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Antique Furniture Values – The Real Value : Part I

Antique Furniture Values

Antique furniture values often entice people into the world of antiques. Additionally, antique furniture auction prices have reached thousands and sometimes tens of thousands of dollars. Indeed, the media is flooded with examples of priceless and high priced furniture appraisals. Thus, everyone wants to know how much their antique furniture is worth!

Our online antique store’s success depends on finding valuable antiques for sale. Of course, much of our business revolves around crunching the numbers and determining the fair market value of antique furniture. As antique furniture dealers, Bohemian’s constantly has to appraise antique furniture values.

Antique Furniture Values Basically, we have found that antique furniture has four key elements that come into play in regards to establishing the value in the retail market. The four keys to determining value are aesthetics, condition, historical provenance and functionality.

Aesthetic Value – Furniture Aesthetic Value

Generally, my first instinct when selecting antiques for the online store centers around the aesthetic value. Of course, aesthetic value is very important to antique furniture buyers. Thus, I look for a pleasing wood finish, good proportions, well executed wood carvings, and good upholstery fabric. I choose which furniture pieces I would like to see in the antique warehouse based on the aesthetic value of the pieces.

Of course, furniture styles have plenty of variation. As an antique dealer, I have developed a taste for Victorian Furniture, Early American style, Colonial Furniture and Carved European Antiques. In part, my eye and my style has evolved because I have witnessed how customers infuse their homes with period pieces.

For instance, I can instantly envision how a carved Rococo sofa can add drama to an entryway or office. Or, my minds eye can see how a colonial style canopy bed can add charm to a guest suite. Alternatively, I can imagine a carved French cabinet becoming a focal point in a dining room. The sheer variety of artistic expression within the realm of antique furniture and interior design make the antique trade a truly fulfilling career.

Of course, the aesthetic value of antiques has subjectivity at its core. Indeed, fashion trends can greatly impact the value of antique furniture at any given time. Honestly, regional style trends can even impact a furniture price too. A certain style of furniture can bring great value in one area, but could flop in another. So if you are selling antique furniture, make sure you consider the best market for its style.

Antique Furniture Condition

My husband has developed a great instinct for antique furniture condition. He values the antique furniture condition and often has to point out to me what my overzealous eyes did not see. Of course, this is because he often totes around the clamps and glue. He checks for several things, including:

  • old furniture repairs
  • loose wood joints
  • bad warping
  • broken and split drawers
  • swelling and water damage
  • veneer damage
  • cracked or stained marble

Of course, these and any other furniture wounds make a piece more difficult to sell and at times, worthless on the retail market.

So, an antique chair could have the most swoon-worthy tufting but if its springs are sprung, sadly the piece no longer has antique furniture value. Antique furniture condition therefore is truly paramount for high antique furniture values.

Historic Provenance – Furniture Values

Historic provenance of furniture can add enormous value to an old piece of furniture. If an antique furniture piece has written documentation attesting to important historical provenance, the value will be enhanced. For example, George Washington’s secretary desk is going to be way more valuable than my grandmother’s desk (all sentimentality aside). And likewise, people value certain furniture periods and regional pieces simply because of historical provenance.

For instance, we have several Gettysburg antiques that were owned by a prominent US representative (Edward McPherson Pieces). We have set a high price for those antique furniture pieces because of their connection to McPherson and the Civil War. Also, our warehouse sits just 20 miles from historic Gettysburg, PA, so our proximity could help us achieve a higher value return on these antiques. Chiefly, Civil War historians are likely to agree that the pieces have value because of their historical provenance. Of course, you cannot easily replace a chest owned by Edward McPherson. Luckily for me, the McPherson pieces are also quite pretty.
Antique Gettysburg Chest

Antique Furniture Values – Furniture Function

Furniture function is lastly an often overlooked yet very important key to establishing antique furniture values. While it seems obvious that furniture has innate functionality, not all antiques measure up to the same usefulness in today’s homes. Certain pieces have retained their original uses. However many antique furniture pieces have now taken on dual or unusual purposes. Thus, in my opinion, these types of antique furniture keep their value or could even see an increase in retail value.

The Value of Antique Buffets

Antique Sideboards & Buffets

Antique buffets and sideboards were originally used in dining rooms, primarily for storage and serving. Historically, fine silver pieces and linens were stored within the drawers and cabinets, and their tops could be used for placing hot food dishes, away from the table. We still sell quite a few sideboards and buffets for their original usage in formal dining rooms and I think they are absolutely beautiful under a gilded mirror or antique painting. Decorating with Antique Buffet

Antique buffets give a dining room a beautiful sense of balance, and a touch of sophistication. They can double as drink serving bars, and look very glamorous stocked with pretty decanters, bottles and glassware. And if serving large or formal meals gives you joy (even if it’s a few days a year), an antique buffet still fills a great function in the home. Vintage Mahogany Buffet

Antique Values – Why

But many of our buyers simply do not see this need. Without a formal dining room to impress, many people instead use buffets as entryway pieces. And heck, why not? They have great storage for mail or even hats and mittens, and provide a great space to toss the keys and the dog leash when you come in the door. Antique Buffet Value

Another great use for antique buffets in a modern home is to house and/or center a flat screen TV. While our entertainment systems veer towards the flatter and smaller pieces of equipment, many people still need accessories, cord, and cable boxes. Vintage buffets, especially with a little doctoring, function as great TV cabinets!

Antique Buffet values

And lastly, many people use antique and vintage buffets as changing tables for their infants. We have sold large, carved impressive antique buffets to expecting mothers looking for a stylish, sturdy and huge piece to put in their nursery. For the price, these statement pieces offer a lot of value. When little junior grows up, these awesome and grand statement pieces can go back to serving drinks, food or housing TV equipment. Unlike traditional cheap changing tables, antique buffets last for decades.

These alternate furniture functions for antique buffets add to their desirability and ultimately to their value and price.

No matter how you use them, these pieces take up a lot of visual space in a room. Thus their aesthetic value and condition is of utmost importance. If an antique buffet features fine and expensive wood, like mahogany, it will have more value than its pine or poplar counterparts. Also, if the antique buffet has inlay, carving or a unique or unusual style, it adds to the price of antique buffets.

Antique Desk Values

inlaid antique secretary desk

Antique desks and secretaries have great variety of styles.

antique secretary desk

Secretary desks

Tall secretary desks with bookcase tops have great storage and take up little floor space. Often the desk surface folds away, making it great to hide away paper mess. Underneath the desk surface, usually two to four drawers help hide any additional clutter (can we say bills?) and above, typically glass front doors make keeping books, china and collectibles dust free. The added display opportunity behind the glass of pretty secretaries adds another added function. Of course, anytime you can avoid dusting the collectibles you have added function to your life. vintage secretary desk

Partner Desks Value

Antique partners desks typically also have a high retail value. Partners desks have been around for centuries, and were used in offices, banks, lawyer offices, and accounting firms. They have drawers and cabinets on either side, allowing two people to share a work space.

Although today it may seem rare to seat two to a desk, antique partners desks look great in any atmosphere where people meet with clients. The desks are finished on either side, so clients see the same pretty details as the professional on the other side. It brings a certain feeling of equity to the table. Certainly, antique partner desks show a lot better than any particle board piece of furniture. Antique desks denote a level of class and taste to clients. Antique partners desks, particularly heavy oak or mahogany desks, can visually communicate a brand of trust and seriousness to potential clients. antique partners desk

Indeed, even the President of the United States sits at a carved antique partner’s desk in his oval office. Could we site a more important reason than that for buying an antique partners desk?

Antique Display Cases and China Cabinets Value

China cabinets value leave people confused.
We often hear, “people just don’t want antique hutches anymore.”

How wrong they are! Well, how confused they are. Let me explain.

Antique display cases and antique china cabinets in great condition, high quality woods and good design have a great resale value. Do people use antique china cabinets the way their grandmothers originally used them? Not necessarily.

Antique China Cabinet

While we sell about three quarters of our china cabinets for fine china and dish display, I would say about a quarter of our antique breakfronts, vintage china cabinets and antique hutches are sold for alternate uses. To help customers imagine antique china cabinets in their homes, we often stage our breakfronts with books. When customers weigh the price of adding custom built bookcases in their home against antique china cabinet prices, they look like a true bargain! Indeed, an antique breakfront scores high on the antique furniture values list.

antique mahogany china cabinet

Another portion of our display cases and china cabinets house unusual collections. Many people who collect antique medical equipment, antique war memorabilia, historical papers or historical costumes understand that they don’t look quite as impressive in a modern cabinet. The waviness and imperfection of blown glass gives antique cabinets a very nice period look. And bowed glass, often found in turn of the century cabinets, gives great room and depth for displaying the unusual pieces that make up people’s collections.

antique showcase

Finally, a small portion of antique china closets and cabinets function in people’s walk in closets and bedrooms. We have sold a small number of antique china cabinets as shoe displays. Of course, for women with a beautiful collection of designer handbags and shoes, these china cabinets make incredible storage/display units.

antique china hutch

Antique Beds and Determining Value

antique pineapple bed

Antique beds are a more complicated story when it comes to determining value.

Firstly, antique beds made in the 19th century and before have smaller dimensions than standard mattresses. This often presents a challenge for modern buyers who would not consider downgrading from a queen size mattress. However, this challenge can often be met by working with an experienced carpenter to extend the side rails and to add new supports for modern bedding. This of course opens the market to a wider selection of potential buyers. When done in a non-invasive way, these modifications can increase the value of an antique bed.

When looking at antique beds, consider the workmanship and artistry of the antique. Bohemian’s has sold a tremendous amount of antique beds that had simply outstanding style and form. Canopy beds, inlaid French Antique beds, carved poster beds, antique paneled beds have sold for high values. The antique beds value stemmed from their beauty. Eventually, these antique beds became focal points in client’s master bedrooms and guestrooms. Antique beds have romance and star power! Modern furniture companies can not easily replicate antique beds. Thus, they continue to hold their value.

19th century oak bed

One final note on antique beds: because their function is so vital, Bohemian’s antiques sells antique beds that have long threaded bolts and nuts, have very strong and well preserved side rails. Of course antique beds must carry the weight and height of modern mattresses. A rocky or shaky bed will not be a valuable piece, no matter how stunning or artistic it happens to be.

vintage canopy bed

Antique Furniture Value

Bohemian’s hopes you have enjoyed this discussion of antique furniture values. Please feel free to continue the discussion below with any comments or questions you might have regarding antique furniture values.

Learn more about our antiques with this video clip.

Thank you for inviting us into your home and sharing our knowledge about antique furniture values!
Rachel La Bohème
www.eBohemians.com

3 thoughts on “Antique Furniture Values – The Real Value : Part I

  1. It’s great that antique furniture auction prices can reach up to thousands of dollars. My wife wants to get started with buying and selling things at auctions, and antique furniture seems like a category that she would enjoy. I’ll share this article with her so that she can look further into her options for going to some auctions for antique furniture in the future.

  2. I really like how you explained how values are assessed, I’ve been looking around for some kind of value on a 7 piece Custom Teakwood Living room set, all carved pictures that match. The only value found was “Priceless”. I hate to sell this but it is all I own that could save my home. Thank you

    1. Thank you Terry. It sounds like you are going through a difficult time, I certainly wish you all the best!

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