Field Trip: Arts & Crafts Furniture
HOST: This former dairy farm once boasted a prize herd of Guernsey cows, but the pride of the current owners of Crab Tree Farm is their incredible collection of Arts and Crafts furnishings. Every piece is true to the style and, with only a few exceptions, of the period. This is an extensive private collection that can be viewed by the public through appointment and through a museum-sponsored group, but we're here just you and me, and this is quite a treat. And we're standing next to a piece that is a powerful expression of the American Arts and Crafts movement. Tell us about this piece.
This cabinet was made by Gustav Stickley in 1902, and he was considered the father of American Arts and Crafts, in no small part because he was the first person to make high-end Arts and Crafts furniture in America, but he also understood the philosophical backbone of the period, that it wasn't just about having a bookcase in your home, but having objects around you that had integrity to encourage integrity within yourself as well. You walk in front of a Gustav Stickley piece and you say, "I can do that," and that's exactly the point of it. It's not meant to mystify, it's meant to bring you into the creative process. These are mitered mullions. That's a lot of work to do that. But aside from the fact that you're seeing high-end cabinetry perfectly setting these windows in place, the joints are exposed, so it is saying, "I am hand-made, this is how I'm made." It's really revealing itself to you. Beyond that, if we look at the back of this, we'll see chamfered pieces of quartered oak, biscuited together-- a very labor-intensive process, and this for the secondary wood. Most bookcases would have been made with a simple piece of plywood sealing the back. Similarly, if we look on the side here, we'll see this horizontal stretcher, which ends in a blind tenon inside the leg and locked into place with a pin. It's a little thing, but it's a detail of construction that's also decoration. Even the wood itself, it's simple oak. It's the basic American wood, but the way the grain is allowed to express itself, that becomes decoration. This rich fumed finish we see here, it's called fumed finish because the raw virgin-growth Adirondack oak was exposed to ammonia fumes, which chemically changed the composition of the wood, and he gave it color naturally from within rather than having it applied. HOST: What's the value of a piece like this today?
Well, it's not a secret that the bottom has fallen out of the Arts and Crafts furniture market. Most things have dropped in value 30%, 40% or more, but as with every market, the best of the best in great condition really don't lose their value. This fabulous case, if you could find one, would have sold at the height of the market at auction for about $400,000. And I would think if one were to come to auction today it would still bring that kind of money. HOST: Well, David, I've seen beautiful Arts and Crafts furniture in the past, but I have to say, I have a deeper appreciation for it now. Thank you so much.
Oh, it's a privilege to be here.
Executive producer Marsha Bemko shares her tips for getting the most out of ANTIQUES ROADSHOW.
Value can change: The value of an item is dependent upon many things, including the condition of the object itself, trends in the market for that kind of object, and the location where the item will be sold. These are just some of the reasons why the answer to the question "What's it worth?" is so often "It depends."
Note the date: Take note of the date the appraisal was recorded. This information appears in the upper left corner of the page, with the label "Appraised On." Values change over time according to market forces, so the current value of the item could be higher, lower, or the same as when our expert first appraised it.
Context is key: Listen carefully. Most of our experts will give appraisal values in context. For example, you'll often hear them say what an item is worth "at auction," or "retail," or "for insurance purposes" (replacement value). Retail prices are different from wholesale prices. Often an auctioneer will talk about what she knows best: the auction market. A shop owner will usually talk about what he knows best: the retail price he'd place on the object in his shop. And though there are no hard and fast rules, an object's auction price can often be half its retail value; yet for other objects, an auction price could be higher than retail. As a rule, however, retail and insurance/replacement values are about the same.
Verbal approximations: The values given by the experts on ANTIQUES ROADSHOW are considered "verbal approximations of value." Technically, an "appraisal" is a legal document, generally for insurance purposes, written by a qualified expert and paid for by the owner of the item. An appraisal usually involves an extensive amount of research to establish authenticity, provenance, composition, method of construction, and other important attributes of a particular object.
Opinion of value: As with all appraisals, the verbal approximations of value given at ROADSHOW events are our experts' opinions formed from their knowledge of antiques and collectibles, market trends, and other factors. Although our valuations are based on research and experience, opinions can, and sometimes do, vary among experts.
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