Search Terms, or When to Use the Wrong Word

Most often the process of finding comparable properties for valuation begins by searching through various online sites that offer similar items for sale, or report prices realized—the price at which an item actually sold. It seems simple enough, but say I’m looking for a 19th century English walnut drop leaf table with a very narrow top (7 or 8 inches) when the leaves are dropped. This table form was introduced in the late 19th century, and is often referred to as a “Sutherland table.” It might also be described (I believe erroneously) as a “Sunderland table.” I see both titles in descriptions written by auction houses, dealers, and other online venues, so it pays to know incorrect identifications as well as the correct ones. One might also find these little tables listed simply as “drop leaf” or “Pembroke” or “gate leg” tables.

And if auction houses and antiques dealers are sometimes guilty of mis-describing objects, you can bet that descriptions by sellers on sites like Craigslist and Ebay can be comically far off. “Dinning tables” and “oak armors” are a couple of my favorites. We all know that spelling counts, but when searching for items online being aware of common mis-spellings is certainly useful.