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Archive for Sunday, April 15, 2012

Kovel’s Antiques: Dual-purpose furniture has secret life

April 15, 2012

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Dual-purpose furniture has been made for centuries.

By the 1700s, there were chairs with large, round backs that flipped down on the top of the arms to make a table. There also were chairs that could be flipped over to be used as library steps.

In the 1800s, new types of springs and hinges made it possible to manufacture a flip-down bed that could be stored in a closet, or card tables with hidden pull-out leaves that transformed into a dining table.

A famous French architect and designer, Armand-Albert Rateau, designed a clever dual-purpose chair in about 1925. The chair had an oak frame with ebony veneer. The back of the chair was upholstered with silk and straw. The seat back was hinged so that it folded down on the rest of the frame to form a low table. The Art Deco chair design was unique and could be useful today in a small apartment.

I bought an old barbershop and all the antiques in it, including 1920s barber chairs, tons of razors, razor sharpeners, strops, combs and about 25 ceramic shaving mugs decorated with words and designs and signed on the bottom with makers’ marks. My favorite mug, titled “10th Infantry,” has a painting of soldiers and a bugler. I don’t want most of these things. How do I sell all of this?

There are collectors who would be interested in nearly everything in your shop.

The most expensive chairs are those with elaborate iron trim. They sell for hundreds of dollars.

And a rare occupational shaving mug — the kind with the name of an occupation and an image of a person working — can be worth even more than a chair.

An “Aeronaut” mug picturing a parachutist auctioned for the record price of $45,000 in 2008.

You could sell the things yourself, but if you’re not familiar with the collecting world, you could ask an expert, dealer, appraiser or auction house to help you.

If the collection is in excellent shape, it probably would be best to contact a large auction house that sells shaving mugs, barbershop signs and barber equipment.

The smaller items can be sold in groups (“lots”). It is easy to find auctions of barbershop items by searching online.

Tip: Paperweights that are displayed on a wooden table in front of a sunny window may magnify the sun’s rays enough to scorch the tabletop.

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