Selling Pre-Owned Stained Glass
By: John Phillips, Jr.
In recent years, many churches have been faced with consolidation and closings. With these events, the stained glass windows are often no longer needed, and some congregations see these old masterpieces as a source of revenue. Armed with a “replacement cost appraisal,” institutional trustees expect huge payouts for the “priceless” masterpieces they now want to sell. Most are to be disappointed.
These lay leaders often think this “replacement” price is equal to the window’s used market value and look to sell them for that amount. The two are not the equivalent; as with any collectible, stained glass market value and replacement costs are not the same.
The pricing in the used stained glass market is unique. Most groups look to purchase used windows do so for one main reason of obtaining more “window” for less money. This is the great allure of old stained glass, but the principal of “more for less” is not always valid.
In fact, the purchase of simple designs in new windows is often about the same, or even less, than the cost of simply designed used windows. Used windows have additional removal and restoration costs that are not required in the new window.
Possibly the biggest problem with existing windows is the predetermined size and quantity…rarely perfect for the new application. In most cases, therefore, it makes no sense to use old instead of creating new stained glass windows, especially those with simple designs.
The “used stained glass” market is more practical with the more complex windows featuring hand painted work from higher quality studios. In this lone case, the used window customer can certainly achieve more for less.
The higher cost of hand painted new windows leave the possibility to pay for the removal restoration and other cost associated with pre-owned stained glass. These savings often make dealing with odd quantities, different scenes, and off-sizes worthwhile.
Generally, the used market will bear about 60% to 70% of the replacement cost. A buyer must be able to purchase, remove, restore, and still profit for this amount. Many people are under the impression that the older the windows are, the more valuable they are in this marketplace.
Rather, the used stained glass window market is interested in quality windows with the right sizes and quantities available for the best value. The age, history, and artist reputation are also of interest.
Another area of stained glass resale is with faceted glass, also known as dale de verre. Faceted windows do have some advantages. Possibly the most important is that faceted glass does not require restoration, so there is no extra cost associated in preparing this unique art form for resale. This allows for a lower cost and is therefore more appealing to those on strict budgets.
Secondly, faceted glass does not require the use of protective covering, a further cost savings.
However, there are a few disadvantages. Faceted windows cannot be resized, and, in general, the demand is less for dale de verre art in comparison to leaded stained glass.
Collectable Stained Glass Market
This “sell” should only be done with a reputable agent who will assure top dollar return. Contrary to popular assumption, purchasers of collectable windows are not usually churches or synagogues. Rather, the marketplace is driven by collectors and those that who appreciate the stained glass work of a particular artist. This purchaser is normally not driven by price, size, and quantity.
Generally, the client networks of stained glass studios are based around churches/synagogues and not collector types. There are, however, some antique and collectable dealers that are properly networked with this kind of buyer. Experience has proven that sales of collectables to the church buyer will not achieve to desired value. Therefore, for the best chance of maximizing profits, antique and collectable dealers generally are the preferred option.
The resale of stained glass is going to accelerate in the upcoming decades as older churches age along with their parishioners. Many of the finest masterpieces will find new homes in museums and the residences of the wealthy. Others will be relocated to restaurants and businesses.
Nevertheless, the idea of relocating existing stained glass from one religious institution to the next is a wonderful way to keep the beauty of our past active in our new churches, a continuing way of telling God’s story through God’s light.
John Phillips Jr. is president of Associated Crafts, one of the nation’s premier full-service stained glass studios, www.restoreglass.com. You can also order a free copy of the informative manual, “Preserving Your Stained Glass Windows.”