Treasure: Good things come in small packages

Khristi Zimmeth
Special to The Detroit News

Small and sparkly, Joanne Intemann’s purse caught the eye of appraiser Alex Diebel at a recent session held downtown at DuMouchelles. “My husband’s grandma is from Long Island, New York,” Intemann explained. “She passed away in 1989.”

While going through her things, Intemann found the purse along with a book of World War I photos, a diary of censored letters, dance cards and newspaper clippings. “She was considered a semi-socialite in New York when she was young,” Intemann told the appraiser. “Her family owned the Hodges Hotel. Her husband’s grandfather worked for Macy’s and was the inventor of the game Go To the Head of the Class,” she informed the appraiser. She and her husband inherited a variety of items, including the purse, which she described in more detail in her original email asking for advice.

“I found this little purse in a box in upstate New York. I believe that it is pure silver. The design on the front is raised. It measures approximately 3 by 2 and the chain is approximately 21/2 inches. There are four marking on the front, AM, anchor, lion and an I. All I have been able to find out is that it’s silver from England. I would like to know how old this item is and its value.”

The purse had been stored in a box for some 25 years until it caught her eye and her curiosity. “It’s been sitting around for a long time with a lot of other things we inherited. I think it may have been used for dancing or for storing calling cards.”

The appraiser agreed that those are possibilities, but thought it was used as a coin purse, not for cards. “Because the taffeta interior has divisions, I would believe that it was made for storing coins,” she told her, taking a closer look at the small item.” The marks do confirm that it’s English, as you suspected. I believe it was made in Birmingham in about 1908.”

She said that the purse – with its angels and other pretty detailing –is a nice example of art nouveau styling. The AM mark was a little harder to decipher, but after some research, she believed she solved that mystery too. “There was a Birmingham-born silvermaker named Alexander Macrae whose work looked a lot like this, so I would think there is a good chance that is who made it,” she told her. “It’s an almost identical match.” Internet research showed that Macrae worked about 1864-1878 in London, but other information was scant.

With a little polish, she said it would bring $150-$250 at auction. “It’s very cute and in quite good condition,” she told Intemann. “It would be a great purse to take to prom or another type of special event and it’s the kind of antique that still can be used today if you’re careful, which is great.”

“Unfortunately, I have sons, not daughters,” Intemann answered. “But my son just got married. Maybe I’ll give it to (his wife) or to my future grandchildren.”

Do you have an object you would like to know more about? Send a photo and description that includes how you acquired the object to: The Detroit News, Trash or Treasure?, 160 W. Fort St., Detroit, MI 48226. Include your name and daytime telephone number. You may also send your photo and description to If chosen you’ll need to bring the items to an appraisal session. Letters are edited for style and clarity. Photos cannot be returned.

About this item

Item : Sterling silver purse

Owned by : Joanne Intemann

Appraised by : Alex Diebel, DuMouchelles

Estimated value : $150-$250 at auction