For the Love of Vintage Research!

One of the fun things we love as part of our Journey is detailed research on newly acquired items. Properly describing items is a core part of maintaining GSaleHutner’s reputation as an Online Vintage Dealer, and in-depth research is the key to comparable Market pricing.

Materials and Design, and the technology involved in manufacture of a piece are the bullet points in this task. Today it was a unique find, a smallish altar table. Is it Antique, a reproduction, or a Museum piece? We would hate to give away a Museum piece and worse we would damage our reputation to claim antiquity for a Modern reproduction.

Step one… cleaning. Many hallmarks and Makers marks lay under coats of crud and tarnish. We choose carefully how we prep each item but many are so “Farm Fresh” you cannot see beneath. This wooden altar had a weird (thick!) haze of old wax and dust, so we just buffed it with some dry cloths which worked to polish it and reveal some major clues… so let’s go back to our bullet points which are basically the 5 “W”s. Who What When Where and Why.


Determining the material can often put you on a narrower path to the Who and even the When. Magnified inspection and decades of woodworking experience led us to believe it is East Indian Rosewood. This is a super piece, with a very solid, heavy and tightly grained wood, so we were originally thinking Black Walnut, but the Who clues based on Design say this was made in Asia. That makes Rosewood a better assessment, and fully consistent with inspection.

Rosewood trees flourish(ed) in subtropical Asia, and take about 80-100 years before fully grown for harvest. Some rosewood species have become extinct already, so what remains is getting to be extremely scarce and protected. This is why the price of genuine rosewood is rising higher and higher nowadays, and that demands our research.

GSaleHunter is always on the lookout for these Vintage and Mid-Century pieces made from hardwoods like Rosewood, Teak, and Mahogany, which were over-harvested in the Mid Century. While it is tragically sad these old-growth hardwoods are nearing extinction due to over-consumption, their Rarity has always driven Market resale value. That rarity also gives an indication of age.


Design is a major clue to the Who, and this is clearly an Asian piece. Still the Who needs to be narrowed down for better determination, description, and price. Once you have the Who you can narrow by other factors like Eras of Design, but in this case the Cleaning revealed important clues… two Roman Numerals stamped on the underside which were not visible when purchased. Digging on the Googlemachine popped up some meaningful results!  More on that later.

We knew this to be some kind of altar. Again back to the Google. This altar sits low but not made to sit on. The design shares common elements of larger/taller Buddhist and Shinto altars, and deeper searching provided info on why this was so low. This is either a table-top altar or a Meditation altar for use while seated on the floor. Cool! So… China, Hong Kong or Japan …we need to do more digging!


It is rather expertly crafted and you get a detailed look at such features when you are rubbing every square inch with your fingers in a cloth. In this case, rubbing off decades of wax also revealed some Maker’s marks on the underside …Roman Numerals …curiouser and curiouser.

Age is critical in a proper product description. At first glance this table looked Antique, but we never resort to using blind intuition in descriptions. The GSaleHunter team puts waay too much time into this kind of research but it’s the part we really love. Knowing what you are selling is the best way to learn what to buy. Sharing this journey with folks is our best reason for you to come back often, subscribe to our email list and Social Media, and hopefully poke around in our offerings.

If we don’t know and cannot figure out, we don’t make claims. We do know of several items we let slip for a much lower price because they were in fact much more valuable …Hah people like to tell you after they received their shipment to say thanks for their “Great Deal!” and tell you what it’ actually worth. I know ..Mean right? *wink*  Yeah, this is very motivational to do more diligent research.

That fact also proves that experienced Brick and Mortar Dealers can still find excellent deals from online shops to sell in their own stores! This could be a perfect example for someone more knowledgeable in Asian Rosewood furniture if we just put it on for $19.95 Hey!? Look around we surely missed something else.

Ok, where were we ..oh yeah, the When? Drilling online revelaed this type Rosewood furniture marked with Roman Numerals on the underside was likely from 50’s Hong Kong. Bingo! That’s a Who and When, but what other clues authenticate that data? Another key indicator when dating is the technology used in manufacture.

This altar was expertly made but the joinery and cuts are definitely made by Machine tools. The top is perfectly planed and sanded glossy smooth, the edges are smoothly routed, the scroll cuts show saw marks, and the carving and sanding are clearly done using powered tools. The result is a perfect finish …too perfect for a truly antique hand-carved item. The old-growth Rosewood would also be consistent with the Mid Century when the over-consumption of rainforest hardwoods was under full steam.


This may be the easy part. An Altar like this may have been in almost every home, but a highly regarded item which demands quality. The rarity comes from the materials (Rosewood) and it’s Mid Century appeal which generates a desire for this small but devoted Asian piece. The red pigment-stained almost black wood is a classic Asian motif. The waxed reddish finish is squeaky satin, making the wood deep and alive. The stamped Roman numerals offer authentication.  Very nice solid piece with only a couple minor dings on top. Gorgeous!

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