A modern suitcase although practical and convenient, lacks the certain charm, character and craftsmanship and originality of antique luggage. Initials, crests, stickers and labels that adorn each piece of antique luggage document journeys long ago taken; their previous tales of travel left to the imagination. Antique luggage is attractive, both us a practical way to transport ones belongings and as a purely decorative piece. Antique leather suitcases make for particularly nice collectables.
The evolution of transport changed society, the opportunity to travel opened up the world to many, people were able to move between places quickly and freely and it revolutionised the way in which we once lived, there were no longer so many obstacles or barriers. Alongside the development of transport luggage also evolved, their size and style coinciding with the mode.
In the Middle Ages essentials and clothes would have been transported in trunks. Elite gentlemen travelled Europe on grand tours taking in all the famous landmarks, often taking large leather trunks with them. With the advent of steam and therefore steamships, crossings of the Atlantic became more common and antique steamer trunks were used as luggage. With the liberalisation of travel and an increased number of people taking holidays, there was a sudden need for luggage that was easier to transport. Large heavy wooden trunks gradually became redundant and the volume and size of luggage decreased. Groups of luggage were phased out as having servants to carry them became less common place, and with increased air travel and car owners, antique luggage became smaller and lighter again.
There are a large number of antique luggage pieces to choose from including antique hat boxes, vanity cases, trunks, tool boxes, wooden trunks, gun boxes, cartridge cases, iron suitcases and painting cases, two particularly popular categories of antique luggage are antique leather suitcases and an antique leather doctors case. The majority of antique luggage will be made from cowhide. There are also a huge variety of vintage luggage available to purchase, these will sometimes be found in better condition than antique luggage and make for a lovely addition to modern carry cases.
Antique vanity cases and grooming kits were used in order to transport your personal care and hygiene essentials with you on long journeys. There are some beautiful antique travel vanity cases available; they often contain compartments where you can store make-up, jewellery, and perfume and hair accessories. In terms of men’s grooming kits, some antique grooming kits still contain shaving instrument, brushes and bottles for cologne. Antique vanity cases and grooming kits were largely made from leather or canvas.
One of the most popular antique luggage categories, antique leather suitcases and trunks make for a great collectors item. Leather luggage that has been well cared for and cleaned, protecting the quality of the hide is desirable, the condition of the leather been often directly correlated to the cost. In terms of antique leather suitcases and trunks it is important to decipher the condition and quality of the wood in the structure of the frame, oak and walnut were used for some structures and are more expensive than their counterpart ‘pine’, which is less valuable although more common. Important things to look out for is the condition of the lining of the antique trunk or suitcase, velvet and silk linings are particularly nice, earlier suitcases were often lined with green and brown leather. Original paper lining or fabric lining is quite rare but very desirable. The condition of the hinges and clasps are also another consideration.
Antique leather trunks are often large and rectangular, they are very durable and the quality and the strength of the leather are mainly good. Asprey antique luggage is notable and particularly valuable. When purchasing antique luggage it needn’t be with the intention to use it for that sole purpose, a large leather trunk or suitcase can look attractive been used to store books or as a low coffee table, some even fashion vintage and leather suitcases on to table legs to make an unique side table. Whatever your antique luggage’s use it will make for an interesting talking point as well as being visually appealing and more personalized.