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John Sikorski: Decorative coffee table is interesting; overvaluation of mahjong set

Oct 27, 2023

Q: Enclosed is a picture of a table left to me by my mother. It is made from the stump of a California grape vine. It is in excellent condition with a scratch-free glass top. It is perhaps 50 years old. Note the pothos plant growing happily. What do you think it is worth? Thanks for your consideration. — L.A., Internet

A: Wow, what an interesting decorative coffee table. The attractive table is in the used furniture category. There is no specific value; its worth is in the eye of the beholder and how much cash is in their pocket. I think it is definitely a keeper.

Q: We were excited to see a question about mahjong in your column. After reading your reply about the valuation of a mahjong set, we wanted to reach out. We believe $500 is highly undervalued.

As administrators of a mahjong Facebook group, we have many players ask us the value of their set. We are not qualified to give valuations. We explain to players that there are too many factors including the materials, accessories, conditions of the tiles, the case, the quality of the paint job, and the designs and other considerations for us to give value. Searches of Ebay and other auction sites show the prices being paid lately for mahjong sets.

Additionally, the person who wrote to you about their family's ivory mahjong set may have a rare ivory set. Many players believe they have ivory tiles when in actuality the set is made of bone and bamboo with Haversian channels rather than the cross hatching of ivory.

Valuable designed bone and bamboo sets can range in the thousands. If you search on Ebay for highly carved bone and bamboo sets, you can see some recently sold and current listings.

To help clear up confusion between the different materials, we did a video for players showing what to look for between bone and bamboo, ivory and other materials. Additionally, if the set was ivory, it would probably be closer to the high thousands. With restrictions on the sale of ivory, we haven't seen many sold lately yet have heard of sales in excess of $7,000 many years ago. French ivory sets that were created to look like ivory sell for thousands of dollars. We would love to hear your thoughts. — D. & D., Internet

A: Thank you for your letter. Comments from readers are always appreciated on the various questions asked about antiques and collectibles in this column. I have been in and around the antiques business for 40 years and have seen many mahjong sets, and I am aware of how to tell the difference in the materials used. It is good you do not do valuations on mahjong sets, as your opinions on values are highly exaggerated. Currently, with little effort, vintage French ivory mahjong sets can be bought for less than $500. Old and antique genuine ivory sets can easily be found for sale on the Internet for less than $1,000. Of course, there is always the exception to the rule — but that has nothing to do with the actual rule.

— John Sikorski, with more than 35 years of experience, is an Ocala-based antiques advisor, consultant and broker. Send your questions to Sikorski's Attic, c/o The Ocala Star-Banner, 2121 SW 19th Ave. Road, Ocala, FL 34471-7752, or email [email protected].

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