Thanks for contacting me. The debate between the value of restored/refinished vs original condition is one that will go on and on. If one watches Antiques Roadshow, which many people do, then nothing should ever be cleaned or refinished, unless, it is a valuable painting, silver, etc, who can keep up. Trunks are utilitarian items, and unlike a dresser that can remain the same for 200 years, trunks were used and abused. The fact is, trunks are like cars. If you can find a complete, original 1957 Chevy convertible with 1000 miles on it, leave it alone. However, how often does that happen? I have many trunks in my personal collection, that are in great original condition, and I happen to favor these over any I have worked on not because they are worth more, but because they are a beautiful window into the past. Some people love everything just the way they find it rust, bugs, and all, and others want new and shiny. The middle ground is as always the majority. Most of the trunks I have I purchased for less than $200. I restore/refinish trunks because I love to work on them and keep them as original as possible, while making them salable. If nothing is done to the majority of them they have little value and will continue to deteriorate until all that is left is dust. I do sell some un-restored trunks, but like I said, most are just not nice enough for someone to pay much for them. I will not strip, say a leather covered trunk, if the covering is good, but not great. I feel it is wrong. Instead, I will just sell it for whatever someone will pay (usually on eBay) and let them enjoy it.
American, travel trunks, not chests, are my passion, and prior to around the 1830's, they were very simple (read, boring). Most early 1800's American travel trunks were simple hide covered boxes with a dome top and small brass tack and leather trim. These don't hold much interest for me from a manufacturing standpoint or an aesthetic one. They are also not very common, not in demand, and don't bring in much money. Scarcity does not always equal demand.