Cabinets, chests of drawers, chairs and tables in Biedermeier, Baroque or Rococo styles were sought after, and antique dealers asked for many years soaring prices even for average pieces. As a result, period furniture has long been regarded as a good and sustainable investment. But the market has changed fundamentally. The Rococo chest of drawers, which was once bought for 25,000 Euros, generates with some luck 2,500 Euros today and for the Biedermeier table with six chairs, in excellent condition, the market only makes one-tenth of its originally paid purchase price.
Many established antique dealers and auction houses in Germany, England, France or the Netherlands have given up. To speak of a general crisis on the antique market would still be wrong. International collectors are happily prepared to pay the highest prices for pieces of extraordinary provenance and origin. This applies to antique period furniture and now also for modern classics.
In fact, many people were willing to pay large sums for antiques and old furniture until the eighties. In combination with rare porcelain, paintings and high-quality carpets, even medium-sized companies secured in this way an equally stylish and at the same time prestigious investment. Those who could afford it often set up complete rooms with great attention to detail in a specific style. Given the high demand, the market was almost dried up and the price trend was steadily rising even in case of rather average pieces.
But the taste of time has changed. The development leads away from gold-rimmed rococo chests and extravagant baroque tables to an interior dominated by straight forms and strict lines. Construction classics and furniture by designers such as Jean-Michel Frank, but also Ray & Charles Eames and Paul Evans appeal to consumers today.
And this trend cannot only be seen in the generation of heirs who wants to get rid of the period furniture, which was once purchased by their parents for a lot of money. The generation of 55 to 70-year-olds, many of whom even have bought period furniture, often turn to the new taste of time and separate from the once high-paid antiques.
More and more antiques, which were once a sign that one belonged to the upper middle class, enter the market and create an overabundance in the segment of good to average antiques. The oversupply and the low demand for solely good period furniture let the prices hit rock bottom.
On the other hand, those who, for example, have purchased or inherited a piece of furniture by the cabinetmaker David Roentgen (1743 - 1807) years ago, may be lucky. For pieces in good condition, six-figure sums and more are being paid on the international art market. For extraordinary pieces from the workshop of Roentgen "bitten" collectors are ready to pay unimaginable prices. This is evidenced by the sale of a cassette desk made by David Roentgen for the Russian Empress Catherine the Great. A customer of the Parisian gallery Kugel was prepared to pay the record sum of 8.7 million dollars for this brilliantly crafted piece with an outstandingly representative provenance.