the smart collector

Repurposing antiques not always a no-no

2014-08-16T00:00:00Z Repurposing antiques not always a no-noBy Danielle Arnet The Smart Collector Arizona Daily Star
August 16, 2014 12:00 am  • 

We inherited an Orthophonic Victrola VE 8-35X made in 1928. It’s all original and includes an instruction manual with needles. We like its look as furniture, but would we ruin value by gutting the interior and installing shelves?

A: The reader raises an interesting issue. Basically, she wonders if intrinsic value is high enough that renovating the Victrola to be useful for current needs is a bad idea.

Anyone who follows “Antiques Roadshow” has heard umpteen times about how any change to old furniture destroys value. But that advice comes with exceptions.

The reader’s model is the large floor-standing Victrola that replaced a credenza model. As such, it was considered “modern” for its day. Lower and sleeker than older models, it has shelves on both sides of the machine.

Available only with a walnut finish, the model originally sold for around $300 — a lot of money at the time. An electric motor option sold for $35.

The VE 8-35X was one of the last large acoustic models Victor made, and it’s not easy to find an intact working model today. Only about 5,000 of the hand-wound models were made.

Most found today are parts only or gutted because, like the reader, owners appreciated them more as cabinets than as working machines.

View liveauctioneers.com — a free site, for auction results on varied Victrolas. Recent sales of similar surviving units range from $200 to around $1,000.

Because this is not a significantly rare machine (although it may become so in time) and demand is iffy, my advice is that now something is known about the machine, the reader can decide how and if to proceed. Or not. Her call.

Q: This table belongs to my mother, who got it from her aunt. Any value?

A: Seen in images sent, the reader has an Oriental import carved table with four carved nesting stools that tuck under the table.

We have no info on size, but from an image that shows it before a sofa we get the idea that it’s oval, low and coffee table height. The top is relief carved with a harbor scene incorporating Chinese junks, pagoda rooftops and trees. The wood is lacquered and the scenic top has a glass cover. A carved apron circles the table top. Carvings are profuse, but of standard quality.

The set was clearly made for export to the West, as it incorporates every random Oriental theme possible. Such sets were sent from China, the Philippines and other points East from the early 20th century on.

In the 1940s and 1950s, such sets were considered exotic and were very popular. That was also the period when a coffee table was a must-have in suburban living rooms. I suspect this table dates from then, or perhaps later.

In today’s secondary market, the value of such goods depends on aesthetics, the quality of work, wood used, and, of course, condition.

On liveauctioneers.com, we found that a finely carved round table with round carved stools from the collection of a known Oriental dealer sold for $1,000 in early 2014. A set similar to the reader’s did not sell.

MORE: Introducing a new way to reach auction buyers, LiveAuctioneers.com has linked with You Tube to preview a private collection of Elvis Presley memorabilia for an upcoming on-site auction at Graceland. Presley material from Graceland will not sell. For info, key www.liveauctioneers.com/catalog/58613_the-auction-at-graceland/page1

Danielle Arnet welcomes questions from readers. She cannot respond to each one individually, but will answer those of general interest in her column. Send e-mail to smartcollector@comcast.net

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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