Posted on

Antique Furniture Values – The Real Value : Part I

Antique Furniture Values

As the Bohemian’s, running a successful antique and furniture online store gives us a huge outlet. Because of that much of our business revolves around crunching the numbers and determining the value of antique furniture. As antique furniture dealers, Bohemian’s constantly has to appraise the antique furniture values.

Antique Furniture Values Bohemian’s antique store has found that antique furniture has four key elements that come into play in regards to establishing antique value in the retail market. The values are determined by aesthetics, functionality, condition, and historical provenance and of-course authenticity. While each element is important, if any antique furniture item tips the scales, it can make up in part for others where the antique may be lacking. Bohemian’s has also found that antique customers value different things when it comes to antiques, and even that my husband and I differ on opinion (Gasp!). Quite frequently the Bohemian’s differ about the value of an antique and which element is most important. Let me explain…

Antique Furniture Values – Bohemian’s

As a woman, my first instinct when selecting antiques for the store is to go for the “pretty factor.” Style is very important to me, and a pleasing wood finish, good proportions, well executed wood carvings, and good upholstery fabric (if there is any) hits my eyes like a taste enters my mouth. I almost instantly know which pieces I want to see in the antique warehouse and I am drawn to them like a fly to sugar. Furniture styles (and there is enough information about that topic to fill up an antique bookcase) are plenty and varying, and through our work, I have become familiar with a good number of them. As an antique dealer, I have become a fan of Victorian Furniture as well as Early American style, Colonial Furniture as well as Carved European Antiques. In part, my eye and my style has evolved because I have seen how customers inject their homes with period pieces. Furthermore, I can instantly envision now, how a carved Rococo sofa can add drama to an entryway or office. Indeed I see how a colonial style canopy bed can add charm to a guest suite. Most of all, I am able to imagine a carved French cabinet becoming a focal point in a dining room. The sheer variety of artistic expression within the realm of furniture and interior design make the antique trade a truly fulfilling career.

Antique Valuations

My husband (fortunately) has developed a great instinct for which antiques of the numerous ones I pick out are well made and in good condition. He values the condition of antiques and often has to point out to me what my overzealous eyes did not see (probably because he is often the one toting around the clamps and glue… You know, antique restoration projects that seem to go on forever). He often checks for old furniture repairs, loose wood joints, bad warping, broken and split drawers, swelling, water damage, veneer damage, cracked marble and any other furniture wounds that make a piece more difficult to sell and worse, worthless on the retail market. So, while an antique chair could have the most swoon-worthy tufting and beautiful cabriole legs, if its springs are sprung and the chair frame is about to crack, sadly the piece is just not a valuable antique. Condition therefore is truly paramount for antique furniture values.

Historic Antique Furniture Values

Historic provenance of furniture can add enormous value to an old piece of furniture, especially if that piece has written documentation attesting to important historical and known figures. George Washington’s secretary desk is going to be way more valuable than my grandmother’s (in the retail market, all sentimentality aside). And likewise, people value certain furniture periods and regional pieces simply because they have a connection to them. We have several Gettysburg antiques that were owned by a prominent US representative (Edward McPherson Pieces) and we value those pieces very highly because of their connection to him and the Civil War. Our warehouse is just 20 miles from historic Gettysburg, PA, and we have learned so much about the 19th Century because of this connection. Historians who have a deep interest in the Civil War are likely to agree that the pieces have historic value, simply because they survived the Civil War and have a connection to an important historical figure. Luckily for me, the McPherson pieces are also quite pretty. 🙂
Antique Gettysburg Chest

Antique Furniture Values – Overlooked

Furniture function is lastly an often overlooked yet very important key to establishing antique furniture values. While it seems obvious that furniture is innately functional, 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. There are certain categories of antique pieces that we always keep in stock. They are simply very good sellers, and always in demand.

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. (See, there I go again, putting beauty over function!)Decorating with Antique Buffet

They 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 is still part of your life (even if it’s a few days a year), an antique buffet is still a great piece to own for its original purpose. 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 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 technology is making our entertainment systems more and more streamlined, there are still many accessories, cord, dvds and cable boxes that are slightly unsightly. Vintage buffets, especially with a little doctoring and diy-ing, make great tv cabinets!

Antique Buffet values

And lastly, and perhaps least expectedly, many people use antique and vintage buffets as changing tables for their infants. We have, on more than one occasion, sold large, carved impressive antique buffets to expecting mothers looking for a stylish, sturdy and huge piece to put in their nursery. For the buck, these statement pieces offer a lot of bang, and 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, which often meet their fate at yard sales and thrift stores.

These alternate uses for antique buffets add to their desirability and ultimately to their value and saleability. However, I cannot stress enough the importance of the beauty, condition and quality of materials in determining the value of an antique buffet. No matter how you use them, these pieces take up a lot of visual space in a room, so their prettiness and sturdiness is of utmost importance. If they are made of a fine and expensive wood, like mahogany, they often have more value than pine or poplar counterparts. If they are made before the age of factory furniture, and are constructed by hand, their value also increases. Design wise, inlay, carving or a unique or unusual style, adds to the price of antique buffets.

Antique Desk Values

inlaid antique secretary desk

Antique desks and secretaries are as varied in design as colors in the rainbow and can be desirable for so many reasons.

antique secretary desk

Secretary desks

Tall secretary desks with bookcase tops are awesome narrow storage workhorses that take up little floor space. Often the desk surface folds away or under a cylinder roll desk, 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 bills 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, and anytime you can avoid dusting the collectables you have added function to your life. vintage secretary desk

Partner Desks

Antique partners desks are another very desirable and valuable category of desks. Partners desks have been around for centuries, and were used in offices, banks, lawyer offices, and accounting firms. They typically have drawers and cabinets on either side, allowing two people to share a work space. Although today it may be 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, and certainly shows a lot better than any particle board piece of furniture. Antique desks denote a level of class and taste to clients. If they are made well, are particularly carved or elegant, and have a look of permanence to them, this can visually communicate a brand of trust and seriousness to potential clients. antique partners desk
Indeed, even the President of the United States is seated 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

Of any piece, we have heard this erroneous statement about antique china cabinets more than any other: “people just don’t want antique hutches anymore.”

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

Antique display cases and showcases with great condition, high quality woods and good design are always in very high demand. Are they being used in the same way as our 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. We often stage our breakfronts with books, and when customers consider the price of adding custom built bookcases in their home, even when using builder grade materials, an antique mahogany breakfront becomes a true bargain! Indeed, it scores high on the antique furniture values list.

antique mahogany china cabinet

Another portion of our display cases and china cabinets are sold for 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

And then finally, a small portion of antique china closets and cabinets go in people’s walk in closets and bedrooms. We have sold a small number of antique china cabinets as shoe displays (yes shoes) and 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. I would say here, there are many pluses and minus that can make or break a piece’s value.

Antique beds made in the 19th century and before are often smaller in size 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 a modern bed. This of course opens the market to a wider selection of possible buyers, and when done in a non-invasive way, can increase the value of an antique bed.

Another factor to consider when looking at antique beds, consider the workmanship and artistry of the antique. Bohemian’s has sold a tremendous amount of antique beds that were simply outstanding in style and form. Canopy beds, inlaid French Antique beds with satinwood and inlay, carved poster beds, antique paneled beds to make a list. The antique beds were some of the amazing pieces that eventually became focal points in client’s master bedrooms and guestrooms. The antique beds are simply not something that modern furniture companies can easily replicate, and these details are immediately recognized by our discerning and stylish clientele. 🙂

19th century oak bed

One final note on antique beds: because their function is so vital, Bohemian’s antiques is extremely careful to purchase beds that have long threaded bolts and nuts, have very strong and well preserved side rails and that are able to 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

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

Please 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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *