The appraiser was called by the client to value an object damaged in a fire. In the owner’s absence, a lighted candle tipped over, smoldered and started a fire in the center of a mahogany double-pedestal dining table. The client returned, put out the fire, and called her insurance company to ask how to process a claim. The company said she would need a replacement valuation of the object before the fire, an estimate of the extent of the damage or its total loss, an estimate to repair the item, and a replacement valuation of the object after the repair was completed.

The appraiser visited the client and inspected the table. The burn was about eight inches in diameter and covered part of the table and part of a leaf in the table. It had penetrated the subsurface and burned the apron at a structural elbow, additionally burning the upper part of a pedestal. A repair would affect the table top, the leaf, and it would require replacement of part of the pedestal and one sideboard on the apron.

The table was part of a dining room set, which consisted of the table and four leaves, eight matching square-back chairs, a sideboard, and a chest. The style was Regency, the manufacturer American, and the set had been reproduced in the late nineteenth century. The style was basically conservative: the chairs had no stretchers; and the sideboard had no carving and limited string inlay. The table had a two-inch satinwood inlaid border. The items showed normal household wear with nicks from vacuum cleaners around the legs and bangs and scratches on exposed corners from passing objects. The mahogany had aged well and had a polished patina. Underexposed areas had a richer tone. The table top had a uniform aged coloration.

The appraiser defined the problem and addressed the valuation questions in order:

Original Replacement Value: The American Regency style double-pedestal dining table is quite common because the style has been revived on numerous occasions and it is acceptable today as preferred form for the dining room. Major manufacturers make reproductions on a daily basis because of the style’s attraction. Comparable values vary, however, depending upon the age of the piece, the maker, the quality of the wood, the decoration (particularly carving and inlay), and the condition. The fact that the manufacturer made table, the chairs, the sideboard, and the chest as a set also provides added value to the individual part. An originally designed piece by John Seymour, Michael Allison or Duncan Phyfe would bring hundred of thousands of dollars but a late nineteenth century reproduction would bring less. The ultimate value would be based upon condition and like articles available in the marketplace. The appraiser conducted his research and replacement valued the table at $4,200.

Loss Estimate: The appraiser visited with a furniture restorer and also with an antique furniture specialist. The hole in the top and the leaf could be cut out, re-shaped, and glue-plugged with a closely-matching piece of mahogany. The whole top would then have to be re-finished to closely match the other items in the set. The sideboard on the apron and the top of the pedestal would have to be replaced, re-stained and re-polished. Time was the major factor in the repair estimate and the restorer estimated the cost to repair would be about $3,000.

Replacement Value after Restoration: The extent and location of the damage and the subsequent cost to repair would not adequately restore the table to its previous condition. The table could be used as a table but no amount of craftsmanship would hide the replaced cut-out in the top. Even a skilled craftsman could not effectively match the patina of the rest of the furniture. The table could however be covered with a tablecloth when it was used as a dining table. At other times, one could tell that it was not in original condition. The appraiser conducted his research and adjusted his comparables for condition. His restored replacement value was $1,500.00.

Appraiser Recommendation: Total loss. The client should claim $4,200 less his deductible from his insurance company.

Copyright 2005 Nelson O. Clayton, ASA, Appraisals of Distinction, LLC.






Nelson O. Clayton is an Accredited Senior Appraiser of the American Society of Appraisers. He is designated in Personal Property Residential Contents-General and Antiques and Decorative Arts. He is also a Certified Appraiser of Personal Property of the International Society of Appraisers, Inc., approved to appraise Antiques and Residential Contents. He is actively engaged in the appraisal of household contents, and antiques and decorative arts and he is building his credentials in silver, and fine arts. With consultation with experts, he has appraised paintings and sculpture in the appraised range of $10-$550,000, individual items of silver in the $40,000 range, clocks in the $30,000 range, and furniture in the $125,000 range. His training at the Winterthur Museum helped him to develop these skills. In addition, he is trained in research and analysis, first as a senior bank-lending officer, and second, as an appraiser. In every assignment, Mr. Clayton continues to develop his skills by identifying and analyzing complete household contents, collections, and family heirlooms. Mr. Clayton’s appraisal business has been developed through personal referral and direct contact with families requiring appraisal of their household contents, primarily for estate tax planning and settlement, donations, divorce and insurance purposes. He has evaluated complete household contents as well as selected individual items.