Where Has All the Roycroft Gone?

As I was cleaning out my office this week, I found myself flipping through stacks of auction catalogs dating back to 1995. In addition to seeing some wonderful, rare pieces, I also was amazed at how much Roycroft furniture had previously reached the market: tall back chairs, strap-hinged sideboards, mirrored vanities, massive bookcases, straddle chairs and the Roycroft classic: the six-foot magazine stand with keyed tenons and the familiar orb-and-cross emblazoned on the side.

I recalled, too, being able to see similar pieces at the Grove Park Inn Arts & Crafts Show and in Arts & Crafts galleries I had visited on my travels.

But lately, it seems, it all has vanished – into collections, I presume, but I could not help but wonder if others had witnessed the same absence of Roycroft furniture surfacing or recirculating into the market, so I asked, “Where has all the Roycroft gone?”

Jerry Cohen [http://www.artsncrafts.com] – “The Roycroft Shops most likely produced one piece of furniture for every hundred made by the Stickley companies, and the Roycroft furniture that exists is mostly concentrated among a limited number of collectors and families. We were fortunate enough to sell four major Roycroft collections through Craftsman Auctions between 2005 and 2008, and that may have given the false impression that there will always be a steady stream of good Roycroft furniture entering the marketplace.”

(left) The Roycroft Furniture Shop, ca. 1913

Don Treadway (http://www.treadwaygallery.com) – “It’s mostly been absorbed by collectors and institutions. In my opinion there is not a great deal of important Roycroft furniture available, certainly not close to the numbers of Gustav or L. & J.G. Stickley examples. I think the relatively low numbers produced initially has left us with little to come back out into the market. Also, I believe collectors tend to hold to their best pieces and sell their more common ones when they begin to liquidate.”

David Rago (http://www.ragoarts.com) – “I think the point is that the Roycrofters just didn’t make that much material and the people who buy it (aside from mostly being particularly nutty) get very attached to it. Limited production, passionate collectors and stagnating prices are the reasons most Roycroft material is unavailable these days.”

Bob Noble (www.roblynantiques.com) – “The Roycrofters produced less furniture and quite a few of their forms were unattractive, so, if we take into account attrition, institution collections and private collectors, I think you have your answer. You also need to factor in the economic downturn prompting those collectors who might sell to hold off until they see a rebound.”

David Rudd (www.Daltons.com) – “I think we have finally seen another complete generation change. People with those few remaining ‘rare pieces’ are passing them on to family members or friends. Of course, a few get sold with every transition, but fewer and fewer are coming fresh to the market. Much of what Dalton’s is buying, whether it be Roycroft or Stickley, is coming out of collections we have helped clients build the thirty years we have been in business. Coupled with the relatively low production of Roycroft furniture, the inevitable lack of good material should have been foreseen.”

So, there you have it, from five antiques dealers who among themselves account for more than 150 years of experience.

But what do you think? Let us know in our Discussion Forums.


Bruce Johnson