Many people watch The Antiques Roadshow and hear about an 1890′s hutch worth thousands of dollars because the finish is original and think their furniture should NEVER be refinished. Or a piece is now worth $200 instead of $20,000 because it’s been refinished. That is not always the case. Unless the piece is very rare, of museum quality, or has some history to it, most furniture looks better and is worth more if it is in good condition.
True story: Several years back a woman brought me a very broken kitchen chair from the 1960′s. The chair had been painted and the paint was peeling off, revealing a badly scarred and worn finish underneath. I asked her if she also wanted the chair refinished. ”Oh no,” she replied, “won’t that hurt the value?” With a straight face I asked her “How much do you think the chair is worth now?” Her chair was not an antique, had no historical value, was not rare, and was not even worth five bucks in its current condition.
In the 27 years we have been in business, there have been only 2 times that we have recommended a piece of furniture not be touched because it might ruin the value. In every other case, we believe we have actually increased the value because the finish was repaired. In addition, the customer was able to actually use and enjoy their piece.
Antiques Roadshow clarified their position on refinishing furniture in this June 2002 commentary by Peter B. Cook in Professional Refinishing Magazine:
Peter B. Cook, executive producer of Antiques Roadshow, has been a writer and producer at WGBH Boston for 32 years. His award-winning credits include The Advocates (1970-74), Arabs and Israelis (1975), and Concealed Enemies, winner of the national Emmy for Best Limited Series in 1984. He also made a few trestle tables back when 5/4 by 18 clear pine was $1.25 afoot.