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Antique Furntiure Appraisals: Take Them with a Grain of Salt

Antique Furntiure Appraisals: Take Them with a Grain of Salt
October 1, 2009 Chris

I recently came across the following article about antique appraisals while digging around for furniture news, and I was surprised at the price tag put on the furniture discussed in the article.

Now let me lay out some disclaimers: I sell antique furniture, I don’t appraise it (we don’t do appraisals, in case you were wondering); the furniture I sell is mostly English (duh), not French; most of what comes into our shop is usually 19th century, not 18th; and I am sure that Ms. Durr is an absolutely capable professional.

So, that being said, I would be very surprised if Mrs. Francis gets half of the $64,000 of the estimated value. As the article itself indicates, it is difficult for individuals to sell furniture and even more so to sell it at its “worth,” because of the Internet (hello, English Classics?) and the slow economy. Unless Francis gets serious about marketing this set, it probably won’t sell, and usually such an effort is long and painstaking. This is why marketing is an entire industry in itself, and why, in fact, I am sitting in front of this monitor slapping away at the keys—not everybody can do it.

Mostly it comes down to time. Francis indicates that she is willing to wait, but even given several years, the odds that she will find a buyer without 1) professional help or 2) serious investment of her own time are pretty slim. These kinds of relatively rare, quality items tend to sell in very selective markets composed of high-end auctions, designers and big-shot retailers (e.g. Miami Circle). Other options include Ebay, consignment and a patient email campaign to retailers—none of which are likely to reap anything close to the $64k that Francis is hoping for. This is partly because the Internet is a market where people expect to pay less, and dealers aren’t in the business for free.

In short, the furniture market is generally insulated from individuals seeking to dump their valuable antique furniture. Not that I wouldn’t love to be surprised or proven wrong, but if you’re looking into selling your own furniture or antiques, just keep in mind that a piece’s “value” isn’t necessarily its price, and for that matter is often just some abstract number that doesn’t really mean much to anyone but insurance companies. Your best bet is to do some research and compare what you’ve got to what other people are selling. Either way, good luck!