Emperor’s New Clothes

Do you ever get the feeling as you peruse Etsy.com or Ebay.com or any of those sites that things are getting out of control? I’m talking about shops and sellers that feature the sale of certain mid-century and mid-century modern furniture, etc. I’m going to be brutally honest, because if you can’t be brutally honest on your own blog, what’s the point of having one?

Having become a shop owner myself, I now have a better understanding of what it takes to score these vintage finds, how much time, driving, gas, and effort is required. The time for sourcing, unloading, refinishing in many cases, cleaning, photographing and listing. Most of my work and time isn’t compensated. I’ll be honest. I do it for the love of the hunt…the thrill of getting something completely unique and cool into the hands of someone who I know will appreciate it. I have been so snarky in the past about pricing being thrifty myself, but since becoming an Etsy shop owner, I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut for the most part. This “job” isn’t easy.

One required task I didn’t mention is research. The more research I do, the more I get this feeling that there are too many delusional sellers out there. Fab.com, 1stdibs.com, even some people selling via Craigslist….I’ll be honest: I LAUGH OUT LOUD at some of the prices I’m seeing these days. Who in their right minds would pay those kinds of prices? I realize that there is a lot of work required in finding these things….and refinishing, and cost associated with outsourcing if the refinishing is beyond your scope or ability. BUT SERIOUSLY. I live in one of the most expensive MCM markets in the country, and I don’t get it. I do, however, get the sneaking suspicion that people are trying to pay the mortgage with the sale of a single chair, for example. Do you feel what I’m puttin’ down?

Allow me to paint a picture. I found a rare Brown Saltman Dining Set….John Keal was the designer, and the set is totally atomic, straight out of the 50’s. Being pregnant, and not able to mess with things like now powdery-foam chairs and refinishing wood with nasty chemicals, I outsourced the refinishing of this piece to a professional. He did such a beautiful job it actually took my breath away. I wish I had an adequate before photo. The seat material was ripped to shreds, and every time you moved the chairs, orange powder spilled out of them (what used to be foam). The wood was scuffed and the finish had seen much better days.

So I had the whole thing refinished….keeping only the maker’s mark and string chair backs untouched. My guy even reattached the Brown Saltman manufacturing tags to the underside of the newly upholstered chairs.

004 006


007 012 011

Okay, so are you with me so far? Stunning. The seats are actually a chartreuse color. The photographs give it more of a lime tint, but I assure you the seats are quintessential mid-century mod pops of chartreuse. The wood is a warm and cheery (but still sophisticated) pecan color. Everything is working perfectly….the table pulls out for the leaf extension seamlessly. The chairs. I mean….the legs, the shape. Could you just DIE?

But there are only 3 chairs. Insert sad music here. A bit of a bummer, but I priced accordingly, thinking in today’s market mixing and matching complementing chairs is all the rage anyway. All things considered, this set is currently in my Etsy shop for an affordable and practical $1500.00.  So guess what I found AFTER pricing my table and chairs? A set exactly like this one, (I’m not sure how re-finished) only with 4 chairs on 1stdibs.com for……wait for it….wait for it……$4500.00

Excuse me? I’m sorry, what?

I can’t speak for 1stdibs….but the chair pads look original, as does the dirty material they’re finished in. And they want HOW much for this?

Found on 1stdibs.com
Found on 1stdibs.com

Most people don’t spend that kind of money on their first car. No, really – they don’t. And I wouldn’t spend that kind of money on ANY dining room table and chairs. I don’t care if I had enough money to wipe my a** with. It’s just WRONG.

Am I alone here? Hello? I hope I haven’t offended anyone. It just baffles my mind and all I can think of is The Emperor’s New Clothes by Hans Christian Andersen.  I’m all about making a little cash-but this is a fleecing, 1stdibs.  I hope at some point this MCM mania dies down a bit, and we can all come back down to reality. This stuff should be affordable; just as the original manufacturers and designers intended it to be all those years ago.









9 thoughts on “Emperor’s New Clothes

  1. The question is, did you sell that fabulous set yet? I am selling a Jens Risom cabinet in my Etsy shop. Risom is a famous designer with pieces in museums and the Oval Office. He is 99-years-old and anyone who buys one of his pieces is making an investment, if you get my drift. When I did all my time-consuming research, I discovered the same cabinet on sites like 1stDibs for four and five thousand dollars. There was even one for six grand. Though mine is in excellent condition, cue the sad music–it has a broken handle. I priced it at $1600. I have it down to $1000 now. Nothing. I am thinking of putting it up in the attic for my kids’ inheritance, ha ha.

    1. Hi Debi! Thanks for your comments. I did sell that set. To a nice woman halfway across the country. Etsy was the way to go on this one…believe it or not. I took a bit off for her considering she had to pay so much for shipping. Sometimes you just have to hold onto stuff, and relist it later. I do notice that buying is cyclical. People are so spent in December from the holiday season…that sales don’t pick up again until March.

  2. Congratulations! And you are right about it being cyclical. I’ve noticed business picking up in the last week or so.

    Can I ask how you are handling shipping? Are you taking care of it or are you leaving it up to them? I have it stated in my policy that it is their responsibility and I suggest they check U-Ship, but whenever anyone inquires about a piece, they assume I will take care of it and so I do because I get excited about the sale. Then I spend a lot of time getting bids, reading shippers’ feedback and insurance policies, and going back and forth with questions about stairs, parking, if they can help unload, schedules, etc., and then when I finally settle on a shipper, my buyer goes MIA. Even though I gave them a heads-up before this whole process started about what I think it will be. It is time consuming for a sale that never happens and I’d much rather spend my time painting furniture and marketing. If you don’t mind, how are you handling it?

    1. Looks like I missed your reply. It’s a tough job that way. I do spend a lot of time working on quotes for people only to never hear back. Shipping is expensive, and rare is the person who wants something bad enough to pay for it to be shipped across country. But they’re out there – and I’ve had some really great customers who needed exactly what I had and it was just a good fit. If the item is small enough, I usually offer a quote via Greyhound (which you can obtain online with dims and approximate weight) if they’re open to pickup, and ask them to let me know if they need more options. If I don’t hear back then I know they weren’t that serious….and I save myself time. Larger items like you say can be shipped via Uship or American West here in SoCal. I have a contact there, and they do blanket wrap shipping….antiques, the whole shebang. Let me know if you need any more help!

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