The large sums fetched at auction in the past have proven to be an irresistible lure to a variety of "artists" and their enablers in the antiques trade. Sadly, the level of craftsmanship is absolutely appalling, particularly given the prices their sponsors are projecting.
Lets take a look at one of the current offerings from Sterling Associates of Closter, New Jersey. This particular piece has a starting bid of $5000 and is described as:
19th Century European Vampire hunting kit in wood coffin box . Complete with hand carved wood stakes, holy water, garlic and much more. Length: 61 1/2", Height: 14 3/4", Depth: 26"19th Century? Really? Given the total lack of provenance for the piece that's an impressive claim. Even more so when one discovers that Sterling Associates has, somehow, been able to uncover a hidden stash of vampire killing kits. How else can we explain the steady stream of such items they've been presenting at auction?
What's that you say? Perhaps I'm being cynical? You may have a point, my friend. After all, just look at the craftsmanship of this kit. Note the smoothly planed wood, the expert joinery, the rich, buttery finish. It truly is a beautiful antique.
Now lets take a look inside and SWEET FANCY FREAKIN' MOSES. What the hell is this? What happened to the fantastic craftsmanship? It's almost as if some hack took a well done period box and took a big, steaming crap inside of it.
Wait, it's worse than that. They not only filled it with crap, but they went out of their way to actually ruin the interior of that wonderful box we saw up above. Just take a look at the horrific "aging treatment" on display. Randomly placed gouges. Identical, repetitive tool marks (almost certainly the flat of a screwdriver and an awl point). Flame aging the wood with, apparently, an industrial plasma torch.
And the ax? Nothing says "cool vampire killing tool" like tiger stripes. Or a half-assed attempt at flame aging. Take your pick.
Looks like interior of the lid was lucky enough to escape with only a quick pass of the blowtorch. Unfortunately, the master craftsman who did the joinery for the exterior of the box appears to have thrown up his hands and just given up when he did the interior work. After poking some random pieces of softwood with an awl be nailed it all together with...upholstery tacks.
And what are these...things? Wooden stabbing knives? With a vanishingly thin blade that would snap if you poked it against skin?
Somebody took a torch to Jesus. Say what you will about the Romans, but they had some craftsmanship. When they nailed someone to the cross they used real iron spikes, not stamped brass decorative tacks sourced from China.
Take a good, long look at this picture. Somebody saw a gorgeous, vintage wooden box and said to themselves "I really need to ruin this thing by gouging the hell out of it". To make it even more egregious, they thought it would be a good idea to do all this hackery to the interior of the box.
And what's up with the letter opener?
"I know! I'll brutally gouge and flame age this piece of wood and then I'll glue a random map of Transylvania to it! Spooky, spooky!" Also, brass stuff.
Take one glass apothecary jar. Seal it with wax. Watch with dismay as the seal breaks. Every. Single. Time.
There's a reason glass on glass stoppers were sealed with resin products like pitch or shellac.
Vampire Killing Kit ProTip: Just because you buy upholstery tacks in 100 piece lots doesn't mean you have to use every single one of them.
I have no experience killing actual vampires, but I would think you would want your stakes to be easy to use. Grab mallet...tap, tap...dead vampire. Making the head of the mallet as narrow as physically possible would, I think, complicate the process. As would adding a carved lion finial from a restoration hardware store to the top of the stake.
This kit is a terrible piece of work, and I don't say that lightly. If you go back through the archives you'll find this is the first time I've ragged on the quality of a prop.* Given the over reliance on flame aging, the hack weathering treatment, and the geographic area involved I have a pretty good idea of who did it. They, and their sponsors in the antiques and auction community, should be ashamed that this is being offered up for sale.
* Other than criticism of my own stuff. I'll show work that sucks because there's something to be gained by pointing out why it's bad. I know I'm a hack, and hopefully others can learn from my mistakes.