A buffet is a piece of dining room furniture used as a server, hutch or sideboard. The name is of French origin, although this antique furniture may be an import or an American piece, with or without a storage area at the top of the table. Antique buffets are furniture from the turn of the 20th century or before and were used as servers and extra table space in the dining room. Develop knowledge of antique furniture, as well as appraisal techniques, before attempting to appraise home furnishings or furniture. Appraisal techniques and ethics are taught by the International Society of Appraisers (ISA) and the Appraisers Association of America (AAA) in accordance with the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP).
- Skill level:
Consider the size and complexity of a piece of furniture for appraisal. A long table with legs and little storage may not be as valuable as a two-part hutch with doors and drawers. Take photographs of the piece---front, sides and back---to have a record of the appearance and condition of the sideboard or buffet at the time of the appraisal.
Identify the wood. Old furniture is solid wood, identifiable by grain and colour. Exotic woods and mahogany are more valuable than common soft woods like pine. Use a website like Hobbit House that has pictures for wood identification. Look for veneer or a thin layer of wood over the wooden structure.
Check the construction. Note wooden nails and handmade dovetails, as well as different woods used for the back or bottoms of drawers. Quality construction may reveal the age as well as assist in an appraisal of a sideboard, buffet or cupboard.
Note the condition. Condition is a key element to the appraisal of items, and this is especially true for furniture. Damage devalues the item, but watch for married pieces or cut-off legs. Married furniture is a top placed on a base that is not the original. Square legs are often replacements, so check to see if the leg is all one piece up the back of the sideboard or buffet. Large furniture may have been cut at the top to fit the shorter ceilings of later years, and some furniture has the middle section removed, with the right and left sides reassembled.
Learn the provenance. Furniture associated with a person or event has more value than just the item. It is valued at a premium because of provenance. Furniture made by a well-known woodworker is often more valuable than an item made by an unknown.
A compilation of these elements and consideration of artistic merit build the foundation for an appraisal. Market conditions, the purpose or function of the appraisal and the appraiser's knowledge and judgment all play a role in appraising an item like an antique buffet.
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