Value of attorney bookcases has remained stable

Value of attorney bookcases has remained stable

Forty-some years ago I bought a set of four bookshelves plus a separate top and bottom at a Gordon Hannigan auction.

They needed help. One was missing a glass, another had a piece of cracked glass in it and one front was kind of stubborn about lifting up and sliding into the open position. I think I won the bid for around $100.

At any rate, it was one of my first attempts at restoring a piece of old furniture.

I stripped off the paint on all six pieces, bought new glass, fixed the rollers on the top front face so it worked like it was supposed to and sold the bookcase to a young man who had just graduated from law school for $500, which was the going rate at that time.

Why do I write about this now, 40 years after the fact? I received an email from a recent widow of an attorney asking for my advice about selling her late husband's bookcases.

After research with a couple of area dealers and viewing the Internet for comparison, I sent back my reply.

These are stacked units and are usually sold with a top, bottom and four or five units in between. I told her that each unit in good condition was worth $100 at a retail price and that the top and bottom together sold at around $50 to $100 for both. I also said if they were oak they would bring a little bit more.

So after 40 years, the value has not changed. It has stayed stable. What is good about this is that you have a new group of potential customers every year with the law school graduates.

I checked on what it cost to replace a piece of glass in one of these units and it is $22 as an average.

Constructing a new top and/or bottom would cost $125 in Amishland and I got a quote for around $85 here in town.

On the Internet, just the tops ran the gamut from $45 to $200 for a used top.

Every dealer I checked with said you had to have the complete set or you just could not sell the single units.

I also pointed out to the widow that this was a retail price and if she were to sell to a dealer they would probably only give her half the retail price.

The late Bob Ohl, who was an expert in model trains, told me years ago to never give a free appraisal, and if you were interested in buying the object do not even give an appraisal. You cannot do both; you either appraise or you buy. I should have listened to him.

Good antiquing!

Bob Swisher has been a collector since he was a child. Questions or comments can be sent to Swisher by writing to The News-Gazette, P.O. Box 677, Champaign, IL 61824-677 or emailing

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