Considering this asian style chest in a resale shop

linnea56March 2, 2012

I was in a resale/antique shop today. Very crowded, lots of stuff to weed through. I saw this asian style cabinet. It looks Japanese to me. Definitely old, not a reproduction. It was unpriced so I asked the owner. She said, "Oh, I don't know how much I'm going to charge for that. I just got it in a lot over Christmas: I haven't had a chance to fix it up yet. I need to do a lot. Maybe $150: but that's just ballpark: I won't really know until I start working on it."

It is about 2 feet wide, 16 inches tall, and 8 inches deep. There are two doors at the top, and two drawers under. When you open the doors, there are 6 smaller drawers inside. It's all inlaid wood. The inset decorative panels on the front look like lacquer to me. Some hardware is missing . One whole handle and some of the brass / copper trim. The doors are a little wobbly, the hinges need to be re-nailed. Or the holes in the wood may be too large now and have to be filled. I think there were a few chips missing in the outside inlay, but not many. I would use it as a jewelry cabinet.

These pictures are bad, but it was so dark in there. I brightened them in Photoshop but now they look garish. In the pics the cabinet also looks bigger than it is: this would sit on top of a chest of drawers, and not take up much space. I went back to look at it, and she walked back with me. The friend I was with tried to ask if we could buy it now for $150, but the owner said she wasn't ready to sell it yet. She said when she was done with it, it might be priced higher, it might be priced lower (like maybe if she can�t fix it?). Maybe I showed too much interest, and she thought she could get more?

If she's planning to replace the hardware, I have no idea where she could find suitable antique hardware. I'd rather fix it up myself, than see her replace some of it with new pieces that were inappropriate. I'm a metalsmith. I would cut out copper pieces to match the originals.

This is not near my house. It's over an hour drive. So it's not like I can drop in now and then. I'd like to offer an amount to take it as it is. But I can't force her to sell it to me. She might want to hold out for more.

What do you think?

Door panel:


Somewhat wonky door and hinges:

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I hate when a shop doesn't have prices on things, makes you think they price it based on your shoes or car.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2012 at 10:33AM
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I'd call the shop....tell her you have just finished your last "fix it up" job and are looking for another. You remember that chest....tell her you will give her $125 as is. Tell you you need a project and you will save her the bother of "working on it".
I think it's neat....but can sure see how some well meaning restorer could add varnish and change the hinges to all new so they match!
Linda C

    Bookmark   March 3, 2012 at 10:44AM
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My mother had a similar (in size and configuration only as it was in black lacquer) wooden chest she got in Japan and it was sold as a jewelry box. I'm not saying this is what this one is, could be something else with a specific purpose.

Yeah, some of the antique shops here do the same thing, so it's caveat emptor you know what you are buying when you go in and what it's worth. Then you low ball your offer and haggle because they'll inflate it when you look serious......and be willing to walk away if it gets ridiculous. I'd really question a dealer who intends to replace hardware if it's original. Doesn't make sense.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2012 at 10:46AM
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Thanks for the ideas. That sounds like a good approach, Linda. My friend told me I was dressed too nicely! But we were out for a social day of lunch out, etc. I have found at many places (in my neighborhood, at least) that if I don't look nice, they think I'm not serious.

Yes, my chief anxiety is she'll replace the authentic hardware, or fill any holes with plastic wood. I have repaired inlay before: by cutting and gluing in new wood. I still have a nice stock of various woods. Likewise, I have everything I need to cut out new trim and engrave it. It's very labor intensive, but it's only for me, not to sell.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2012 at 2:02PM
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Why not tell her the truth: you are interested in it as it is and not fixed up (you don't have to say why, but there is always the explanation of for a photo shoot or something), and would she please tell you how much she wants for it as is? Make it clear you are not sure you will be interested in it after it is fixed up.

Ask, though, how much she thinks she would ask for it fixed up. Because if you really want it, that may be the magic number that you have to reach: the amount she thinks she is going to get. Her time is probably free, at least to her, and if someone else would buy it for more if she fixes it, she has no motivation to sell it to you for less.

If you want her to treat your request with respect, I think it would be better not to lowball.

Karin L

    Bookmark   March 4, 2012 at 12:38AM
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