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    Auction Finds

    You can’t have too many (Regency-style) chairs

    Sometimes when I’m at an auction, I’m struck by the sheer volume of a particular item. Usually it’s someone’s collection, those precious manys of something they’ve bought over the years and couldn’t stop.

    Every now and then, though, these items are utilitarian and functional in their purpose. They were never meant to be collectibles and don’t offer themselves as such.

    At a Quality Auction recently where items go for high bucks, I turned the corner and walked right smack into one of those lots. Row after row of stuffed green leather armchairs – about 50 or so of them, it seemed – sat over in a corner of the room side by side by soldiers. The chairs appeared to be in pretty good condition: The faux leather was intact and no insides were protruding, but there was some wear on the arms and legs.

    30 Regency-style chairs were sold at auction.

     The auction house had arranged two of them with a heavy mahogany table for ambience. I thought it made the chairs look very stuffy.

    The last time I saw that many chairs was at an auction for the remains of the now-closed Spaghetti Warehouse restaurant in Philadelphia. Those cast-off chairs sat by themselves in a room where partrons once gobbled down not-so-tasty pasta dishes.

    At this auction, there were so many chairs that I wondered where the heck did they come from, and who’d need or buy so many. I found out that they were very much desired – by several people, as a matter of fact.

    When the bidding started, it kept climbing and climbing for chairs that at any other time the auctioneer would be practically giving away. Quality sales always bring out people with money to spend, driving up the prices for us regulars. 

    I checked the auction sheet for a description of the chairs, thinking they must be gems. But it was very succinct:

    30 Regency style arm chairs, faux green leather upholstery, mid-20th century, dark distressed finish.

    These were chairs copied in a style of furniture whose name I was not familiar with. I Googled and found that Regency furniture came into being in the early 1800s in England. It was marked by plain, elegant and simple lines, according to the website furniture styles

    Two Regency-style chairs in a parlor setting. They were among 30 sold at auction.

    Regency-style furniture was selling pretty high on the web. One site was asking $300 each for two side chairs. Christie’s of New York in 2009 sold a 1960s-era set of 16 green and gilt chairs for $18,461 (supplied by designer Pierre Lottier). An antiques shop was selling 19th-century chairs by furniture-makers Irving and Casson of Boston for $7,500 (12 of them). A furniture store had marked down six 1960s-era English-made chairs to $1,525.  

    In terms of price, the chairs at the auction couldn’t sit at the same table as those I found online. The bidding started out slow as auction-goers waited for the auctioneer to start high and then drop low. One bidder sat comfortably in one of the chairs as he raised his bid card.

    Another stepped in, and they went tit-for-tat until the man in the chair got all 30 of the chairs for $800, or about $27 a chair.

    Maybe he was one of those New York dealers someone had mentioned. An auction regular had told me that dealers from that city came  to these auctions to find great deals to take back home with them.

    If this buyer was one of them, he got a bargain. Especially if he can get $300 for each.

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