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The Case for Reproductions: Affordable American Antique Furniture

Wallace Nutting Lowboy #691

Wallace Nutting Lowboy #691

Reproduction furniture can be an affordable entry point to antiques auctions and choosing good quality, strong design and well-regarded manufacturers can also see a retention of value and growth potential over time.

What sometimes comes to mind when thinking about reproduction furniture is poorly constructed, flimsy furniture of indeterminate wood (think pecan wood, or Asian hardwood imports) and in a pastiche of styles never found in the historical period.  Did Philadelphia mahogany armchairs really have rockers in the 1770s? I think not.

There are, however, some clear winners among reproductions. The following is a list of just a few of the many makers that I’ve been following for the past two decades in the marketplace.

Each with a unique story, all three manufacturers share similar characteristics in quality, design and finish that set them apart from most other firms. The use of well-chosen American hardwoods typical of the historical period, faithful reproductions of antique furniture forms, and good quality construction and cast hardware distinguish their furniture. Examples by these furniture manufactures are worth seeking out at auction houses or antique shops, and make desirable, affordable additions to any collection.

Wallace Nutting, Framingham, MA

active circa 1918-1930s

Best known for his hand-colored photographs, Nutting was an author and scholar of Early American Furniture & Decorative Art, and his firm produced bench-made furniture forms from Windsor chairs to highboys.  Pieces will usually bear a paper label (early) or more typical branded mark with his name.

Kittinger Furniture Company, Buffalo, NY

active circa 1866-1995, 1999-present

The most sought after forms by this maker are faithful reproductions of 18th century pieces made under license for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation (1937-1990) and the Newport Preservation Society. Pieces are characterized by attention to period detail.

Irving & Casson — A. H. Davenport Company, Boston & East Cambridge, MA

active individually and jointly from the 1870s

These two well-regarded Boston area furniture manufactures were active in commercial decorating for public and private buildings. They produced architectural designs and White House commissions for Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency. They’re known for great quality construction and ornamental brass hardware.

Skinner Lot Alert is a great way to get notified when pieces by any of these makers (or those of your choosing) are posted to the Skinner website for an upcoming auction. Reproduction furniture can be a great auction buy and above all, antiques are green, perhaps the ultimate form of reuse and repurposing!

38 thoughts on “The Case for Reproductions: Affordable American Antique Furniture

  1. A few points . . .
    1) I think it’s important to differentiate old reproductions from new reproductions, the latter of which are a waste of money.
    2) I often hear dealers and auctioneers inappropriately use the word “custom” to describe new, mass-produced reproduction furniture. The real meaning of “custom” is bench-made.
    3) To the list of makers of good old reproduction furniture, I would add H. Sacks.

    • Thanks for your mention of H. Sacks. There are many furniture makers that merit mention such as Val-Kill Industries, Potthast Furniture, and even the Boston firm Charak. All share qualities with the three mentioned above and crafted well styled, good quality faithful reproductions of 18th & 19th century American and European furniture designs. I believe this is an area well worth collecting.

      • I knew Herb Sacks, one of the sons. He and I used to go to auctions together, where he would freely share his knowledge with me.
        Herb would even periodically take me over to his factory, where I would actually get to watch his craftsmen at the bench doing things like carving Chippendale chairs and putting a finish on a bonnet-top highboy.

  2. A few points . . .
    1) I think it’s important to differentiate old reproductions from new reproductions, the latter of which are a waste of money.
    2) I often hear dealers and auctioneers inappropriately use the word “custom” to describe new, mass-produced reproduction furniture. The real meaning of “custom” is bench-made.
    3) To the list of makers of good old reproduction furniture, I would add H. Sacks.

    • Thanks for your mention of H. Sacks. There are many furniture makers that merit mention such as Val-Kill Industries, Potthast Furniture, and even the Boston firm Charak. All share qualities with the three mentioned above and crafted well styled, good quality faithful reproductions of 18th & 19th century American and European furniture designs. I believe this is an area well worth collecting.

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  5. Truly love your subject matter here. Victorian furniture is hard to find these days but seems to be making a comeback even in the realm of office furniture

  6. Truly love your subject matter here. Victorian furniture is hard to find these days but seems to be making a comeback even in the realm of office furniture

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  9. I have come across a large dining room table – circular (diameter: 140cm)on a heavy central pod with four insertable leaves. It has the maker’s brass tag for: Irving & Casson — A. H. Davenport Company, Boston & East Cambridge, MA with a serial number: 3163. I would love to know what the wood it is – American mahogany (Honduras?) and how old it may be. This one emigrated to France and, indeed, it is very solidly built. It was spray-polished so the wood underneath is very forlorn, but worth reviving. I would be most interested if someone can shed light on all of this for me please.

    • Una,

      The Irving & Casson — A.H. Davenport Company were very successful manufacturers of reproductions of American antique furniture and one thing is for certain, your table will be of good quality and design. Skinner appraisal staff are happy to view clear jpeg images to help answer questions about style, age and market value. Visit the how to sell antiques page on our website.

      KAS

  10. I have come across a large dining room table – circular (diameter: 140cm)on a heavy central pod with four insertable leaves. It has the maker’s brass tag for: Irving & Casson — A. H. Davenport Company, Boston & East Cambridge, MA with a serial number: 3163. I would love to know what the wood it is – American mahogany (Honduras?) and how old it may be. This one emigrated to France and, indeed, it is very solidly built. It was spray-polished so the wood underneath is very forlorn, but worth reviving. I would be most interested if someone can shed light on all of this for me please.

    • Una,

      The Irving & Casson — A.H. Davenport Company were very successful manufacturers of reproductions of American antique furniture and one thing is for certain, your table will be of good quality and design. Skinner appraisal staff are happy to view clear jpeg images to help answer questions about style, age and market value. Visit the how to sell antiques page on our website.

      KAS

  11. I am looking for a sofa table with drop ends. I am an Interior Designer and have been in the business since 1959. At that time H. Sacks was still in business and I still have one of their old catalogs. The 709S Cabot Sofa Table is similar to the one I am looking for to use at one of my clients. I have a smaller version of the one in the catalog which is 36″ long plus 2) 10″ drop ends in my own Living Room. If you know of such a piece I would appreciate an email. The one in the catalog has lyre shaped ends, but that is not necessary. I am really not sure of the period of such a piece, but I remember using one one other time, but cannot find a catalog that shows one.

    • Robert,
      Manufacturer’s catalogs are an invaluable resource to help identify furniture forms and styles. I’ve often referred to the Wallace Nutting Final Edition Furniture Catalog. Have you considered setting up a Skinner lot alert? You can get automatic email notifications when items matching “sofa table” or “H. Sack” are posted to our website.

      KAS

  12. I am looking for a sofa table with drop ends. I am an Interior Designer and have been in the business since 1959. At that time H. Sacks was still in business and I still have one of their old catalogs. The 709S Cabot Sofa Table is similar to the one I am looking for to use at one of my clients. I have a smaller version of the one in the catalog which is 36″ long plus 2) 10″ drop ends in my own Living Room. If you know of such a piece I would appreciate an email. The one in the catalog has lyre shaped ends, but that is not necessary. I am really not sure of the period of such a piece, but I remember using one one other time, but cannot find a catalog that shows one.

  13. We have an H. Sacks Chippendale style chest on chest in mahoghany that is extremely attractive. It is available for sale in South Florida – an estate piece. I am unable to date the piece. A paper label in on a long drawer bottom.
    Very little info out there it seems.

  14. We have an H. Sacks Chippendale style chest on chest in mahoghany that is extremely attractive. It is available for sale in South Florida – an estate piece. I am unable to date the piece. A paper label in on a long drawer bottom.
    Very little info out there it seems.

  15. Mary Ann, H. Sacks & Sons were a Brookline, MA cabinetmaking firm that produced a number of lines of reproductions of 18th & 19th formal furniture, including labeled Marlboro Manor pieces as well as the Connoisseur Collection for Paul McCobb in the early 1950s. KAS

  16. Fine furniture makers come and go over the years. Right now is a down period as one might suspect. In order for fine reproduction furniture to be collectable in terms of future value the company has to have made very high quality furniture over a long period of time and make enough in terms of volume. Few makers achieve this but Wallace Nutting is an excellent example.

    • I would agree that high quality in reproduction furniture is a prerequisite for being collectible. From experience, firms of note have produced enough material to to recognized and to gain a reputation, but not so much that examples can be easily obtained. Its a fine balance. Even for these firms with a “following” there is a wide range in desirability which has much to do with rarity. While Wallace Nutting chairs and small tables appear regularly at auction in Massachusetts, larger, more imposing pieces are scarce. KAS

  17. Fine furniture makers come and go over the years. Right now is a down period as one might suspect. In order for fine reproduction furniture to be collectable in terms of future value the company has to have made very high quality furniture over a long period of time and make enough in terms of volume. Few makers achieve this but Wallace Nutting is an excellent example.

  18. To: Kerry Shrives

    I am interested in finding out more about H.Sacks and sons from Brookline,MA. I have a beautiful Marlboro Manor mahogany dining room table ( 2 leaves ) with six matching chairs (includes 2 arm chairs ) as well as a lovely Marlboro Manor inlaid wood credenza. My mother in law had these custom made years ago from H. Sacks and sons – she lived in Brookline as well. Since she is deceased, I cannot ask her more info about this lovely set of furniture. The metal tag denoting Marlboro Manor is inside the credenza.

    I am thinking of selling this as we will be moving into much smaller quarters – or maybe shipping it to my daughter who lives in Minneapolis MN .

    I appreciate your response.

    Helene Naimon
    hjnaimon@gmail.com

    • From: Kerry Shrives

      Hi Helene,

      I would be happy to view images for an auction evaluation, you can submit images via Skinner’s website here https://www.skinnerinc.com/selling/auction-evaluation-form/. H. Sacks and Sons, Brookline, MA applied for the Marlboro Manor trademark in 1950 for a range of reproductions of Chippendale and Federal furniture. Examples are sought-after for the design, quality and period look.

      Best Regards,

      Kerry Shrives

  19. Hi. I am the great granddaughter of the founder of H. Sacks and Sons. My grandfather was one of the brothers. My family is looking to sell some of our one of a kind pieces. Please let me know if you are interested in squiring H. Sacks and Sons Furniture.

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