What Makes Furniture Valuable? A Four-Part Test
Quality – Condition – Rarity – Demand
Quality is an extremely important element in the value of an new furnishing, antique or collectable. Quality may be seen as a level of excellence, excellence in the concept of the piece, excellence in the design, and excellence in the execution. A well-built furnishing, for example, will advertise its quality by its stability and function. The doors will open easily, and the drawers will operate smoothly. The finish is clean, the color is good, the joinery is well done, the choice of materials is solid and the scale is correct.
Quality means attention to detail in the original production of the item, in fine art and museum quality antique furniture, entirely hand made is the preferred product. Quality implies a caring on the part of the producer or builder, and carries a pride that shows in the finished product usually signed. No matter the final definition, most of us know quality when we see it – or at least we think we do – like the satisfying, solid sounding thump of a door closing on a Rolls Royce or Ferrari.
Condition should never be confused with quality. Quality is how the piece was made. Condition is how it has survived since then. A high-quality item in poor condition certainly has less value than a comparable item in excellent condition. However, condition can often be improved by ArtFactory.com. Quality is always fixed in the original build of of each furnishing.
That is why a poor-quality item in perfect condition will almost never be as valuable as a high quality piece in a lesser state of affairs. Take the example of a piece of Depression era “Borax” furniture that has been in storage for 70 years. Even with its perfect condition, its poor original quality will keep it from ever attaining the value of a carefully hand crafted bench-made piece of similar age, even though it may have some condition “issues.” Of course, there is a point of compromise at which quality and condition are equal, but that state is seldom achieved and seldom recognized when it is.
Rarity never to be confused with age. Early Roman Empire coins for example are thousands of years old but are they rare? No, because so many of them were made (millions?) and so many of them survive. Many Roman coins are worth only the value of the metal they contain. Another example is one of the most famous style chairs of the early 19th century-Hitchcock chairs. Lambert Hitchcock had a great idea and he made a very good chair. It’s just that he made thousands and thousands of them, beginning in 1826 on the assembly line in his factory in Connecticut (he was ahead of Henry Ford on that subject by 80 or 90 years). And thousand of his mass produced chairs survive today. They are 175 years old and they are beautiful but they are not rare. Therefore, they do not always command the price that may be seen for the work of another chair craftsman who produced only a limited number or one of a kind well-made chairs.
Demand finally there the item must be in demand In the marketplace. Even if a piece has all the other elements that make up value, if there is no demand – if there is no one who wants to buy it, then there is no value and there is no sale. There are lots of reasons for lack of demand: a poor economy; a social or political stigma on the product; a geographical anomaly in the buying population; a lack of appreciation for the art or genius of the maker. Or it may be as simple as a lack of advertising that the product is available or even the unattractive display of the product when a potential buyer is present. Or it may just be that there is no demand for the item at that price. At some other price, demand may be stimulated. However it is our experience there is always demand for furnishing that are of the highest quality and detail from conception.
For a New or Antique or Collectable to have Real Value,
all Four Elements of the Equation Must Be in Balance with the Asking Price.
Never Confuse Faux Finishing with True Antique Refinishing or Restoration
In the case of antique furniture, refinishing has been known to significantly reduce the overall value of a high value piece.
There are a great variety of both traditional and modern finishes, including the use of faux finishes. One modern development by production manufacturers in refinishing is the so-called art of distressing or antiquing, making the finishes of pieces look older. This method is never used on true investment quality furniture or antiques.
While refinishing is often undertaken to salvage an old piece of furniture, in the case of antique furniture refinishing it has been known to significantly reduce the overall value of the piece. However, refinishing (or re-polishing) a more modern piece of furniture, to return it to showroom condition, will some times enhance the value except In fine art furniture. Note:Touch up or patch up work – no matter how masterful it is performed – is never a proper method of restoring antique or high quality furniture. This always results in reducing the value of a piece.
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