Eighteenth century period ‘Chippendale style’ furniture is highly prized in America and pieces have fetched phenomenal prices at auction. Even as early as the 1930s, a tea table made by John Goddard of Newport, Rhode Island (1723/4-85), was sold for $29,000, a huge sum in its day when generally period American pieces rarely superseded $4,000. More recently in 1986, a Cadwalader suite easy chair sold for $2,750,000 which was eventually superseded in 1989 by a Newport secretary-desk which reached the staggering figure of $12,100,000. Prices have settled since, although good pieces generally still fetch many thousands of pounds.
Although American Chippendale fetches very high prices at auction, the condition has to be perfect. Also because they are so valued, there are many fakes around. Although some may consider a new leg to be restoration rather than a fake, on an American piece it can reduce the hammer price from an estimated $150,000 to only $20,000. Thus many dealers are asked to guarantee condition on sale.
For the discerning purchaser it is all about rarity, condition and a good provenance. A period surface and a good grain show age and quality, and a rare design pushes the price up. While having a good provenance is ideal however, a good piece of good quality antique furniture in its original state should be able to carry itself well at auction and fetch a high price. Any pieces attributed to Goddard of Newport will do particularly well.
When purchasing period and revival English Chippendale antique cabinets in Preston , local antiques dealers will be able to advise on age, condition and provenance.
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