This is a story that can hardly be believed that happened in Nancy (France) at the end of September 2022. A couple looking to get rid of an old sideboard on an online classifieds site quickly realized that their piece of furniture was actually rare and had been put together by the famous 20th century architect and designer, Jean Prouvé.
Put up for sale at $70, the sideboard quickly attracted interest and many potential buyers made offers well above the asking price. Upset by the influx of requests, the couple called in a specialist to have their property analyzed. The latter, an auctioneer in Nancy, confirmed that the piece of furniture was a Jean Prouvé creation of considerable interest, valued at between $30,000 and $50,000.
The couple then became aware that they had an authentic collector’s item in the back of their garage, in which they had their tools. He had retrieved it by chance from the widow of a neighbor who worked for Studal, a subsidiary of French Aluminium, a shareholder of Jean-Prouvé’s workshops in the 1950s. According to the auctioneer, after the death of her husband, the widow suggested to her neighbors to come and look for a piece of furniture or an object in her house. They chose this sideboard, which looked solid and practical for storing many things.
A purchase a thousand times higher than the initial sale price
This choice, which seemed insignificant at the time, has now changed their lives. Indeed, thanks to the enlightened advice of the auctioneer, they managed to sit on a small fortune. Their dresser was sold at auction to an American who paid a cool $70,500. That’s a thousand times more than the original sale price on the classified website.
This story reminds us of another piece of furniture by Jean Prouvé that ended up on a sidewalk in Nancy back in February 2022. This famous chair, was later identified as a piece from the 1935 “Direction” collection, was estimated at around 10,000 euros (US$11,000), and finally sold 48,500 euros (US$53,000). To conclude, if you are walking around Nancy, think about going to the local flea markets like the Marché aux Puces de la Vieille Ville or to a second hand furniture superstore like Emmaus. You never know, you might stumble upon a piece created by Jean Prouvé.