And “the price” is …

The time has arrived! Many of you have been asking about the answers to the appraisal game we invited audiences to play during The Price. Throughout the run, we asked you to guess the prices that a professional auctioneer would pay for the items in our lobby, as well as what the most expensive item was.

Before I give out the answers (I have kept these completely hidden even from my fellow Company and Staff members so there could be no cheating!), I want to give some more background on the specifics of the appraisal and the items in the lobby.

The Furniture

The scenic designer (Brian Sidney Bembridge) and props designers (Amy Peter and Mary O’Dowd) worked very closely on this show to transform the lobby of the theatre into the 19th century New York Victorian brownstone of Arthur Miller’s The Price. What’s important to remember about the furniture that we collected versus the furniture that the characters in the play would have collected: Ours was mostly early 20th century, while theirs would have been mostly mid- to late-19th century. Almost all of our furniture came from the prop departments at DePaul and Northwestern universities, and while much of it is “true” furniture—meaning it is not a reproduction or made for the stage—it is primarily mass-produced pieces. The furniture that the characters in the play are selling would have been true antiques (more than 100 years old), would have been purchased for a hefty price considering the wealth of the family, and would have definitely included many one-of-a-kind items.


Corbin looking over “The Price” furniture.

The Appraisal

On August 15, 2015, we invited Corbin Horn, a specialist in the furniture department at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, to come and do an appraisal of all the furniture we had collected for the production. It was great fun watching Corbin poke through everything and put numbers to paper. He was finished in less than an hour, noting that the items we have are so familiar to him that he is able to make determinations very quickly.

He spent a bit of time with the andirons (valued at $500 to $1,000), the chandeliers (again about $500 to $1,000 each), and the library table (valued at $500). Surprisingly, most of the furniture did not have a great deal of value—including the armoire (which was a favorite guess among many in our audience for the most valuable piece)!

In fact, Corbin told me that armoires have lost a great deal of value recently. They were much more expensive 10-15 years ago when people were snatching them up to hide big TVs, but since the arrival of flat screens—which people are proud to display and that mount on the wall—the armoire has become unfashionable and less valuable. He valued the beauty at a measly $300!


Corbin examining the harp.

The one thing that really stopped him was the harp. He took a long time examining it.

I asked him what he was looking for.

He said wanted to inspect its condition and to find the maker’s mark, which he found on the neck on an engraved brass plate.

It said “I and I Erat” and Berners Street London with a No. 1854. With that info, he was able to determine its provenance and value, using the internet. He didn’t think the 1854 was a date (items like harps rarely have date stamps, he said), but we did discover that the Erat Harp Company was in existence from 1797- 1858 in London, so we know it was in that time period. I later let The Price director Lou Contey know about how much time Corbin took with the harp and how important that brass plate was. He passed this along to actor Mike Nussbaum, who played Solomon the appraiser, and each night Mike looked for that plate!


The harp name plate, reading “I & I Erat, Berners Str. London No.1854”

When all was said and done, Corbin gave me the piece of paper with all his calculations on it.

What he wrote down was the retail value of the furniture, and it looked pretty good actually—almost every item coming in at $100 or more. But then came the bad news. An auctioneer needs to make money, and they will have to store and deliver this furniture. That means they will offer about a third to half of the actual retail cost. The most shocking thing to me was that the numbers were surprisingly close to the numbers in the play (which is set almost 50 years ago). Again, it is important to remember that this furniture is very different from the furniture Arthur Miller describes. I suspect our numbers would have been much higher had we been able to find 19th century pieces!

Corbin's calculations.

Corbin’s calculations.

The Answers

Now here they are, the answers to the questions posed in The Price appraisal game:

  • What is the price that Leslie Hindman Auctioneers would pay to obtain the entire collection? $5,000
  • What is the price that Leslie Hindman Auctioneers believes the collection could sell for at Auction? $13,500
  • What single item was appraised at the highest value? The harp
  • What is the price that Leslie Hindman Auctioneers would pay to obtain that item (and what would they estimate that item selling for)? $2,500 (buy) / $5,000+ (sell)

Congratulations to those of you who guessed right on the harp! For those who got the actual numbers right—that verges on wizardry! And for everyone, I hope this proved as interesting and fun for you as it was for us. Thank you for participating.

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