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Mystery Attracts Antique Enthusiasts

Do you like a good mystery? I do and I’ve read many of the famous mystery authors from Arthur Conan Doyle to Louise Penny and everyone in between. But my favorite of all time is Agatha Christie.

I was pleased to see her featured in this past week’s Sunday News-Register Parade (Oct. 18) insert. The piece discussed the 100-year anniversary of her first book, “The Mysterious Affair at Styles” and the introduction of her famous detective Hercule Poirot.

Poirot is my all-time favorite detective so naturally I went to my small library of detective classics and pulled the book out to reread.

Mysteries are fun and a great escape. In a similar way, I think mysteries are one of the reasons collectors get hooked on antiques.

There is nothing more enjoyable than solving a puzzle and figuring out what an odd treasure is or what it was once used for.

No doubt, that’s why the Kovels Column is read avidly by so many over the years. It offers a way to examine the facts and draw a conclusion on history, value and maker of a piece. (By the way, the newest Kovels’ Antiques and Collectibles Price Guide is now available nationwide and online at Kovels.com.)

Antiques offer a hobby to explore and an interesting thing to talk about with friends.

For example, my shelf of mystery books is in an antique secretary desk that often attracts attention from guests who wonder about the books behind the glass doors or how the desk works.

Many of these books (besides my mysteries) date to the 1940s or so and were my mother’s and are slip-cased editions of classics printed by the Peter Pauper Press. These are attractive books that have wonderful woodcuts or illustrations and perfect font, cover art and colors.

Today these Peter Pauper Press editions are considered antiquarian or collectible books on eBay. Many bring less than you might guess on eBay but they do dress up a bookshelf in a special way and they are an affordable treasure.

Both my children and grandchildren have looked at these fancy books with slipcovers too, so these tomes remain interesting even in the era of electronic books like Kindle.

My antique secretary desk is aged and black in color but probably mahogany wood.

It could use some restoration but not refinishing. Still the desk front drops down and reveals a felt-covered writing surface and a collection of cubby holes and slots for storage of documents.

This black desk holds dozens of books, too, in its upper compartment since it has three strong shelves. It is topped with wide mo

lding trim and the legs swirl and curve, ending in the original casters. The glass is original, too. It also features one large drawer.

Secretary desks are very popular in the antique world and date back to the 1600s. During the 1700s, the bookcase and shelf units were added over the desk section, according to “The Dictionary of Interior Design,” by Martin Pegler.

Since I’m not sure of the exact history of my secretary desk and only know that it was in my childhood home always, it remains a bit of a mystery to me — which makes it the perfect spot for Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, Sherlock Holmes and other famous sleuths.

Maureen Zambito can be reached via email at zambitomaureen@hotmail.com or by writing in care of the Sunday News-Register, 1500 Main St., Wheeling, WV 26003.

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