Lane Company cedar chests were a coveted home item from their inception in 1912 until the company closed in 2001 after 89 years on the market. Also called a "hope chest," these beauties came in a variety of styles across the years. When determining the value of your Lane cedar chest, the year that it was made and the style are two of the main factors to consider. The older and rarer the cedar chest is, the higher its value and its desirability to those who want it.
Determine the Style and Shape
The company made chests in multiple styles, such as Art Deco, Chippendale, Mid-Century Modern and Danish Modern. Lane also made chests in a traditional antique style, such as Queen Anne, even if they were made in the 1920s. If your chest was made in the 1920s or 1930s, you may have a valuable piece of furniture on your hands. A rare hand-painted three-drawer Lane cedar chest built in the late 1920s is highly desirable for collectors. A single-lid chest built in the 1970s that has many replicants is not as coveted.
Online auction sites, antique shops and secondhand stores often sell Lane cedar chests -- based on their age, condition or rarity -- starting at $99 and as high as $700 or more for older chests. But most chests, on average, are valued between $200 and $400. Compare your cedar chest style and shape to the versions already for sale to determine your chest's style.
Determine Its Age
All Lane cedar chests have a serial number. It doubles as the manufacturing date the chest was made when you read the number from right to left or backward. This means a chest generally has a five- or six-digit number that tells the month, day and two-digit year it was built. A chest built on April 1, 1940, would read from left to right 04140. Chests manufactured on two-digit days and in two-digit months generally have at least six digits. If the serial number has seven digits, the first number in the series is the plant number.
Assess Its Condition
Examine the chest carefully to determine its state or condition. Scratches, worn cedar or missing hardware, except for the lock, bring down the chest's value, especially when compared with one in pristine condition. If the chest has been repainted, re-stained or contains any after-market adjustments, its value decreases. Some special models of these chests came off the production line with upholstery, which is part of the original manufacture, so complete the research on your chest to determine if everything on it is original.
Safety Lock Removal
Chests manufactured up to 1987 include a lock that catches and locks shut automatically when the lid closes. This led to the deaths of a brother and sister in 2014, who got locked inside the chest and suffocated. Six other children suffered the same fate, resulting in the company's recall on the locks in 1996, and a seventh child died just prior to the company stopping manufacture of the chests. Many people have removed the locks from the chests, but the company estimates there are still about 6 million chests of the 12 million manufactured during this period that do not have the safety locks installed. Chests with the original locks may have a different value from those without them. If the lock hasn't been replaced, do so immediately or remove the lock for safety's sake.
As a native Californian, artist, journalist and published author, Laurie Brenner began writing professionally in 1975. She has written for newspapers, magazines, online publications and sites. Brenner graduated from San Diego's Coleman College.