Garage Sale Enthusiast: Watch for mid-century furniture

(Photo: EJ's Auction & Consignment)
(Photo: EJ’s Auction & Consignment)

Well excuse me, but I think you’ve got my chair.

No, I’m not talking about that 1980s George Strait tune, although it was a good one. I’m talking about a Herman Miller chair that I pulled from a client’s dumpster and sold for thousands at auction a few year’s back.

More recently, we sold a set of four 1950s Herman Miller Eames chairs for $800.

For someone out hitting garage sales, they probably wouldn’t pay $20 for all four. But these chairs are highly desired. Furniture from the 1960s and 1970s is really picking up steam in the collector market.

When it comes to mid-modern style furniture, even if it doesn’t have a designer name, it could be worth thousands.

I was asked to visit an estate in Sun City to evaluate household items while the family cleaned their father’s cluttered home about three years ago. As I pulled up, I noticed a dumpster in the driveway. The family was furiously cleaning trash from the home and throwing it in the dumpster. Or, at least they thought they were clearing the trash.

I glanced into the dumpster just to see what I was getting into. To my surprise, the first thing I spotted was a mid-modern chair and ottoman. It was worn and scratched, but I knew it was worth money even before I looked at the manufacturer mark.

As I climbed into the dumpster one of the heirs shouted out to ask what I was doing.

“Dumpster diving for dollars,” I said.

I pulled the chair out, wiped the ketchup from my shoes and formally introduced myself. I also informed them that I had just dug out a chair valued between $2,500 and $5,000.

They stopped tossing items until we had a chance to go through it.

The chair, which was a Herman Miller, sold at auction for $6,000.

It never hurts to get a closer look at your possessions, even if you think it’s junk. Have a professional evaluate items you want to toss or, for that matter, collect.

Because that Herman Miller could have been any dumpster diver’s chair.

Erik Hoyer is an owner and auctioneer at EJ’s Auction & Consignment in Glendale and J. Levine Auction & Appraisal in Scottsdale. Reach him at or on Twitter @EJs_Auction. Visit

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