Last year I wrote a couple of posts about the White Furniture Company of Mebane, NC, often referred to as White Fine Furniture. Thanks to the attention these posts garnered, I still receive emails and comments from readers asking about the worth of White Fine Furniture pieces that they own, or wish to buy or sell.
While I’m not a licensed appraiser, I strive to provide general information to people who contact me. Knowledge of one’s local market remains key. We live in Jacksonville, FL, and our nearest metropolitan areas are Atlanta to the north, and Miami to the south. Dealers from those locations often stop by Avonlea Antique and Design Gallery and try to negotiate our prices downward.
We brought a high-end chair into our booth, for instance, that we priced for a higher-income household in Jacksonville. The chair just needed the right person to come into Avonlea and fall in love with it. Sadly, things didn’t quite work out the way I planned.
Instead, a non-local dealer made a much lower offer. She explained that she was unwilling to pay the asking price since there was no way she would make money on the resale. While we passed on her initial offer, eventually we settled on a more reasonable amount.
You may face a similar scenario. Consider these options:
- decline the offer and hope the right client comes in someday, or
- try to negotiate and complete the sale
Sure, we made a slim profit, but the exercise proved dispiriting. Our chair could — and will — command a higher price in a different market. But our business needs actual sales.
Keep this in mind: that perfect customer with deep pockets and a burning desire for your merchandise may not come along any time soon. What do you do then?
Whether buying or selling furniture, a negotiation dance is usually expected. I send an email to readers who ask me about a valuation on specific pieces. Here are excerpts from my typical letter:
First of all, White Fine Furniture is built to last for generations. It’s sturdy and beautiful. You know that it is superior to any furniture made today. The problem is, not many other people understand this about furniture. They tend to buy as inexpensively as possible and replace in a few years.
I haven’t seen photos of your set, but that’s OK because I’m not an appraiser. I can, however, offer my opinion.
Your location is a factor. I live in Jacksonville, FL, between Atlanta and Miami. We have dealers and buyers from those areas come to visit us because we sell cheaper than those metro areas. If you are in a big city, you have more options.
Unusual styles (like Mid-Century Modern) command better prices than traditional styles. I saw a gorgeous White bedroom set at an estate sale that was priced slightly over $2,000. I had to walk away because I didn’t have the money and I knew I wouldn’t make much profit on it.
If you’re in a larger market, check with local antique malls. The procedure used by the antiques gallery where I have a booth is to accept electronic info and photos from community members wishing to sell, and direct this info to a dealer(s) who handles that type of merchandise. From there, it becomes a private negotiation between the dealer and the seller. The dealer wants to acquire the items for the lowest possible price and the seller wants the highest price. We all know that and hope to reach a mutually satisfactory agreement.
Consignment stores are a possibility but they take a sizable chunk out of the selling price. My understanding is that consignment stores usually reduce the price on your/their pieces each month. Furniture not sold during an agreed period may be picked up by you or donated by them. If you need to get rid of your furniture immediately, however, this is a serious option.
You could place photos and descriptions of your items on Craigslist.
My number one piece of advice — I should have started with this — is to contact a dealer in your area and get info about your market. This refers back to my discussion of Jacksonville vs. Atlanta and Miami.
White Fine Furniture Legacy Lives On
Sometimes people with actual ties to White Furniture Company, aka White Fine Furniture, contact me. I get very excited when this happens.
How nice to find folks still enjoying some of the finest furniture ever produced. I worked at White’s for three summers while I was still in high school. Many of the folks pictured I knew and admired their skill (even at 16 years old I knew a craftsman when I saw one) these men and women took pride in their job. I picked up wood scraps and delivered them to the boiler to be burned for heat and other energy needs.) At times I would stand and watch for 15 minutes at the skill it takes to cut out the scalloped huge table tops, it was amazing to watch these guys handle these huge pieces with ease. The exact measurements used, the quality of wood, the skill to finish the pieces, the packaging for shipment was second to none. White’s also knew the skill it took to put out furniture of this quality and paid their employees a better than average hourly wage. My uncle worked there nearly 50 years, he and many others were able to raise families and put kids through college because of these fair wages. The book [Closing: The Life and Death of an American Factory] does give a good look of the factory near the end, but the over 100 years before is the real story of American pride. I so miss the folks I worked with there, but my memory of each one always make me smile. — Dennis
Recently, I received this comment:
Just a little something to add to this wonderful post. I am a White and my father was the last White president of the factory before it was sold. I grew up with a house full of White furniture and I took it for granted as children do. I was recently telling a friend that I honestly didn’t know until I was an adult that furniture could break! For 46 years I have been used to drawers that always perfectly, smoothly open and solid pieces that never have any problems. I am very thankful to be a part of this legacy. Thank you, Ann Marie, for this wonderful tribute to my family’s heritage. — Becca
My White Fine Furniture Posts
If you are interested in reading my Number 1 post of all time, head over to White Furniture Company of Mebane, NC – Part 1
Continue on to White Furniture Company of Mebane, NC, Part 2,
check out Clothes Press by White Furniture Company, Mebane, NC,
and finish up with Can You Name My White Fine Furniture Collection?
Our Newest White Fine Funiture Acquisition
I began writing this post yesterday and — BOOM — this morning we purchased dining table, 6 chairs, and 2 leaves manufactured by White Furniture Company of Mebane, NC. It needs work, and that’s David’s kingdom — but I love the Mid-Century Modern look of the chairs.
Good luck on your next negotiation.
Ann Marie and David