Oxford’s Own Repair Shop: May & Co
We caught up with Amy and Martin of May and Co, the east Oxford duo who buy and restore 19th and 20th-century antique furniture, to hear how they help those looking to sell their unwanted furniture, along with some useful tips on how to value and sell any pieces you’re looking to re home. >>
Perhaps the time has come to move, downsize, or in more unfortunate circumstances, clear a loved one’s home following a bereavement.
These times all bring with them many emotions, upheaval, and uncertainty so adding unwanted furniture, that you’ve no idea what to do with, to the list can be an unwelcome problem.
For those who have the time, inclination, and know-how, selling sites such as eBay, Gumtree, or Marketplace work brilliantly but for those that don’t or perhaps don’t even know how much the furniture could be worth, selling to a furniture dealer can often be a great solution.
How can someone find out how much a piece of furniture is worth?
“I’ve been in the antiques trade all my working life” says Martin
“and a favourite part of what I do is teaching people about a piece of furniture. Working out its age, using signs that reveal its history, plus the type of wood or material it’s made from. Knowing this is key to working out the value of a piece.”
Amy adds, “if your piece has a maker’s mark or stamp, such as on many 20th-century pieces, you can always check the sold price of similar pieces on eBay or other websites. But be careful of using prices given on sites such as 1stDibs, Pamona, or Vinterior as they are often highly inflated due to the high seller fees.”
“We often get sent photographs, in particular of mid 20th-century pieces that need restoring back to a sellable condition, and the owner has found a price for a restored one on Vinterior and will be expecting us to pay the same figure for theirs. In cases like this, we have to add up all the time and costs needed to bring that piece up to its value and then will make an offer to the seller based on this.”
Also worth remembering is the value of a piece is condition dependent. You might have a beautiful early 20th-century cabinet, but if it’s got issues like a hairline crack in the glass, the key is missing, the top has ring marks from a plant pot so needs refinishing, this will all affect its value.
You can also contact your local auctioneer who will offer a valuation for you or sites like Value My Stuff can be helpful.
How do May and Co value someone’s furniture?
First of all, we ask to see any photographs of it, either by email or WhatsApp. We also need to know its location (so we can factor in collection time) and a guide price of what the seller would like to get for it, which is helpful as a starting point. Then if it’s something we are interested in buying we give a valuation price range from the lowest to the highest we could offer which is dependent on any final checks.
This can be less than the seller was hoping for and depending on how many pieces they have they might go away and try and sell the piece themselves on eBay etc, but quite often they come back to us after realising the offer is a fair one given the condition of the piece and the time it will take them to sell it online.
And then what happens if they agree with the price?
Depending on the valuation we pay 25-50% upfront payment by bank transfer and then arrange for the pieces to either be collected by us or our courier, or the seller can deliver, and the balance is then paid when we have received all the pieces.
It all seems very easy and hassle-free?
We like to think so! We completely appreciate that people often come to us when they don’t have the time to sell it themselves or it might be very sentimental to them and they want to know it is going to be looked after and restored back to what it once was, so we want it to be a friendly, easy and hassle-free service.
Would you buy just one piece?
Yes, we buy one piece to a house full. If it’s one piece we usually can agree to buy it via email or phone, but with a house full we will usually try and visit and check everything over in person.
Do you restore everything you buy?
No, not everything as it’s not always worth the time needed so we sometimes will just clean, photograph, and list it on various sites. Since starting May and Co we’ve restored hundreds of pieces of furniture though – some originally destined for landfill – to their former glory. You can see some of the best transformations we’ve done on our Instagram highlights or on our website.
If the seller’s furniture isn’t old, where can they sell or get rid of it?
Unfortunately, we don’t buy furniture post-1990s and sadly a lot of modern furniture isn’t designed to last but if it is still functioning and is usable we will always point people to other local house clearance companies who might offer money for it, listing it on Facebook Marketplace or eBay or free listing websites such as Freecycle of Free Stuff Alerts – anywhere is far better than it ending up in landfill.
Do you just cover Oxfordshire?
We would love to just buy and sell within Oxfordshire but we aren’t at that stage yet so are happy to buy from wherever the pieces are.
Any last bit of advice?
If you’re not sure whether to ask us if something is worth much, or have a question about a piece of furniture but aren’t at a stage to sell, please just get in touch as we’re always happy to help.