The smart collector: Just being in a museum doesn't make it valuable

2013-03-24T00:00:00Z The smart collector: Just being in a museum doesn't make it valuableDanielle Arnet Tribune Media Services Arizona Daily Star
March 24, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Q: Around 1953, my parents bought a Heywood-Wakefield dining room set of a credenza, dining table and four chairs. While visiting Wichita, we visited a museum and the exact credenza I now have was on display. What is value on these pieces?

A: Along with the query, we received an image showing a blond wood credenza recognizable as part of H-W's Modern Line.

My guess is that our reader is thinking, "If my credenza is in a museum, it must be worth a lot of money." Or it is in some way special.

But smart collectors know that museum items are there for all kinds of reasons. That piece may be on display as an illustration of midcentury mass-marketed furniture, or because it shows Streamline design or décor of the era. The fact is, objects in a curated museum always serve a purpose or teach a lesson.

The Heywood-Wakefield Co. of Gardner, Mass., produced many varied lines of furniture from 1826 to 1983. Under different ownership, the company is still in business.

Around the 1980s, collectors "discovered" that vintage H-W pieces were sturdy and still plentiful. Plus affordable. Young design enthusiasts took to the look, and pieces made between 1936 and 1966 of solid birch and maple became popular. Of course, all that attention raised prices.

Desirable pieces from H-W's Modern Line have a characteristic blond wood color called "wheat." A variation was "Champagne," blond with a pink tone. Wheat finish brings higher prices.

When pricing H-W furniture, condition is vital. Because so much is still around, collectors can be choosy. Water rings from glassware and burns from cigarettes can be impossible to remove, even professionally. Watermarks cut value by half. Gray, water-damaged areas are death.

The reader's credenza was made from 1950 to 1955. In the H-W Modern Line, buffet M592 measuring 48 inches wide retails for less than the M593 credenza at 54 inches wide.

Value of the table and chairs depends on variables mentioned above, plus style. Back then, buyers could often select pieces individually, unless the dealer or furniture store grouped them arbitrarily. Her table and chairs could be a mix of styles and differ from the larger piece.

Additional dining room furniture pieces in Modern included a corner cabinet, a buffet with china shelving on top, and a large china top for the buffet.

I suggest a look at the free site www.liveauctioneers.com for photos of sold Heywood-Wakefield Modern dining furniture. Review recent prices. We saw credenzas that sold at auction for $130 to $500. It's all about those variables.

An upcoming auction lists a 10-piece H-W Modern dining room suite that will open at $700. An unusual find with many desirable pieces, it will undoubtedly sell much higher than that.

FYI: "Heywood-Wakefield," by Harris Gertz, $39.95 from Schiffer, features color photographs of the Modern Line along with style numbers, years of make and value. A good source for identification.

Q: My grandfather worked for a major newspaper and saved 32 photos of the crash of the Hindenburg. All are marked AP and have their original news ticker description. Any value?

A: If the goal is to sell, I suggest you scan or photocopy a few, make a list of the others and shop the collection to auction houses that have dedicated sales for manuscripts.

The 1937 dirigible crash in New Jersey still fascinates collectors, and original material is most desired. As wire service material, the photos were widely circulated, but the subject always draws.

If no auction bites, try selling the shots online, singly or in small groups. Value to a collector depends on content, condition and if the photos are loose or have been pasted.

COLLECTOR QUIZ

Q: How is Heywood-Wakefield furniture identified?

1. A paper label

2. Distinctive style

3. An inked stamp

4. Date marking

5. All of the above

A: All of the above are correct, depending on when made. Paper labels were pre-1946. Work after the war had stamped info.

Danielle Arnet welcomes questions from readers. She cannot respond to each one individually, but will answer those of general interest in her column. Send email to smartcollector@comcast.net or write Danielle Arnet, c/o Tribune Media Services, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 1400, Chicago 60611. Please include an address in your query. Photos will not be returned.

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

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