Search This Blog

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Game of Pricing Trash & What's a Duncan Phyfe?

Remember this lamp shade?
I found it at my local thrift store.  Its large size, abstract geometrical shape and near-perfect condition made it a great piece of trash for resale.  I’ll admit I fell in love with it and really, what’s not to love?  When I first featured it, several of you emailed me, asking to purchase it.  I held onto it for a few weeks, certain I would find a place for it in my home, but my curiosity got the best of me.  I had to try to sell it.  It sold for 13 times what I paid for it.
The person who purchased this lampshade from me was almost speechless when he saw it.  He couldn’t stop talking about how rare it was, how it was worth so much, how somebody would pay big bucks for it.
Even though I made money when he bought it, he purchased it for a great deal too.  I’m not sure if he’s going to keep it or if he’ll resale it for 13 times more then what he purchased it for from me.
So, how do I price vintage furniture and retro home décor trash when I find it?
Sometimes I do research, sometimes I discuss with Kelly, and sometimes I just trust my gut.
Like this vintage solid wood picnic table.
I found it at an estate sale for $25.00.  It was difficult getting it home, but worth the journey (you can read about that here).  I debated keeping it myself, but I have a back yard that is flooded every two weeks with irrigation water.  If I kept the picnic table in the grass, the irrigation water would warp the legs over time, not to mention the sun damage.  Once it hits 110 degrees, it would start peeling the paint in no time.  I could keep it on my patio, but the patio floor is rock flagstone.   With all my little kids, I could just see one of them falling off and landing on their head.  I listed it on for $100.00.  A week later, it hadn’t sold.
This table is huge, shabby chic and excellent quality.  I researched what a new wood picnic table costs.  They start around $299.99 and go up to $600.00, so I knew my price wasn’t just fair, but a great deal.
Another week went by with not even a phone call from any potential buyers.  I had a decision to make. Should I lower the cost of the table? 
One of my strategies is if something I list doesn’t sell; I re-list it after a week. will keep a posting up for 30 days, but the older a listing is, the further down the line it is.  By re-listing every week, my listing remains current and a potential buyer doesn’t have to browse through 100’s of items to find mine.
I’m happy to report after 5 weeks on, my picnic table sold for $100.00.  It wasn’t the price after all; it was just waiting for the right person to find it.
Remember this vintage folding table? 
I love the claw legs.  I brought it home from the thrift store, polished it up and kept it in my entry way.  The wood is gorgeous, but after a month curiosity got the best of me.  I put it on for $60.00.  It didn’t sell.  I took it to an estate sale Kelly was having and listed it at $50.00.  It still didn’t sell.  It sat in my garage until Kelly and I opened our shop at QcumberZ.  Kelly suggested I list it at $95.00, so that’s what we did.  A week later, the owner of QcumberZ called and said “Your Duncan Phyfe table just sold.  The people who bought it were so excited because it was such a great deal.”

Duncan Phyfe?  What was that?  He explained it was the folding table in our booth.  
I did a little research on the internet, and this is what I found.

One of the leading 19th century furniture makers, Duncan Phyfe was born in 1768. Duncan's original spelling was Duncan Fife; he changed his spelling after he moved to New York City on 1792, before which he was a cabinetmaker's apprentice in Albany at age 16. A Scottish born American designer, Phyfe's primary design structure revolved around neoclassical design. Duncan's first retail shop was opened on Broad Street; he later moved to Fulton Street. Phyfe produced classic individual pieces for furniture with a unique over all structure. Duncan has to his credit various styles of furniture, some of which are the double pedestal banquet tables, reeded leg sofas, window benches, central pedestal drop leaf breakfast tables, and lyre back chairs. Among motifs those credited to his name include the acanthus leave, drapery swags, diagonal cross bars, eagle wings, urn turned posts, water leaf, palm leaf, lion's foot, dog's foot, thunderbolts, trumpets, and rosettes. Off all the style he's well known for, his most preferred choice of style was the lyre. Since 1922, after New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art held an exhibition of his work, the demand for Duncan Phyfe furniture has been on a constant rise. Experts categorize his style as a neoclassical basic that soon blended with French designing, being loyal to English Sheraton Style pattern and yet clearly dictating an Imperial style. Today's buyers with a keen eye for detail and design are willing to drop big dollars for a Duncan Phyfe piece of furniture.  

I had no idea this table was made by a sought-after designer and I had no idea what the actual value of the table was.  I thought about all the avenues I’d tried to sell it and no body had purchased it.  I wasn’t the only one who hadn’t seen what it was really worth.  Would it have made a difference if I’d listed it as a Duncan Phyfe on  I only sell locally.  What if I would have listed it on eBay to an international market?  Selling trash isn’t a science and in this economy, it can be tricky.  Either way, there’s a lot of potential and occasional heart-ache.
So, as you can see, some of the trash I sell is priced by trial and error. 


  1. If it helps any Duncan Phyfe isn't that rare especially in the midwest/west regions. My parents got a whole dining room set of Duncan, the side board, 12 chairs a table and a china cabinet for some insane price I think it was 400.00 and that was when the economy was way, way up. I think you did great on it! If that helps any.:) I'm curious what is that seriously amazing piece on top of the Duncan? It looks MCM? Have you sold it?:)

  2. Sometimes I find going up on the price makes an item sell. Seems people won't buy, or maybe don't look, if the price is too cheap. Go figure!

  3. Just started following from non other than, Craig's List! I love your ideas, and am trying to do the things that you are, only not as well as youre doing them :) Looking forward to your ideas!!!

  4. Very cool deals! The table is Duncan Phyfe style, but very doubtful it was made by him. It is a widely reproduced style.

  5. It was most likely a Duncan Phyfe style, as a real Duncan Phyfe is $50,00 and up to $150,000. If it was real, well... good for them. It reminds me about the time my Dad bought an original Blue Back Speller for $0.25; as they didn't realize it was actually an original from 1783 (estimates as priceless). Thanks for the sharing!

  6. It was most likely a Duncan Phyfe style, as a real Duncan Phyfe is $50,00 and up to $150,000. If it was real, well... good for them. It reminds me about the time my Dad bought an original Blue Back Speller for $0.25; as they didn't realize it was actually an original from 1783 (estimates as priceless). Thanks for the sharing!

  7. Ares Adjustable Folding Table from Bizarkdeal

    Love this folding table! It is as sturdy as a short step ladder. Not that I'd recommend it for that use, of course,,, but just comparing the strengths. It is just the right height and has three heights that are easily adjusted to. No assembly required. The It is very light yet so strong. You could use it for different things. Use it as a preparation table while grilling, as a TV tray even for two small people. I can recommend to others very easily. It is a great little table and so much more! A solid product!