Mid Century Modern Furniture and Design

Patina or Damage: How I qualify condition on furniture |

Welcome back! I am so glad you are here.

Let me start by telling you the story of what happened to me years ago, when I was selling a Koronet bar, stereo, fireplace combination. The person who I bought it from mentioned that the hinge on the drop-down door that housed the record player had been repaired at some point. I could see that it had been moved to a different hole next to the original hole and that it had been patched but it was working fine. I didn’t see any problems with it. During the time that I had it I opened and closed the door a few times and it was fine so I proceeded to take pictures as usual and listed it. In my pictures everyone could see that the door was working, I even had a close up of it because I took a close up of the record player next to it, and you could see the door attached as it normally would be.  Soon after it was listed I sold it and during shipping something inside of the unit most have moved (these things happen during shipping) and it caused the hinge to rip off the piece of wood and of course, it was now damaged and the door didn’t have anything to hold it in place when dropped down.  My customer sent me an email accusing me of photoshopping the pictures and of being dishonest about the amount of damage that the piece had, etc, etc. We went back and forth via email and she never believed me. Well, I gotta tell you: number 1: I ain’t that good at photoshop! and number 2: I don’t do that!  

We all have seen the standard disclosure from dealers about vintage pieces will have normal wear and tear and some patina when you buy it. All sellers like me disclose this so people who aren’t familiar with buying vintage realize that most of these pieces have had 60 years plus in existence. They had a full life before coming to your hands. So it is normal to have little dings, and nicks, etc.  But I want to make a distinction today about what I do, and don’t do and what I believe when describing a piece. 

By definition, patina is a film that appears on a piece over time. It could also be the loss of the top layer of finish from years of the natural oil in our hands touching a certain section.  

My personal definitions of this are:

  1. In wood pieces, patina can be manifested in little nicks, minor scratches, tiny chips in the veneer on the edges, a little discoloration on or around the knobs, etc. On the contrary damage: is any deep scratch, dent or chip larger than 1″ that would not come out with a basic refinishing job.   
  2. In upholstery, patina is simple worn out areas generally where your arms, hands or head hit the fabric.  Damage would be cat scratches, rips in the fabric, crunchiness of the fabric or foam and or total disintegration of the foam. And of course, stains that probably won’t come out.
  3. In metal pieces,  patina would be normal minor spotting on the finish, a little bit of tarnishing, generally on corners or pulls, bents on the metal that are not structurally compromising. Damage would be rust beyond the surface that would compromise the integrity of the piece and that it would make it unsafe.  

So basically patina is anything that would tell me this piece has had a previous life but I can still enjoy it for years to come. And damage is anything that could stop me from enjoying it.  That would make it unsafe or deeply unattractive to look at. Those kinds of marks that become all you can see on that piece. For example: In the case of the Koronette piece that hinge not being attached would have been damage not patina. 

I know most of you are collectors and have a lot of experience with vintage pieces but I wanted to let you all know that I try to disclose any major damage to the pieces that I sell. I always answer the questions as honestly as possible when someone asks me what kind of damage does this have? And I try to take pictures of anything to note. Of course, there are things that I miss or consider not worthy of noting but my goal is for you to be informed about what you are buying. It doesn’t do me any good to sell a piece and misrepresent it in order to make some money and when the customers receive it, they can see that it cannot be enjoyed and they feel cheated. That is not my goal.

I value honesty and fairness, you can ask questions and you will always get an honest answer from me, my prices reflect the condition and work that have gone into each piece. And I try to make my customers happy. But I also expect my customers to be honest and fair. If something is not my fault, I expect them to recognize it and not to try to cheat me out of an extra discount for things that are not worth a discount or that are out of my control.  Above all, I want you to know that I appreciate my customers, the trust that they put in my company to buy these beautiful pieces and that my hope is that you can all enjoy them for years to come. So go check our inventory and let me know in the comments below what piece you liked the most.



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