Eames first edition storage unit, bought for $ 100, sells for almost $ 50,000 at auction

Terri Stearn, Leslie Weisberg, Julie Sundberg and Deborah Slobin (left). The Eames storage unit (right). (The Shoppe too)

In near perfect condition, the storage unit, created after World War II by influential American designers Charles and Ray Eames, was one of four or five that remained.

When the Allen family contacted the upscale consignment store The Shoppe Too with a handful of photos of furniture bought in the 1950s, neither the Allens nor the partners of the Keego Harbor-based company were aware of the rarity of a particular item in their possession.

In the home of 98-year-old Franklin resident Nancy Allen was a first-edition Eames storage unit, which her late husband Maurice bought for $ 100 almost 70 years ago. Still in near perfect condition, the storage unit, created after World War II by influential American designers Charles and Ray Eames, was one of four or five that remained.

Crafted from plastic-coated plywood, enameled masonite, and steel, these extraordinarily rare storage units were released by furniture company Herman Miller in 1950, just before then-newlyweds Maurice and Nancy Allen discovered one. by buying apartment furniture.

“When we first saw the cabinet, it looked so new,” says Deborah Slobin, co-owner of Le Shoppe Too and the corresponding auction house Le Shoppe, which she runs alongside her fellow Jewish businesswomen Leslie Weisberg and Julie Sundberg. Together, they work with Terri Stearn of Detroit Fine Art Appraisals to appraise and sell 20th century furniture, artwork, and iconic estates.

“It was so prestigious and in such good condition,” Slobin, 56, of Farmington Hills and a Holocaust Foundation volunteer, said of the firm. “For things that are so old, they usually have some wear and tear, but this thing seemed to come out of the showroom floor.”

A surprising discovery

The Eames storage unit was a cherished family possession that the Allens have taken great care of over the years. Children weren’t allowed to touch it and it had been kept in excellent condition since its purchase in the 1950s. “The family loved the piece,” Slobin says.

Yet neither the The Shoppe Too partners nor the Allen family knew how much the legacy was actually worth. By researching and contacting other experts in the field, Slobin determined that the piece was, in fact, a first edition Eames creation.

Through Le Shoppe Auction House, a branch of Le Shoppe Too that values ​​and sells the coins people bring them, Slobin and his colleagues have set aside a reserve of $ 15,000 to begin auctioning the Eames storage unit.

“Right away he started to raise and raise the stakes,” Slobin recalls. “We knew it was really special, really rare and that we had to go to the right house.”

Rather than sending the cabinet straight to retail, Slobin informed the Allen family that they would be going for more money at an auction. When the bids opened, going from $ 25,000 to $ 35,000 and finally selling for $ 48,000 to a private institution, the Eames storage unit sold for more than three times its reserve.

“We weren’t surprised. We were shocked, ”Slobin says. “The family was [also] in complete shock. When I told Nancy Allen about it, she leaned back in her chair in pure pleasure and admiration.

Hidden heirlooms are everywhere

Allen first wondered who would be willing to spend $ 15,000 or more on a piece of furniture her husband bought for just $ 100 in the 1950s, Slobin recalls. Yet, after receiving the good news, Allen exclaimed that his late partner would be proud to see what price he sold for and that he would go to a good house in an institution planning to make the room available to the public. .

Stearn says this sale set a world record for the most money ever paid for an original Eames storage unit at a public auction.

“We were blown away,” adds Slobin. ” We did not expect that. “

Their advice: do not throw objects found in grandmother’s attic. “If people don’t want to donate, they’ll bring it here to make sure it’s not worth anything,” says Stearn. “Then we can say to them, ‘OK, that’s nothing’ or ‘this is a really good piece, and it can probably sell for $ 10,000. “

The next Le Shoppe Auction House auction will be on Sunday December 5th. Rare items up for grabs will include a war pony sculpture by famous Native American painter and Modernist sculptor Allan Houser, among others.

Still, it’s impossible to predict whether another first-edition Eames coin will come or not.

“These parts are in high demand,” says Slobin. “They are the buzzword for collectors. “

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