valuing a bunch of French furniture and some collectibles in OC?

andersons21February 27, 2012

Before he met me, my husband acquired some antique French furniture through a friend whose aunts ran a design center. I haven't been able to find any receipts for what he paid, and he doesn't remember much. I am about to remodel and redecorate the house, and would like to know the approximate value so that I can decide what to do with the different items. I'm in OC, CA -- any recommendations how to get an approximate value for a household of French furniture? Some of it I want to keep and maybe insure (large mirrored French armoire that looks very old); some I want to reupholster (pair of French loveseats, I believe top quality); some I want to sell (large u-shaped walnut desk that's too big for our space); some I would refinish (carved mahogany table I would paint).

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Please don't paint the mahogany if it is an old piece! Good old mahogany is beautiful, and you'll ruin the value of the table!

Is the U-shaped desk semi-circular? It could be a hunt table.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2012 at 8:54PM
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I'm pretty sure the mahogany table is not a great old piece. It has an ugly finish on it, fairly opaque/muddy and too burgundy colored. I've seen really beautiful antique mahogany pieces (and love them) and this is not it.

I am stripping and refinishing an old (probably 50 years old) mahogany dining table that had a similar opaque-muddy-burgundy finish. Bought it at an antique mall for about $100. Well, I have learned that although there is some lovely wood on the table top (and you can hardly get nice mahogany like this any more), there were also substantial defects in some of the wood and workmanship, which were masked by the muddy toning layers of finish. I don't know if I want to do any more stripping and refinishing of mahogany. With the marble topped console, I can see a hint of the mahogany grain in one spot, but the finish is similarly muddy and possibly obscuring defects. If the wood were beautiful, it would probably have a crystal clear lacquer or shellac finish.

The u-shaped desk is not really semi-circular...but it has rounded corners. It has leaves that fold up on each side of the U to expand it. I've looked at the wood and workmanship, and don't think it is particularly valuable. But it is not junk either. It might be better to sell at an auction rather than CL, though I don't know much about auctions. I like the desk, but it is way, way, way too big for the room, and we don't have any other place in the house to use it.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 1:10AM
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An old murky finish might not be deliberately disguising inferior wood. It could just be an old finish gone bad, if it was not correctly maintained, or old wax. Although I do know what you mean about some of the dark, muddy finishes that were used to cover wood with heartwood (springwood) lighter streaks. You might try cleaning it first, if you haven't already, to see if that brightens it up.

If you do decide to paint, please leave a finish of some kind under the paint, so the paint doesn't soak into the wood and can be stripped off later.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 7:17PM
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There is a great possibility that the furniture is just French styled and not of any great value.
I would find an antiques shop that deals in furniture and show them detailed pictures and ask them who they would recommend.
And be aware that you may spend several hundred dollars finding out that what you have is not fine French antiques at all.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 7:34PM
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The murky finish on the mahogany console is not gone bad. It is lacquer, in perfect condition. And I've cleaned it. But it was toned with a lot of magenta-red, leading to a burgundy color I don't like. If I were to paint it, I'd start with a barrier coat of shellac, so that if I change my mind and decide to strip off the paint, it will come off easily. Actually, green-toned shellac might kill the magenta enough for me to like the color, so I would try that first anyway.

I doubt that any of the pieces are *fine* French antiques, but I do think the loveseats and armoire might be worth some decent money. I just want some peace of mind before reupholstering the loveseats (I don't think that would decrease value at all). It's not even so much my own peace of mind, but my husband's...

I love certain antiques and even just things that are old/vintage. I like the patina of age on a high-quality metal, wood, or stone substrate. I appreciate the qualities that make fine antiques valuable -- the design, workmanship, materials. BUT I am not a collector, I don't value the psychological factors like provenance AT ALL. So, I am often shocked at the "value" of collectibles and antiques. And my husband, who watches Antiques Roadshow, Pawn Stars, etc, always fears that I will be getting rid of something for far less than its value.

When I like something, it's almost always valuable/expensive, especially furniture. BUT there are many things I don't care for at all, that are worth shocking amounts to collectors, while I would be the one selling it at garage sale for a dollar. So, it would be worth a few hundred to me to know that I am making decisions not only according to my own taste, but according to market value of all the items, and to be able to reassure my husband of this. :)

    Bookmark   February 29, 2012 at 3:51PM
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