Coffers are common examples of 17th Century furniture. They are large, rectangular structures with four walls and a liftable lid. Some have subdivided interiors while others have no divisions. Its early purpose was mainly for storage, but also doubled as a chair and a bed on some occasions.
Coffers stored valuable items such as food, household goods, weapons, fine cloth, and personal belongings. They generally had locks to ensure security, especially in the crowded households of the time. Some members of the house had coffers in their rooms to safeguard their personal things. They would even have their initials or names engraved for identification.
Coffers can either be boarded or paneled. Boarded coffers were nailed and pegged and could be made by less skillful carpenters. Paneled coffers (or joined coffers), on the other hand, were set in frames and made by joiners.
Joinery was more expensive than carpentry. As a result, the most expensive coffers of the time were those wherein all sides of the lid were paneled.
Cassone vs. Chest vs. Coffer
A cassone is a painted chest used in the late Medieval times. It was used to carry the dowry goods during a marriage ceremony.
A chest is similar to a coffer in form, but had a different function. Coffers were used for storing valuables or traveling, while chests had a more generic storage function.
A hundred of years ago, chests stood in the public places of the house. They were high-status furniture at the time, as reflected by their high quality construction and decoration. In the 18th century, the status of chests declined. They were moved to more private parts of the house, and have become a means of storing everyday goods, along with cabinets and desks. Their once intricate designs also became simpler.
Coffers are 17th century chests or, simply, chests of importance.
Losing an inch or two in height would cause no concern. Lost locks, replaced hinges, minor repairs to the wood, and reinforcements under the lid are common faults that reduce a coffer’s value at a minimum. On the other hand, having a replaced lid, newer hinges, and major restoration to the wood can reduce its value significantly.