New value found in old publications

No antique furniture enthusiast, whether, dealer, collector or just interested observer, ever has enough resource material on the subject at hand. While public libraries are sometimes, but rarely, helpful on a specific subject, the process of building a personal reference library can be overwhelming, not to mention expensive. The major publishing houses often present a new list of books that at first glance sound promising to the furniture fan but after acquiring what turns out to be a few less than helpful editions, many buyers tend to get gun shy about shelling out big bucks for a new, untried publication, even if the author is well known in the trade.

But the last few years have presented a great opportunity for both the merely interested and the professional collector to acquire updated versions of previously published works by acclaimed authors that have stood the test of time. In some cases, the format has changed, the content has been expanded and/or revised and the price lists, if included, have been updated.

Renowned publishing house Collector Books came out with two of the best updates in late 2006.

The first was Peter Blundell’s remake of his 1980 work The Marketplace Guide to Oak Furniture – Styles & Values. This early oak book has been the foundation of many personal libraries and my 25 year old copy was starting to show its age. The new volume entitled The Marketplace Guide to Oak Furniture – Second Edition has a copyright date of 2007.  Blundell starts the new volume with a slightly revised Introduction and Marketplace Past and Marketplace Current sections. He adds a section called Reflections on Prices which discusses price variations caused by location and brand names.

Each major section of the book has been slightly revised with the addition of a picture here and the deletion of picture there and some sections like that on bedroom furniture and desks have been significantly enhanced. But the major change is the updated values of each article and the fact that value is stated in the caption next to the photo rather than being in a separate table at the end of the book. That makes for much quicker reference work. He also has rewritten a good part of the Influences section which gives brief overviews of Stickley, Hubbard, Limbert, Eastlake, etc. All in all, this a thoroughly well done update of a classic and a welcome addition at $29.95.

The second Collector Books issue is the update of John Obbard’s gem Early American Furniture – A Practical Guide for Collectors copyright 2000. The expanded update is entitled Early American Furniture – A Guide to Who, When and Where, 2006. The first impression is the new larger format, going from an 8 1/2-inch by 5 1/2-inch pocket book to a full sized 11-inch by 8 1/2-inch in shelf book. The updated version spends significantly less time on authenticity verification, joinery techniques and tools and spends much more time on regional variations among New England Colonies, the Middle Atlantic Colonies and the Southern Colonies.

Four well illustrated chapters devoted to different types of chair construction and detailed style distinctions precede the in-depth chapters on Chests, Desks, Sideboards, Cupboards and Wardrobes, several chapters on Tables and lastly a good look at Beds and Regional Furniture. 

The book is illustrated with precise and clear line drawings by Brenda Bechtel that are easily on par with those of Ray Skibinski who illustrated Joseph Butler’s fine book Field Guide to American Antique Furniture, Henry Holt, 1985. For under $20 Obbard’s new release is a great addition to the library of a more advanced collector of American colonial and Federal furniture.

Both of these books can be ordered directly from Collector Books at 800-626-5420 or from their Web site at

A slightly older but still very worthwhile update version can be found in the two new volumes of The Antique Hunter’s Guide – American Furniture – Tables, Chairs, Sofas and Bed and The Antique Hunter’s Guide – American Furniture – Chests, Cupboards, Desks & Other Pieces published by B, D & L in 2000. They are updates of the original two volume series published by Knopf in 1982 under the names The Knopf Collector’s Guide to American Antiques. The original authors were William C. Ketchum Jr. on the “Chests” volume and Marvin D. Schwartz on the “Tables” volume. Both books have been revised and updated by Elizabeth von Habsburg of the fine arts consulting and appraisal firm of Masterson. Gurr, Johns, Inc of New York and London.

The relevant text and descriptive material is essentially unchanged from the original version but the prices have been updated and are very relevant. Each volume contains over 300 examples of furniture from the 17th century to the mid 20th century. Both the old and new versions of both volumes are available from in the range of $10-$12 for each volume.
Send your comments, questions and pictures to PO Box 215, Crystal River, FL 34423 or

Visit Fred’s Web site at His book How to be a Furniture Detective is available for $18.95 plus $3 S&H. Send check or money order for $21.95 to the address above.

Fred and Gail Taylor’s DVD, Identification of Older & Antique Furniture, ($17 + $3 S&H) and a bound compilation of the first 60 columns of “Common Sense Antiques by Fred Taylor” ($25 + $3 S&H) are also available at the same address. For more information call 800-387-6377, fax 352-563-2916, or e-mail