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Make Millions in Woodworking in only 250 Years

comments (7) January 23rd, 2012 in blogs

sscott Stephen Scott, associate editor
thumbs up 13 users recommend

 - CLICK TO ENLARGE Photo: Sotheby's

A tall Queen Anne-style chest of drawers in mahogany, built and signed by Rhode Island cabinetmaker John Townsend, was auctioned by Sotheby's this past weekend. The winning bidder paid more than $3 million. Make that $3.5 million when you tack on the buyer's premium!

According to the auction catalog, the piece, built in 1756, is Townsend's earliest surviving high chest. It still has the original finish, hardware and finial. What's more, this particular chest has been handed down through the generations, within the same family. In an age when factory-made furniture is lucky if it survives two or three generations, that's food for thought.

And here's something humbling to ponder while cutting your next set of dovetails. Townsend built the piece when he was just 23 years old. A fitting start to an extraordinary career.

Record-Setting Furniture Auctions

In the grand scheme of period furniture auctions, $3.5-million is actually small potatos. Have a look at these eye-popping auction prices and you'll see what I mean. Visit Christie's website for even more record setters.

The Nicholas Brown Chippendale Mahogany Block-and-Shell Carved Desk-and-Bookcase

Townsend, Goddard School, 1760-1770

Sold through Christie's for $12,100,000, June 3, 1989.

This set a world auction record for any piece of American furniture.

The Sarah Slocum Chippendale Mahogany Block-and-Shell Carved Chest-of-Drawers

Labeled by John Townsend, 1792.

Sold through Christie's for 4,732,500, June 18, 1998.

This set a world auction record for a chest-of-drawers.

The Hollingsworth Family Chippendale Carved Walnut High Chest-of-Drawers, Matching Dressing Table, and Side Chair

Thomas Affleck, 1765-1775

Sold through Christie's for $2,972,500, January 16, 1998.

This set a world auction record for a suite of Philadelphia furniture.

A Chippendale Carved Mahogany Tea Table


Sold through Christie's for $2,422,500, January 1995.

This set a world auction record for an American tea table.


posted in: blogs, chest

Comments (7)

mpassaretti mpassaretti writes:
Posted: 7:41 pm on February 9th

dcstephano dcstephano writes: So what are you telling us? We should try to pass down works of art that will bring fortunes to future heirs in the next century? I better get started (on more heirs, not furniture).
Posted: 8:30 pm on February 4th

Grantman Grantman writes: I wonder what Tommy MacDonald got for his bombe chest a couple of years ago. The one that got him started on his Rough Cut webcast before the PBS show.

Awesome work.
Posted: 9:36 am on February 4th

MarkKessler MarkKessler writes: @saschafer
Now THAT was funny!
Posted: 9:35 am on January 25th

hydroelectricguy hydroelectricguy writes: On the same weekend the document box below sold for $3,400,000 at Christie's aucton house.
Our Period Furniture Group are currently working on reproductions of the piece.


Posted: 1:55 pm on January 23rd

saschafer saschafer writes:
Assuming an initial price of $10, that's an annual yield of just over 5%.


Posted: 1:17 pm on January 23rd

RalphBarker RalphBarker writes: A beautiful piece, to be sure. It's a shame we can't bypass the initial-user market, and jump directly to the collector market. ;-)

Posted: 1:15 pm on January 23rd

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