Asian and Chinese Antiques on Boston's North Shore

Asian and Chinese Antiques on Boston's North Shore

For over 30 years we've bought and sold what seems, in hindsight, today an unimaginable variety of Chinese, Japanese and Korean art all discovered on Boston's North Shore. Some of it came from  Manchester, Beverly Farms, Prides Crossing, Marblehead, Salem, Hamilton, Wenham here in Gloucester and many places within an hour's ride.

The question we are often asked is, why is so much of it here? Why is their such a concentration of fine Chinese porcelain, great jade carvings, dragon robes, carpets and bronzes in this particular area?

The answer is a simple, origins of wealth and the region's very long history.

Asian and Chinese Antiques on Boston's North Shore
Ming Dynasty "Hundred Boys Jar"
Collection PEM, Salem, MA

Boston's North Shore's most important economic foundation started in the 18th C. with Maritime Trade. Salem Massachusetts ( few miles from here) was for a time the wealthiest city in America.  The shipping families living there with names like  Derby (America's First Millionaire), Cabot, Codman, Crowninshield, Lewis, Pickering, Devereux, Forbes and many others were the catalysts for econmic growth initially in America. Their initial fortunes were made plying the waters of India, Batavia, Japan, Macao and numerous spots along the Chinese coastline. Some of these ships earned as much as $100,000 in one trip, which was a vast fortune in the 1700's.

From these trips the near 180 ships form Salem alone brought back not only Spices, silks, cotton and gold creating wealth beyond imagination but artifacts as well. The influence on taste in this region was enormous. Much of the material culture brought back over decades formed what was the start of the Peabody Essex Museum "PEM" in Salem, Mass. Today the PEM is probably the finest China Trade and Maritime museums in the world and serves as living time capsule looking back to those days as well as welcoming new ideas and art.  Through the incredibly generous donations of local benefactors, the Museum has expanded many times and in recent history arranged to move an entire stone house from China to the museum dating from the Ming Dynasty. Many of these donors are to this day the later generations of the original museum merchant founders.


Peabody Essex Museum Collection, Salem, MA
Early 18th C. Ladies Imperial Gold Silk Robe
PEM , Salem, MA

Through those years, coupled with the accumulation of additional fortunes made in Banking, Railroads, Farming, Manufacturing and smart investing generation upon generation have continued the interest in the Far East and have continued collecting. During the late 19th and early 20th C. additional vast fortunes were built and acquisitions of fine art from all over the world resumed with abandon.

While many of these priceless treasures have thankfully been given to the Peabody Essex Museum, as well as The Museum of Fine Art Boston, many remain tucked away being enjoyed in local houses and on occasion lent to exhibitions when they are needed. Also on occasion for what ever reason the time comes to perhaps settle an estate or to simply "downsize" we get a call to help bring the items to market. Most recently that market has been in mainland China and Taiwan.

That's the story in a nutshell, if you ever find yourself in the area make a point to visit the Peabody Essex Musuem in Salem, MA. Its worth it and tells the story much more detail than I can here.


Feel free to email or call with any questions about your own Bamboo Carvings, Chinese Silks, Porcelains or Jades or their values.

Thank you for visiting ~ Peter Combs
Gloucester, MA 978-283-3524

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