Michigan Family’s $100 Cabinet Turns out to be $48K Rare Furniture Find
A Michigan family recently learned that a piece of furniture they owned was a rare first-edition crafted by two of the most influential American designers of the 20th century.
Stories like this make want you to go digging through the attic or scout out garage sales, right?
Or think maybe you *should* have accepted that chest of drawers from your Great Aunt -- because who knows what it could be worth! Maybe you're sitting on a rare collectors item that could fetch a bunch of money at auction... like literally sitting, is that an antique chair?
Back in 1950, newlyweds Maurice and Nancy Allen of Franklin, Mich., bought a cabinet for $100. That cabinet just sold for $48,000 at auction to a national museum, The Detroit Free Press reports.
The cabinet turned out to be a rare piece designed by renowned mid-century modern designers, Charles and Ray Eames.
Nancy Allen, now 98 and widowed, was planning to move in with family in Pennsylvania. The family hired Le Shoppe Too, a consignment shop, and Detroit Fine Art Appraisals to asses her possessions before the move from Michigan. The cabinet went up for auction and was purchased by a curator for the Eames House, a museum and National Historic Landmark in Los Angeles.
The Allens had no idea they had such a valuable, first-edition piece in their possession.
Deborah Slobin, co-owner of Le Shoppe Too, was also surprised it went for so much. She'd estimated the cabinet would fetch about $20,000 – but once bidding opened, it zoomed up to $48,000.
“We were shocked; we never ever thought it would go that high,” said Slobin in a release, “The next day, Nancy’s son and daughter picked up their mother’s favorite bottle of wine and her favorite pizza to surprise her with the news. When they told her the final number, a huge smile spread across her face and tears of joy fell down her face. She told them, ‘Your father would be so proud.’”
Terri Stearn, founder and president of Detroit Fine Art Appraisals, said in release this sale set a world record for the most money ever paid for an original Eames Storage Unit.
There’s only four or five of these cabinets left in the world. Knowing that we helped get this piece into a public institution to be enjoyed by everyone brought us such joy.
Charles and Ray Eames met in Michigan while studying at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills. The two were married in 1941 and became a powerhouse couple in the world of architecture and furniture design.
According to a release,
They designed the Eames Storage Unit as a geometric and brightly-colored lightweight system of freestanding cabinets constructed of plastic-coated plywood, enameled Masonite, and steel framing. The Herman Miller Furniture Company began marketing these storage units in 1950 – shortly before Maurice and Nancy spotted one while shopping for apartment furniture.