How can I put a value on this (piece of furniture)?
July 28, 2014 8:46 AM   Subscribe

I have a piece of furniture that I bought at a garage sale about 8 years ago for around $50. We need to get rid of it, but I don't know how much to sell it for. I think it's possible it's worth more than $50.

I don't know much about furniture, and googling hasn't been a great deal of help here. I have a sideboard (?) with a glass hutch that looks Mid-Century Modernish. It's not pristine or anything, and I have no illusions that I have a piece of furniture worth thousands, but when I put it on Craigslist, I'd at least like a general idea of how much to list it for.

Here are some photos (sorry I didn't clean it out completely for these. I will take better photos for the listing.)

There is some stenciling on the back that says, "1656-19 Wall Unit" and "Lot 456" but those are the only words I can find on it anywhere.

The drawers are dovetail construction and tend to stick when I'm trying to open them. One of the glass doors was put in incorrectly, it seems, but I have no idea how to fix that. It looks like the glass part had a back on it at one point, but it's missing now.

For all I know, it came from Big Lots or something, and frankly, I don't care if I don't get more than $50 for it. But I also don't want to miss out on a couple of hundred bucks if it's worth more.

Any tips on how much to price it for, or how to easily get a value for it? And how best to describe it?
posted by pyjammy to Home & Garden (15 answers total)
Ok, I don't know much about furniture so I'll leave that for later commenters. To me this looks in style at least like midcentury modern, which has been popular recently, which should help you. It would help you more if you were in LA or NYC, but you do appear to be in an area where people might be interested in that style. Unfortunately it is big enough that you won't want to ship it, so ebay is likely out. It kind of looks like there is some fading or at least differences that were not intentional in the finish. For me, that is not helpful in selling stuff. You might want to try wood conditioner or almond oil to see if that helps.

Given the condition visually and some of the minor condition issues you described, I'd take lots of pictures and put it on craigslist for $175, but expect to be willing to accept anything over $100. This is if you're willing to wait. You might get something immediately, or you may have to wait a few weeks.

You might also try calling a few consignment stores that accept furniture to see if you can find one that focuses on midcentury modern or vintage furniture. They may be willing to make a suggestion as to what the pricing would be in their store, and it might be easier/less annoying for you than craigslist.
posted by arnicae at 8:56 AM on July 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

If your goal is to just get rid of it, list it on craigslist for $150 call it midcentury modern and see what happens. Take any offer of $100 and up. If you really hope to make some money on it, you'll need to research and figure out the designer/manufacturer. Unless it a highly desirable piece then you'll be back to the $150-75 range anyway.
posted by sulaine at 9:10 AM on July 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'd post to FB's Mid Century Modern Furniture and ask for help IDing the manufacturer, and, depending, then probably do a little very gentle and minor restoration work -- get a bottle of Restor-A-Finish -- and take good, uncluttered photos, and then take those over to Midcentury Items Buy Sell or Trade on FB, asking -- guessing here, very hard without proper ID etc -- what your research will have told you might be appropriately around $500, and offering to work with anybody who wanted to arrange for and pay for freight shipping.

The pricing for that sort of thing is just through the roof at the moment; if you can clean it up and ID it it should be easy to shift for at least a few hundred.
posted by kmennie at 9:33 AM on July 28, 2014

Please don't use Restor-A-Finish; it will probably make it look better in the photos, but it's pretty horrible stuff to deal with if you are actually trying to genuinely "restore" the finish. And besides, the real problems, conditionwise, are some missing pieces of veneer and some outright damage that Restor-A-Finish won't address. If you want to improve the luster of the grain use beeswax which will do no harm to the finish.

If I had to guess I'd say it's a piece by some mass-market US manufacturer that won't have much name cachet. I think the suggestions about listing it somewhere where people could help you ID it are good, but I suspect that in the end its value is entirely in its cool midcentury style. Fortunately for you it has that in spades. Unfortunately, whoever buys it is going to have to put quite a bit of work into spiffing it up. I think it would be worth trying it on eBay with a "local pickup only or shipping entirely arranged by buyer" caveat at a starting bid of $250 and just seeing what happens. Be very upfront about the condition issues (close-up photos of damaged areas, details about the glass door etc.) and imply that if it wasn't for those the starting bid would be considerably higher. If that doesn't work, try Craigslist.
posted by yoink at 9:46 AM on July 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

I know nothing about *furniture, so I don't know if what you have may be a replica or a neglected (possibly too-neglected?) version of this, but the details of the linked listing of an apparently visually very similar item is going for $980 on Ebay.

*though I have seen at least 25 episodes of Antique Road Show...

(I did notice that the white part of the drawers in the Ebay listing appear to go straight across, and yours has a separation in the center.)
posted by Debaser626 at 9:48 AM on July 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Wow, Debaser626, that is almost the exact same piece of furniture! Maybe it's a knockoff? Interesting! Great find!
posted by pyjammy at 9:59 AM on July 28, 2014

I'm in Los Angeles (where the market might be different) and I would almost feel guilty giving you $150. It would have to be in really bad shape.

It might be helpful looking at Craigslist in your area (mid-century modern, vintage) to see if you can get an idea.

It's worth what people will pay for it. A quick solution is to price it high on Craigslist and see what offers you get. I might say $500, which still feel low out here. (Personally, I would kill for it, if I weren't so far away!)

And do not do anything to polish it up or whatever to sell it.
posted by crankyrogalsky at 10:02 AM on July 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh hey, I guess I should have looked harder in the drawers! I found "American of Martinsville" engraved inside one of them. (photo)

So it was...hotel furniture? Hospital furniture?

Found some similar items on eBay, armed with that knowledge. (And my face is red.)
posted by pyjammy at 10:10 AM on July 28, 2014

I imagine the used furniture market is pretty location-sensitive - some places there are lots of people who will pay a premium for mid-century modern (tracks w subscriptions to Dwell magazine), other places not so much.

Personally I think its very nice and would happily buy for $50, $100, $150 maybe. But that may be different in your New Orleans neck of the woods.

It does look like the piece on Ebay, but NB: "going for" on Ebay buy it now =/= value.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 10:13 AM on July 28, 2014

Oh, and guess what happens when the drawers are put in correctly?


(done thread-sitting.)
posted by pyjammy at 10:21 AM on July 28, 2014

NB: "going for" on Ebay buy it now =/= value.

Indeed. You'll note that the one Debaser626 links to--which is very similar to yours--has no bids at all at the stated price, and it's in considerably better condition than yours. If you look up sold items from American of Martinsville (as I thought, a fairly anonymous US manufacturer) you'll see mostly pretty low prices and a lot of "accepted best offer" results for the higher asking prices.

Given the condition issues with your piece, I think I'd try listing with an opening bit of $250 and see if you get a bite. You'll need to find a buyer who either doesn't care about the condition or intends to restore it themselves (or is unaware just how much it would cost to get a pro to do it).
posted by yoink at 10:42 AM on July 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have an American of Martinsville highboy, it's the real deal. Without damage, I'd expect to see yours priced $1000-1500.
posted by rhizome at 11:06 AM on July 28, 2014

So if the valuations are correct in-thread, you may be best off finding a consignment place to take it - I've had good luck with expensive pieces there.
posted by arnicae at 3:37 PM on July 28, 2014

Just to close this out, I ended up listing it on CL for $350, and took $250 from a guy who was seriously in love with it. Everyone's happy. :)
posted by pyjammy at 7:11 AM on August 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Try selling it on Backpage.
posted by Artemaximus at 5:19 AM on August 9, 2014

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