Gustav Stickley Arts & Crafts Antique Furniture
Gustav Stickley Craftsman Mission Oak Style Furniture
Gustav Stickley (1858-1942) founded his own design company, Craftsman Workshops, with his brother Leopold Stickley (Stickly Sticly) in upstate Eastwood, New York in 1898. Previously, they had worked with their three other brothers at a furniture company they had formed in 1884 called Stickley Brothers Company. Stickley Brothers Company would last on until 1940, run by brothers Albert and John George. Gustav Stickley's furniture business, Craftsman Workshops, was highly successful and eventually became a national enterprise with retail stores in New York, Boston, and Washington, DC. Although
influenced by the British Arts and Crafts movement and Continental Art Nouveau,
Gustav Stickley advocated the creation of a distinctive American furniture style that would integrate furnishings, architecture, handicrafts, and principles of harmonious living; he believed that well-designed furnishings could help "make life better and truer by its perfect simplicity." The primary wood that he used was American white Oak from Ohio and the Midwest. Stickley used oak for about 95% of his furniture production and chestnut, maple and mahogany for the other 5%.
If you are interested in selling antique Arts & Crafts period mission style furniture or lighting by Stickley, Limbert, Roycroft or other quality makers, Please email our specialist in antique Arts & Crafts furniture and lighting, Steve Voorhees
. Steve has over 25 years of experience in buying and selling Stickley furniture, lighting and accessories. Kindly include several clear photographs in your email, or visit Steve's website Vorhees Craftsman. Please note: if you have some of the later L&JG Stickley Cherry Valley furniture or later Stickley Brothers furniture that is not in the "Arts & Crafts" or "mission" style, please read the botton section of this page before contacting Steve. Thank you.
Gustav Stickley was a leader and innovator in Arts and Crafts furniture design and construction as well as a purist. For these reasons, his furniture is deemed most representative of the best of American Arts and Crafts Period furniture production.
He was copied by many, but still maintained his original leading position. As a result, his company's furniture is the most sought after and highly valued of the period makers (as a note, other pieces by small volume makers, such as Charles Rohlfs are also highly collectible and valuable, here I am speaking in terms of only the high production volume manufacturers).
Almost all of Gustav Stickley's furniture, as well as his four brothers' furniture, were marked with a decal (usually red or black), brand, paper label or a metal tag or a combination of marks. The terms we use are maker's marks or shopmarks. The shopmarks are found in inconspicuous places on the mission style furniture; the back of a chair stretcher, under a seat, under an arm, in a drawer, behind a sideboard or server backsplash or plate rail or on the back of a mirror, just to name a few of the places. If a shopmark is not present, it is usually due to the finish of the piece having been altered or in the case of upholstered pieces, a seat having been reupholstered or a paper label having deteriorated and fallen off.
Gustav Stickley continued to produce "mission style" furniture until tastes changed and he didn't change quickly enough and was left behind and forced to file bankruptcy in 1915. At that point he retired from the furniture business.
Determinants of Stickley Furniture Value & Prices:
Maker - As noted, Gustav Stickley's furniture is more valuable than his four brothers' furniture and most of his competitors' furniture. L&JG Stickley Furniture Company's (brothers Leopold and John George) production ranks second behind their older brother Gustav, in quality, design, collectibility and value, followed by Stickley Brothers (Albert Stickley) and Stickley and Brandt (Charles Stickley). Other prominent Arts and Crafts mission furniture makers were The Roycrofters, Charles Limbert, Grand Rapids Chair and Bookcase Company (Lifetime Furniture), Shop of the Crafters (Oscar Onken), Frank Harden Co and JM Young Co. There were also dozens of other companies that produced full and limited lines of mission furniture and accessories.
Form - Most popular are Stickley morris chairs, settles (sofa or couch), sideboards, china cabinets, dining tables and chairs, wardrobes, and bookcases, large library tables, oversized armchairs and rockers (with slats under the arms, and even better, a seat and back cushion), and magazine stands followed by regular (48" or narrower) library tables, settees, servers, oversized rockers and armchairs (without slats under the arms, may or may not have a back cushion), footstools, and items such as vice cabinets, bedroom furniture, screens, mirrors, daybeds, umbrella stands, plant stands, pedestals and other less common and less useful accessories. In general, small rockers and armchairs are not real useful or comfortable and lots of them were made (and they were not all that expensive compared to some of the other forms). For this reason, they are a bit of a commodity and do not really sell for much more than any style of nice old rocker would sell for. There are exceptions to this generality. It depends on the form and the maker. As a final note, certain dining chair forms can be much more valuable than another form from the same maker due to the strength of their design and overall comfort level.
Size - In general, bigger sizes of certain forms are more valuable with higher prices.
The most common width for a mission style library table is 42" to 48". A 54" table is bigger, rarer and probably more useful (and would have originally cost more) so a 54" table may be worth 50% more than a 48" given that they are both in very good condition. A 60" table would be worth even more. It is the same way with dining tables. Also, having a few leaves with the table is very helpful, dollar wise. Dining tables were originally purchased with a rack of up to six leaves.
Date Manufactured - Earlier is usually better, since the early examples of a form more closely resemble the original designs. Later, in an effort to make the furniture appear lighter and less massive and to save money in manufacturing time and material, design details like keyed tenons were dropped and the dimensions of wood members were reduced (i.e. table tops became thinner and legs not as massive). In addition, some later production furniture had light, almost blonde finishes, that are less desirable to collectors seeking the warmth and character of the original dark finishes.
Finish Quality and Color, Condition of the Oak Wood and Hardware - Finish is one of the most important aspects of value, although as each year goes by, finish becomes a bit less important. I think that this is due to the increasing cost of and lack of original finish pieces coming into the market. At the same time, there seems to be a shift by newer collectors to more of a focus on form and less of a focus on finish quality. All other things being equal, an original finish piece should bring 30 to 50% more than a piece with a decent refinish in a medium to a dark color. A piece that has been refinished light or blonde, sometime in the past, is at a big disadvantage since it has to be refinished dark to realize its highest value. When your done you have a piece that has been refinished twice (usually not a good thing as each refinishing takes away a certain amount of the original volume of the wood), not to mention the extra time and money required to get the finish from light to dark. Another point is does the metal hardware have its original patina? Also, what is the condition of the wood? Any rotting/wood loss to feet/legs. Burn marks, ink stains, water marks, splits, and warps, raised or missing veneer. These issues all hurt the final value of a piece. Less so on great pieces, more so on common pieces.
Upholstery - Upholstery is probably the easiest issue to deal with. If a decent piece has lost its cushions or the cushions and or covering are shot, this can be fixed by getting new, high quality upholstery work done. If you are selling a piece and are not in the mission furniture business, you should sell it as is. Mission or Arts and Crafts furniture upholstery has a look and feel that is much different than most other furniture. You have to know what it should look like, know what collectors want and know an upholsterer who can do it. There are not many who know how to. You also have to acquire the right weight and finish leather. Yes, leather is what most collectors want on their mission furniture. Much of the original furniture was covered in leather. If you have a piece with good original leather upholstery, even with a minor tear, the value of your piece will be enhanced. Pieces with serviceable original upholstery are pretty hard to find.
Rarity - The proliferation of antique shows, shops, malls, auctions and the rise of the Internet marketplace has brought out a lot of mission furniture over the last 30+ years. A lot of mission furniture was made. In 1910, it was the hot furniture style. An interesting phenomena regarding rarity is that when a previously unseen form by an important maker comes on the market, the selling price can be especially high (you see this in the major auctions). For some pieces though, each subsequent piece that comes out sells at a lower price than the last one to come out until it becomes obvious that the piece is not all that rare and the form settles into a predictable price range. This was true of a plate rack design by Gustav Stickley that now regularly sells for a fraction of what the initial one to the market sold for. With that said, there are still rare pieces that come onto the market so infrequently that they will always do well, such as custom or early pieces of Gustav Stickley furniture in excellent condition. Following the auctions is the best way to get an idea of rarity. What you may find is that what you have is not as rare or valuable as you had thought. Seeing dozens or hundreds of pieces of mission furniture in an auction or at a large Arts and Crafts antique show can be a humbling experience for a dealer or for the owner of a few pieces of used Stickley mission furniture.
Is it Signed - Most collectors put a premium on pieces that still bear the original maker's mark over an identical piece that is unmarked.
The premium for a piece of furniture is usually a relatively small percentage; say 2% to 8% (maybe 2% on a high-end piece and up to 8% on a lower end piece). I think that this is because there are collectors out there who will not buy unsigned pieces. Also, it is typically easier to sell a signed piece (you do not have to spend the time convincing a potential buyer of who made the piece) and the marks are kind of cool to have on a piece. They look good and show that the piece is more complete than the same piece in an unmarked state.
Completeness - Is it all there. Are any pieces missing, drawers, corbels, hardware and leaves? A set of chairs is usually six chairs. Five chairs is not a set. Is it signed? Please see above.
Location - If you are selling mission furniture and you have to ship the furniture any distance, it gets expensive. Shipping a morris chair coast-to-coast is $250 to $500, depending on shipper, crating, insurance and pick up and drop off locations.
Provenance - Must be provable (you need documentation) and depends on who owned it, it will add some value.
Later, Post 1916, Stickley Brothers, L&JG Stickley including Leopold Stickley Cherry Valley Furniture and Limberts Furniture Production
Mission furniture, which had been the rage in the early part of the century, lost its popularity in the late teens. Gustav Stickley developed a line of "non-mission" furniture called Chromewald. But it was too little too late to revive his business and he filed for bankruptcy in 1915 and retired never to produce furniture again. L&JG Stickley developed a line called the Cherry Valley Collection with an American Colonial inspired design (usually signed with a paper label saying "A Leopold Stickley Original" or with a large "Stickley Fayetteville Syracuse" brand). They produced this line from 1926 to 1984. Stickley Brothers (and Charles Limbert as well) also made a changeover in the late teens, adding barley twist legs to their mission designs and later producing Colonial reproductions and even painted furniture with oriental designs.
The later Stickley and Limbert production surfaces on a regular basis, in particular the Cherry Valley line, in auctions, shops and on eBay. These pieces sell for what good used furniture sells for or maybe a bit more due to the cache of the Stickley or Limbert name. That might be $300+ for a dresser or $600+ for a sideboard or cupboard. It's hard to value these pieces, since they are not widely collected or highly valued by collectors. The market of buyers, for this later production, is small. Most Arts and Crafts mission furniture collectors are not interested in these pieces as, for them, they collect the style, "mission", first and the maker, "Stickley", second. For valuation and pricing purposes, eBay is a good source. If you look at eBay's "completed auctions" you will probably see some sold pieces, but more likely several (usually mistakenly overpriced) pieces that did not sell, although, every now and then a piece sells for more than I would expect, given the limited market for "non-mission" Stickley and Limbert furniture.
Cathers, David M. (2003). Gustav Stickley. Phaidon Press.
David Rago and Bruce Johnson (2003). The Official Price Guide to American Arts and Crafts. House of Collectibles.