11 October 2023

What are the chances? Mid-century 'renovator's delight' table sells for thousands in online auction

| James Coleman
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man holding a chair near a round table

The set that sold for more than $6500 was designed by Danish furniture designer Hans Olsen (1902-1983). Photo: William Hall.

We’ve all been there – unearthing something in a dusty corner of the garage, imagining it’s priceless art or a relic of some ancient dynasty. It happens. Rarely, of course, but it happens. And it just did. Sort of …

Earlier this year, someone came across a mid-century teak dining suite at The Green Shed ‘Treasure Trove’, adjacent to the Mugga Lane tip. It was circular in shape with four matching nesting chairs and a $50 sticker on it.

Well, last week, the very same set sold for more than $6500 on the Evans Hastings Valuers and Auctioneers (EHVA) website.

The table and chairs turned out to be made in the 1960s by Danish furniture designer Hans Olsen (1902-1983), and during EHVA’s quarterly ‘Retro and 20th Century Design’ online auction, attracted 10 different bidders over 11 days. Thirty-four bids were placed in the last 20 minutes.

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EHVA general manager Adam McDonald said it was not unusual for this sort of furniture, in good condition, to achieve “significant” prices.

“This was a fantastic find by the vendor, in very good shape, and it was hotly contested by a range of potential buyers before closing at $6676,” Mr McDonald said.

“A new bidder entered the fray with six minutes to closing and the resulting competition saw the price jump more than $3000 in those final bids.

“We are ecstatic for the vendor but not entirely surprised at the result.”

In the same auction, a Norwegian design 73-piece dinner service fetched $2610, a pair of lounge chairs $2980, a 1960s Kai Kristiansen four-drawer rosewood sideboard $2822, a Villeroy & Boch 67-piece dinner service $1598, a mid-century glazed pottery table lamp $470, and a large porcelain bowl by American glass artist Dorothy Hafner $422.

Mr McDonald said more and more people are bringing in wares they suspect might be worth something due to the current “cost-of-living squeeze”.

“It’s a great time to be selling – the weather is warming up and people are in a good mood and keen to acquire quality items with good design and a bit of character, albeit pre-loved,” Mr McDonald.

“You never know when the next ‘find’ is going to be delivered and make thousands for its vendor.”


Shopping at The Green Shed’s Civic store – where the good stuff goes. Photo: Daniella Jukic.

If you’re wondering how staff at The Green Shed could have missed such a small fortune, owner Charlie Bigg-Wither said it originally came in “all painted and unrestored” and “whoever took it had to do a lot of work” to get to an auction-able state.

“Even if we had caught it, we probably would have sold it for $100 anyway,” he said.

Staff regularly come across items they suspect might be worth something, and these are fished out and sent to The Green Shed’s shop in Civic where they are “cleaned, researched, curated and priced” by up to six full-time staff members. Charlie’s wife, Sandie Parkes, will often bring items home and spend hours researching them online to determine their worth.

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“We had a couple of computers the other day we sold for like $3000 each, early versions of the IBM that were jumped on within seconds,” Charlie says.

“Any old audio equipment just goes – and we get good money for that stuff. Bicycles, as well – plenty of people collect old bicycles.”

Charlie said antique dealers visit the shop daily, sniffing for bargains, “which is fine”.

“It’s all part of the game. We obviously can’t catch everything, and we don’t know about everything.”

The couple did try eBay for a while but found it to be more work than it’s worth. Besides, they prefer to keep it local.

Charlie Bigg-Wither, in his ‘LEGO’ house in Turner. Photo: James Coleman.

As for an item that really made his hair stand on end? A 270-year-old slide rule believed to be one of only five left in the world.

When staff initially stumbled across the folding wooden item with its precise mathematical markings in 2021, they initially mistook it for just another ruler. But it turned out to be designed by John Suxspeach and called a Catholic-Organon or Universal Sliding Foot-Rule.

“Imagine your mathematical slide rule, but this one had like 100 different slides that came out, for litres, gallons, centimetres, millimetres, blood types, everything. It was just nuts.”

Suspect you might have something similarly remarkable?

EHVA is holding an Antiques Roadshow-style appraisal day on Saturday, 18 November, at 7 Wiluna Street, Fyshwick. They are inviting anyone with questions about stuff they’ve found in their garage or house to bring it in and talk to the experts.

“You never know where the next ‘find’ will come from,” EHVA said.

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