How much is my table worth?
July 19, 2009 5:47 AM   Subscribe

I have a tiered table that is hand-painted and signed by the artist Katherine Henick. How much might it be worth (in less than perfect condition)?

My table looks just like this one from Craigslist (this is not my photo, just one that I found). I've seen hand-painted pieces by this artist vary in price from $10-$300, but I have no idea how to estimate where mine might fall within that range. There are no structural damages to the table itself, but there is a little damage to the painted part. Does this decimate the value? I'm aware (er, guessing) that the painting is what makes this table interesting, so I'm bracing for the worst here.

Are there any general rules of thumb I could apply? Anyone have knowledge of Katherine Henick's work and its market value? I would also welcome suggestions for furniture dealers in the Atlanta area who I could call with questions. This table must be sold as part of the Everything-Must-Go Purge of 09, but I'm trying to figure out if it's worth more leg work than just putting in my yard sale.
posted by Eumachia L F to Home & Garden (3 answers total)
If you've got a "everything must go" mentality and it's not in perfect shape, expect on the $10 end of the scale. Getting full appraisal price for an item means waiting for the right buyer, and having an accurate appraisal price. If you want to get the maximum value for the piece, you'll need the help of someone who can give an appraisal (over-the-internet appraisals are worthless; anyone who gives an appraisal without physically examining the actual object, except in rare cases, isn't of any use), and somebody who can hold on to the table until the right buyer comes around, like an auction house or consignment antique shop.

Here's my suggestion: come up with a price, below which you'd rather just keep the table. Completely forget that there's any artistic value, forget that it has flaws or that you don't have room for it. Write in stone, in your head: if I don't get $50 for it, I'll just keep it. Put it out at your yard sale with that price on it. If somebody comes along and offers you $40 for it, say, "no, if I can't get $50 for it, I'll just keep it, I really like it, but I'm running out of room in the house." If you get a couple lower offers for it within an hour or two during the yard sale, lower the pricetag, and decide, "OK, nobody's biting at $50, so I'll ask $40 now - now, if I can't get $40 for it, I'll just keep it." Do the same thing, give it an hour or two, see if anybody bites. By the end of the day, either it'll be sold, or you'll know it's not worth anything.

Now, I know what you're worried about: you open the yard sale at 8am, and at 8:01 you have a crisp $50 bill in your pocket, an excited antique dealer is loading the table into his truck, and you feel like you got ripped off. Get over it: you had to get rid of the table, you got the price you wanted for it, and you didn't have to bust your ass to figure out how to sell it. Like I said in the beginning: if your mindset is you need to get rid of it, you can't expect full market value for it. Figure out the minimum you'll take for it, and go with that. Appraisals and dealers and maximising profit all takes work - it sounds like you already have an inkling that the work isn't worth your time, so talk yourself into a reasonable price and don't second-guess yourself.

As a sidenote: fine furniture, even in excellent shape, is not a high-profit, high-turnover product line. As you're noticing, furniture takes up room - you don't just need a buyer who wants the table; they need to have a place for it, too. At auctions I frequent (now, this may be a regional bias), gorgeous furniture goes for dirt cheap, because while most people can acknowledge a 19th century walnut curio cabinet is worth thousands, only one or two people have the room for it, and they aren't going to bid more than $500 for it...they know there's no competition.
posted by AzraelBrown at 7:26 AM on July 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

AsraelBrown's advice is spot on. I saw this earlier but didn't have time to spend on a thoughtful answer or much poking around. I'm not your appraiser, but I worked for an auction house, and we often held Antiques Roadshow-style events for charity; I currently work for an antique shop. Verbal appraisals are worth the paper they're printed on, which is why they're often given at no cost or obligation. And you can't even consider this one of those - it's just my information about how to make your own decision, like AzraelBrown rightfully suggested. You can often just email images with details captured, condition notes and measurements to your local auction house for a more accurate estimate than I can give here. Though some may have passed through, they're not valuable enough items for auction houses to list results for them nationwide, so there's your first clue.

What you're hoping for is like "Fair Market Value" - essentially, what a willing buyer would pay a willing seller in an open market with all conditions known and no time constraints. Except you have constraints - it must go and you have time constraints - so you'll get more of a "Resale Value" - the selling of a good to another party after having purchased it.

You've no doubt, as I have, already done the same research anyone in an "Antiques Roadshow" experience would - a quick Google that gives you a wide range, then you look at the item in question and evaluate the condition, rarity, and other factors and come up with a price based on all of that. Let's consider that though the furniture is handpainted and signed, it's not really artist furniture, but factory furniture produced over a lengthy time period with a dated style and no collector's interest that's easily identifiable (collector's clubs: a market to reach out to, as underbidders are as valuable as the winner). It's damaged - which doesn't decimate the value, it just means you don't get top dollar (and, I hear Shabby Chic is dead - okay, out of business, but don't tell anyone that if you want to sell your table - regional mileage may vary), so there's evidence you're not hitting a design trend at its peak.

What an appraiser wants is at least two comparable items sold recently in a similar market within a recent timeframe. I think in this case that you should let Craigslist be your guide, as shipping tables on Ebay = no fun.

So, again, the advice above is great. Also consider:

What did you purchase it for? Are you looking to make a profit? Have you used and enjoyed it? What's the cost per use of it? It probably doesn't really owe you anything. What's space and convenience worth to you? Let that be your guide then. I often picture what I want in exchange - for example, "I can sell this lamp that I bought for $2 and used for three years for $10 in my yard sale, because I want to buy a flat of thyme for my garden, and let someone else then sell it for $20 to a store who will get the $65 it could sell for ultimately; rather than me getting in the car and going there myself for the $20, factoring in $10 for gas and parking and my time."

Nothing invested? Then what would you like to be paid for your efforts? What's a good hourly fee for the time it takes to take an image or two and put it on Craigslist and then deal with the influx? Or, just feature it in your yard sale ad - it will attract dealers if they're interested, who may buy more things. You are now the seller, you set the price and be happy as advised above, but remember: an end-user will pay top dollar from you, if they love it and they're buying it for themself and don't have to pay taxes or retail mark-up. A dealer has to cover expenses, so they'll have a set limit beyond which they'll leave it. Or sometimes the back-and-forth is as much of a sport as it is a business tactic. Be prepared, if you're not personally invested in the table, let it go.

But, one quick Google of "Atlanta Shabby Chic" brought me to this place, so I'd start there if I were in your spot and it seemed like a convenient thing to do. If you want to invest the time, email or call around your local antique malls/markets, and find the dealer who'd be the most likely purchaser. It's a lot of work, and that's why antique sellers work hard for their profits.

Or, do the minimum and be happy with what comes to you - remembering that there's great value in just doing things expediently too.
posted by peagood at 12:18 PM on July 19, 2009

Thanks for both of these thoughtful answers. You've helped me figure out that the cost/benefit analysis says to sell it in the yard sale. I do appreciate the advice.
posted by Eumachia L F at 1:37 PM on July 20, 2009

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