A reader wrote me recently with a question about his inheritance of an antique buffet:
I was trying to find some information regarding a piece of furniture that was left to me when an aunt died. I came across some Flickr photos of yours from a couple years ago in my search. It turns out that you also have the piece of furniture that was left to me. Do you know anything about this buffet? How old/valuable/anything? I have no sentimental attachment to it and wouldn’t mind selling it, but I have no idea what to ask for it.
Congratulations on your inheritance! I’m not an antiques expert and my buffet really isn’t anything special in construction or condition, but with that said here’s what I’d suggest for you:
Tips for Valuing a Furniture Inheritance
- Find out exactly what you have. Look for maker information inside drawers and on the back or underside of the buffet. Desirable makers like Stickley, Limbert, Roycroft, and Lifetime may not look much different than lesser brands to a layperson but the difference in value can be significant.
- Clean it as little as possible. Wipe off dust, but don’t use oil soaps, alcohol, or harsh cleaning chemicals that can strip the old finish. The exception to this is when you’re confident the piece is generic and the condition of the original finish is poor.
- Get a ballpark value estimate. I’d suggest searching Craigslist in your area and calling a few antique dealers.
- Decide whether to keep or sell. Consider the sentimental and practical value of the inheritance as well as the information from your research. If you decide to sell, I’ve been happy with Craigslist as a venue for buying and selling things like this.
If you’re a reader who knows antiques, what else would you suggest about researching and valuing old furniture? Share your thoughts in the comments below.