Q: I have a chest and a matching pair of bedside tables made by Drexel. Are these pieces collectible yet?
J. S., Naples, Florida
A: The question that springs to our minds is “Where is the rest of this bedroom grouping?” When these pieces were originally available for purchase there would have been a headboard and a footboard for a bed frame; perhaps a mirror to go with the dresser; and a chest of drawers.
The pictured nightstands are interesting because of the elaborate leaf and tendril decoration that surrounds the drawer pulls, but we wonder if these stands were part of the original set because there is no decoration on the drawers of the dresser. The hardware on the pieces match and are original, but the picture of the dresser was cut off in such a way that we could not see if the top matched the distinctive overhanging top on the nightstands.
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Drexel Furniture Co. was founded in Drexel, North Carolina, in 1903 and was managed by Samuel Huffman, who established the company with five other men. Huffman died in 1935 and his son Robert O. Huffman took over as president.
At first, the company was relatively small and made dressers and washstands. In the early 1950s there were only 50 workers, but then the company began to grow, moving from inexpensive furniture to more medium-priced pieces.
Drexel began acquiring other companies such as Table Rock Furniture and the Heritage Furniture Co. By 1957 Drexel had 2,300 workers and its wares were being sold in more than 2,000 stores across the United States.
Over the years, Drexel’s name changed (Drexel Enterprises; Drexel Heritage Furniture; Drexel Heritage Furniture Industries, Inc.) and its ownership also has changed. Today, Drexel is based in High Point, North Carolina, and is one of the principal furniture manufacturers in the world.
The pieces in today’s question are probably no more than 50 years old (or so), and they are not considered to be “antique” by any stretch of the imagination. Most antiques professionals would just call these pieces “used furniture” and dismiss them as not being worth their notice.
But in the last 10 years or so tastes and attitudes have changed in the marketplace. Many of the customers who wanted Georgian furniture (Chippendale, etc.), Victorian and other styles of furniture that are more than 100 years old have been joined by a new — and perhaps larger — group who are focused on mid-20th century “modern” pieces.
At the apex of this so-called “mid-century modern” are the designer pieces from the 1940s, ’50s, ’60s, ’70s and beyond. These can be very expensive, but there is a middle market here that has garnered some interest due to the clean lines of the less expensive furniture made in this same time frame. The interest is in the style and not so much in the designer or manufacturer’s name.
The pieces in today’s question hark back to the Art Deco period but are probably from the 1970s or a tad earlier. They are more usable than “collectible” and shops opening up around America sell this kind of nostalgic items.
As for the insurance replacement value, the night tables are really very decorative and would probably retail in the $200 to $250 range and the dresser between $250 and $300.
Write to Joe Rosson, P.O. Box 27419, Knoxville, TN 37927, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’d like your question to be considered for the column, please include a high-resolution photo of the subject, which must be in focus.