SALINAS, Calif. - It happens every now and then: Stores that take charity donations occasionally get one that's a goldmine. That was the case recently for a Habitat for Humanity store in California.
When a maroon sideboard was dropped off, if staff hadn't been training a new employee, it probably would have been tagged with a bargain price. "Initially for myself looking at the piece I didn't really think much of it and probably was just going to kind of put a price on it, not really give it much thought but we were kind of training him, so we were showing him okay take the drawers out see if you can find a maker and then on the back he goes, 'Oh look, AA Rateau!'" Calvin Otis told KSBW.
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A quick search online showed them the initials belonged to Armand Albert Rateau, one of the most sought-after designers of the 1920s. His pieces are still in high demand today, like his red day bed, which recently sold for $140,000 online. It was also big news in the design world when Christie's sold a single Rateau chair for $970,000 in 2004.
But those types of figures and the clientele needed to fetch them are not something Habitat in Monterey County was ready to handle. Staff decided to call in the experts and ended up selling the diamond in the rough to an interior design firm in New York. They didn't get hundreds of thousands for it, but they did make $5,000 off the single donation.
Calvin Otis, Habitat For Humanity Restore: "That was a huge sale for us. I mean, it would have been nice to sell it for a hundred thousand. That would have really helped us out but again we're not, I mean that's not our thing. We're not equipped to restore pieces or figure out even how to start that process. So, you know, getting that money for that piece was great for us," said Otis.
The donor of the sideboard says it came from an old bar in Salinas. The piece was given away for free when the building was up for demolition.