Ask A Worthologist Question: Cobbler’s Bench

Having to downsize, Arthur M. wanted to know what this cobbler’s bench was worth before deciding what to do with it.

Arthur M. has an unusual piece he inherited 20 years ago. Downsizing, and not sure of his options, he engaged WorthPoint’s Ask a Worthologist service. The question was forwarded to me. Here’s his question:

“I inherited this bench along with a bunch of other items stored in a farm outbuilding about 20 years ago. I used as a decorator piece for a short while, but put it in storage when I changed the decor of the living room. I’m downsizing now to a smaller place and a lot of stuff must go, but don’t want to give something away without knowing what it’s worth. It’s about four feet long and sits about 20 inches high. There are no marks or signatures of any sort I can find on it anywhere.”

Here’s my response.

This is something that takes me way back to my beginning in this business. This is a “cobbler’s bench.” Back in the early 1960s, when I was a mere observer in my family’s antique business, these cobbler’s benches were some of the hottest items around. Demand was so great for them at the time that magazines such as Popular Mechanics provided plans so dads everywhere could build one in the basement or garage for use as end tables or coffee tables.

Based on your images, this one is pretty typical of the type, constructed primarily of pine and dating from the second quarter of the 19th century. Pine cobbler’s benches of this type were once quite common, but largely discarded by the time factory-made shoes and mail-order catalogs made their appearance in the late 19th century. Most of these pieces were roughly built, simply functional examples made by rural cabinet makers, each tending to be unique in its construction details. We have seen very few that were marked or dated; any dated example should be considered suspect unless there is a provenance to back it up.

There is not as much demand for cobbler’s benches as there was in the early 1960s, but these pieces still do sell in the $250-$650 range, depending on condition, provenance and wood type used in construction. I’d recommend a replacement value in the $400-$500 range for this example.

Mike Wilcox, of Wilcox & Hall Appraisers, is a Worthologist who specializes in Art Nouveau and the Arts and Craft movement.


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