Dining Room Suites: Dinosaurs or Not?

Attractive china cabinet
Attractive china cabinet

I often get emails or calls from people who find out from my web site www.fromtimespast.com that I can help them with valuations of their antiques. Most of the time it is because the person is ready to sell their items and is not sure what they should ask for said item. First of all it’s a great idea to do this. By this I mean doing your homework before selling something. You don’t have to do this just by getting a formal appraisal. You can check out your local antique shops and shows for an idea. And, you can go on line and check out what similar items are selling for.   That’s the clincher. What “similar” items are selling for. What does this mean? We see what we want to see. If something is going for a high price we identify our own item with it, not really understanding why one may be valuable and one (probably ours) is not. This also brings up another problem. If we cannot properly describe an item then it is difficult to get a fair idea of what to ask when you are ready to sell it. And to make things even more complex, can we add the the cost of framing a painting or refinishing a piece of furniture  to the price we want for it?Dining room chair

The answer is usually no.I received the pictures and an email from Cary this week. This is what I had to tell him:

Cary – the set is beautiful. I assume that the chairs are nice and firm. Loose chairs bring down the value considerably as it costs as much to repair or tighten a chair as most chairs are worth. So, assuming that the chairs are good and the table top is in very good condition I would expect to see this set in our market in the range of $2500 -$3000 in a retail store.(perhaps more but not too likely)

Dining room suites have changed very little over the years in terms of value because few homes have room for them. Social events have also changed away from formal sit down dinners to more casual eating.There is a good chance that you paid more to have the furniture refinished than what you can get for the set – so I’d keep it unless you had no choice but to sell it.  The cost of refinishing is based on the labour expended and trust me, refinishing a chair is very time-consuming.If you sell to a dealer you can expect to get 45 – 50% of what they think they can get for it. They will be happy that it looks good but they can still only get so much for it. If you sell it privately you can certainly ask for more.
 Perhaps not fair but a reality. Of course some dining room suites will go for much much more. It will depend on the market you sell it in, the economy, the provenance of the dining room suite itself (who owned it) and its rarity.
A tip: if you are trying to sell a family piece such as a dining room suite find the earliest pictures your family has with the suite shown in it. People who like antiques also love this connection with the past – and you might just end up with a better price.
So tell me – do you think dining room suites are dinosaurs?