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Thread: Help with Vtg. Mid Century Modern Dining Chairs

  1. #1

    Default Help with Vtg. Mid Century Modern Dining Chairs

    Hello all... newbies on the forum. Been buying / selling for years, but recently bought a truck so we could start playing a bit in furniture. I have indeed read the sticky post about not doing what I'm about to do.... if no answers available, then so be it... but if you don't ask questions, you can never learn something new!

    Here are some Mid Century Modern style chairs, I believe do have some age to them. We've searched every combination of mid century modern + danish, czech, open back, etc. for hours (literally) and can't find any exact matched. No maker marks, but there is a number 375 95 stamped on the braces ... and shown in the pics.

    Any help IDing them, and/or any info on suspected origin / age would be appreciated. One thing I was curious about... the braces are joined to the frame of the chair via groves machined in the wood to for a joint.... what's this joint called? Is is common or unusual, or does it offer any meaning at all?

    Thanks in advance! Hope to become a regular in these parts!

    Mike
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  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Alexandria VA
    Posts
    14,144

    Default Re: Help with Vtg. Mid Century Modern Dining Chairs

    OK, well, here's what you have. A cheaply-made production chair that is at about the Ikea level of workmanship. Those round plugs on the back are screw hole covers, the lowest level of joinery you can possibly have. The maker didn't even bother to use a sharp sawblade to cut the corner angle braces under the seat, that's inexcusable. Those braces are there to stabilize the chair corners which are doweled due to the offset you can see underneath. The under-panel of the seat is hardboard, ugh. This is a hack build. If you are buying these to re-sell and make a profit, this is not what you buy. This set is real garage sale stuff, giveaway or something like $ 40 for the whole set. Sorry.

    You have to develop a VERY sharp eye to buy and make money on pre-owned furniture. Only a few can successfully do it. If that's the market you want to get into, focus on a time period that interests you can then specialize in that segment. Go to the major auction houses and look at results on line for that category - who is buying what - and prices paid. Auction houses set market value, they are THE barometer. Learn the history and development of that era you choose to specialize in, and the people behind it (artists, designers, influences, builders) Then once you get your database of information, you buy only originals, not knock-offs. You know the value of something in the market before you buy it, not try to discover it afterwards, that's critical to you not making a bad buy like the chairs above. For example, I have a pretty keen eye for period furniture (18th Century) and the Reproductions from the 1980's that copied those early models as I know most the players from that era. I can identify a good piece in 30 seconds or less and know how well it is made and if its been refinished, etc, and the approximate market value of it. That's a dead category right now, but occasionally I come across a find and I know what I am going to sell it for before I pay for it. If you can't sell something for 1.5 times the price you paid for it, take a pass. Know what the market is looking for so you will have a ready buyer, it does you no good to hold onto pieces, you buy it and want to turn it in weeks, not months.

    That's the skill you have to develop. Like everything else in life, to make money at it you have to get educated, and that requires study. Good luck.
    Last edited by drcollie; 6 Days Ago at 08:08 AM.
    Duane Collie
    Straight answers from thirty years in the business.
    My Private Messages are Disabled - Please ask questions here in the forum
    I ask that you do NOT call my store with general furniture questions, that is what the forum is for

  3. #3

    Default Re: Help with Vtg. Mid Century Modern Dining Chairs

    This is great information all around. We suspected after picking these up that they were cool, but nothing overly special. Your analysis is both to-the-point and very informative. Not just 'this is junk'.... but 'this is junk, and here's why....' big difference.

    Also, thanks for taking the time to offer advice on the furniture business in general. You've given us much food for thought and we will be applying it to our particular business.

    Ours is a business of opportunity. We buy thru online auctions, in person auctions and stumbled-upon opportunities. Think... "hey... what's that in the corner? Wanna sell it?" As a result, you never know what you're going to see, and often, we have seen large pieces of furniture go ridiculously cheap. That's why we purchased a pickup and made room in a property we own in order to store and sell pieces.... so we can grab up items at great value that others are passing up due to them being hard to transport and store. Coming to understand what is or is not quality furniture will help us to score the occasional valuable piece while moving run of the mill stuff regularly thru FB Marketplace. Knowledge such as you've steered us toward is absolute gold to treasure hunters like ourselves. Thanks again! Time to start learning!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Alexandria VA
    Posts
    14,144

    Default Re: Help with Vtg. Mid Century Modern Dining Chairs

    It's like the TV Show "American Pickers" except that is all carefully choreographed and not as spontaneous as they make it seem on the production (Pawn Stars is the same way). That's fantasy, not fact. You really have to know what you are buying and who you are going to market it to. A shotgun approach will soon leave you with a storage area full of stuff you were hoping to sell and can't find a buyer for. And storage costs money, plus your cash is not working for you. This is why I don't inventory multiples of items in my warehouse, they don't turn fast enough to justify the cost of storage and tying up your money.

    Example: Last year I found a piece at an local auction house near me that was phenomenal. I just happened to be in the area and stopped in to see what they had. It was dirty, dusty and needed some TLC, but it wasn't damaged. I also knew that piece was $ 15,000 brand new in 1990 and I knew what it was as well as the people that made it. Now it was thirty years old, I bid on it and won the auction at $ 2,200 because I knew I had a customer base for this item, though my top bid on it was going to be $ 2,500. Once I picked it up, it took me two and a half hours to clean it up, wax it and buff up the hardware on it, and I sold it in ten days for $ 6,500. That's a nice return for a quick buy, but I knew what I had, and how to bring it up to showpiece level of presentation. I could have probably got $ 8,500 for it if I wanted to sit on it for a bit, but turn is more is more important than top dollar. Cash flow is more important than a high margin. Better to turn eight items a year at reasonable profit than hold out for a big score and only get one turn a year on your money.

    Specialize. If mid-century is your thing, then learn all there is about it and then when you see that item in the corner, you will know exactly what it is and what the market value is on it. You'll know in less than a minute. That's how you become successful at doing that sort of thing. And most items are not in garage sales or estate sales, that's needle-in-a-haystack stuff. Online buys are too sketchy. Your best source is other local auction houses or consignment shops, where the person running the place knows a little about the piece, but is not an expert by any means.
    Duane Collie
    Straight answers from thirty years in the business.
    My Private Messages are Disabled - Please ask questions here in the forum
    I ask that you do NOT call my store with general furniture questions, that is what the forum is for

  5. #5

    Default Re: Help with Vtg. Mid Century Modern Dining Chairs

    You're pretty much describing our entire business model. We don't store or collect anything waiting for better prices. We buy often at pennies on the dollar because we are the only ones in the room who have bothered to look up the items. No info online, then we don't bid. Bidding without research or prior knowledge is gambling. You might do it with a buck or two. Sometimes you win big.

    Specialize would be great in an area with more population and therefore more auctions and buying opportunities. Here in Northcentral WV, I don't even think we have the type of auction houses or specialty furniture stores you're discussing. We'd probably have to go to DC or Pittsburgh and poke around.

    What we DO have is regalar in person estate auctions frequented by folks who sometimes don't know the true value of items. An even though we are in a low income area, there has been money here in the past several generations. Interesting and valuable items regularly show up in the most ramshackle of homes. We've learned not to judge. I recently bought an 1980's boom box out of basement for $10 and flipped it within 2 days for $350 because I knew enough to first spot it as unusual and then second, spend another couple minutes verifying my suspicions. We need to get to that point with furniture. Enough knowledge of the basics so that a hidden gem can be first spotted and recognized, then researched and hopefully picked up if the price is right. Only time and experience can give that.... but we'll be starting with looking more closely at completed listings and seeking out some basic information about the quality of build, etc.

    Also.... we would never risk $2200 without the type of in depth knowledge you describe having yourself. I have no concept of the type of furniture you were referencing, but I'll bet if it had been in a dirty basement at an estate sale in the middle of nowhere-WV, it may have sold for $22 rather than $2,220. I've seen it happen. And the beautiful thing is that we get to be middlemen of sorts, taking care of a precious item for short time and getting on to a true collector who will love and who never would have found it in that middle-of-nowhere basement auction!

    That was great find and flip, by the way... congrats! That's the thing that keeps the hunt alive! Cheers!

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