Back in 1982, David Hiney’s neighbors were moving away in Detroit Lakes. They were a friendly couple with a gorgeous, mid-century modern house, and they were selling off a few things.
While he and his wife were seeing them off, a peculiar lounge chair caught his eye. It was lovingly crafted from wood, with the back and seat arranged in a sort of lattice pattern – like a potholder or a pie crust.
“Is that for sale?” he asked.
The neighbors replied it was – and for him, they’d let it go for just $40.
“You take care of that chair,” a neighbor cautioned. “That’s a valuable chair.”
Hiney had that in the back of his mind when he and his wife, Teri, found out the PBS program Antiques Roadshow was filming in West Fargo. Teri suggested they see what that old chair was worth. It’s not like they were doing anything with it other than keeping it in a basement corner.
David submitted a photo to audition it for a spot on the show. They were invited to have an appraiser look at it in person.
After some excitable shuffling and veiled grins between appraisers and producers, Roadshow staff whisked David out in the 47-degree weather and asked him again -- this time for the benefit of a camera -- about the chair.
“I think it’s an Arne Vodder chaise lounge,” David answered.
The appraiser beamed. “You are absolutely right.”
For the next 45 minutes, the appraiser waxed on about David’s basement football-watching chair. Vodder was a Danish furniture designer from the ’50s and ’60s, known for his sleek designs, natural materials, and elegant, functional pieces – coveted especially by the wealthy. His chaise lounge is considered a work of art. These are museum pieces, the appraiser explained. He placed its value conservatively at $25,000.
“He just went on and on,” David says.
It was a delight to know he’d been sitting on a forgotten gem this whole time. But the chair is not for sale. If anything, he might give it up to a museum. Until then, it will return to its faithful spot in his basement.
“It’s not about the value,” he says. It’s about the thrill of that initial find, back when he bought it for $40. It was special because that moment was special.
He says he doesn’t treat the chair with any added reverence now that he knows its worth. Except, he confesses, when his two boxer puppies are hanging out with him, and he thinks about what those little teeth might do.
You can catch David’s episode of Antiques Roadshow on PBS during its 2020 season.