The Breakdown

The $1,500 Pendant Lamp

By Frances Dodds
October 19, 2017

$1,500 for a lamp—is that high, or low? Understanding what goes into the pricing of a Poul Henningsen piece on offer from eBay Collective dealer Objects20c

Everyone wants to be seen in their best light, and for $1,500, you’d think this PH5 Pendant Lamp by Poul Henningsen would do the trick. But what goes into pricing a piece like this? It’s being sold by Objects20c—a gallery based in West Palm Beach—so we asked the gallery’s co-owner and market director, Wade Terwilliger, to illuminate us on the matter.

Name recognition. “Poul Henningsen is one of the top Danish lighting designers,” Terwilliger says. “Some of his chandeliers go for as much as $50,000 or $60,000. With this piece, you’re getting a noteworthy designer, but for a reasonable price. We don’t think of a piece like this as cheap or expensive—there are different collector levels. I would consider this an entry-level chandelier of the 20th century.

Photographs courtesy of Objects20c
Photographs courtesy of Objects20c

Rarity, or lack thereof. “This model is popular, and has been in production since the 1950s, so there’s a fair amount on the market by now. You can find PH5 pendants for between $1,000 and $4,000. You might be able to find some for $600 but I would always take out the lowest in the range, for quality’s sake.

Condition. “When it comes to lighting I want original components and for them to be in great condition. This lamp is 30 years old, and in very good original condition. These pieces are prone to bends and dents, but ours only has some minor scuffs.”

In production vs. reproduction. “This model is in current production. Poul Henningsen has produced it since the 1950s and hasn’t stopped. A reproduction would be another manufacturer saying, ‘we’re just going to copy that design,’ and those pieces are worth significantly less.”

Pro tips: Work with reputable dealers. “This particular lamp is unmarked—which is not unusual—so it’s as good as my company says it is. You have to ask, who is Objects20c? How long have you been in business? Do you have a storefront? Can I talk to someone? Can you provide documentation?”

A reproduction would be another manufacturer saying, ‘we’re just going to copy that design,’ and those pieces are worth significantly less.

Request pictures of a piece in proportion to relevant furniture. “What would it look like over a 30-inch table? That sort of thing,” Terwilliger says. “Scale matters a lot and it can be very difficult, especially online. One of the biggest mistakes people make is accidentally ending up with a European-scaled piece—which is smaller—when they wanted an American-scaled piece.”

Ask about the last time a piece of lighting was rewired. Terwilliger says his gallery sells lighting in working and non-working condition, and will always have an electrician look at a piece per the buyer’s request. But, he says, most dealers recommend that buyers rewire regardless as a precautionary measure, and it doesn’t usually cost more than $20 or $30. “Where it gets expensive, though,” he warns, “is when you have a large chandelier with many, many light sockets.”

Avoid pieces with dents or bends in the metal. “They can be really expensive to fix, because you’ll have trouble finding someone who works with metal in that way. Plus, you’ve got enamel on it, so if you try to get the ding out, the enamel can chip or flake.”