shown below:

Authentic Herter Bros Stamps Comparing Herter Brothers Marks   When Is It Authentic?

We often associate Herter Brothers with furniture of such grandeur that when more common-looking furniture bears their brand, we look at the piece a little closer and wonder if someone just constructed an appropriate device to mimic the original Herter Brothers stamps to up the value of non-Herter furniture.

Notice the two marks above.  As shown in the “Herter book”, the bottom mark is the one that I have seen most often – with the apostrophe.  Note the one above does not include an apostrophe.  It also includes a painted number, while the book describes Herter numbering to have been done in pencil or is impressed.  I have not come across a reference to painted numbering on Herter furniture, but maybe some of the fervent collectors out there have seen this on authentic pieces.

The top image is from a cabinet that is currently for sale (ending today), shown below.  It is currently bid up to $405, which for Herter furniture, when authentic, is a steal.

Herter Bros Etagere Comparing Herter Brothers Marks   When Is It Authentic?

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  • zeke - August 24, 2009

    This auction presents something of an enigma to me. This anglo-Japonesque etagere is better than entry level Victorian furniture but not by that much. Indeed I have seen many examples of similar etageres over the years. I have an ebonized etagere like this one, albeit not as nice. It most certainly does not scream Herter quality, yet we have to admit that Herter did make some plainer pieces.

    Still, I would find it hard to believe that Herter would manufacture a piece of furniture that resembles something a lesser maker would make from what is clearly mostly machine turned elements and shallow incised carvings. The top crest is more rococo and tends to compete rather than complement the angularity of the rest of the piece. I don’t think Herter would have designed it this way, but then again I just don’t know.

    The correct abbreviation for “Brothers” would be “Bro’s” but again that does not mean that Herter didn’t have 2 metal dies to stamp furniture, one without the apostrophe? One can be tempted to make all kind of speculations about a piece like this but it’s very hard to actually come to any kind of real conclusion as to authenticity. The low selling price (for a “Herter” piece) would seem to indicate that some other collectors were doubtful.

    As an aside, perhaps it is a genuine Herter piece, I really do not know but I am very leery of the acquisition.

    I would love to hear more thoughts on this piece from others, it’s quite puzzling.


  • monkecmonkedo - August 24, 2009

    I agree with Zeke and John and would only add that in my opinion, the back lacks “quality”. The back boards appear tacked on, rather than something made by a high end manufacturer. The aging also seems sprayed on, but I guess it could be normal. Seems just a little fishy.

    I had thought about asking the seller for pictures of the drawer construction. Perhaps they would have shown a nice recessed panel bottom or thin-waisted hand-carved dovetails. The single picture showing the drawer open doesn’t show much. It does appear that the sides and inside of the drawer have been ebonized. That seems a little unusual to me as ebonized Herter Bro’s drawers I have seen are finished in fine hardwoods and not ebonized.

    I also note that the key does not appear to have an “H” but it could be a replacement.

    If there were one or two odd things, they could be overlooked. With as many as we see here, I am leery as well.

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