How much are my metal kitchen cabinets worth?

metal-kitchen-cabinets-for-saleWHAT IS THE VALUE of a set of vintage steel kitchen cabinets? What price should you ask? This is one of the top questions that I receive on the blog. The answer is not definitive — but there are a number of factors to consider, including: Condition, Size of Set, Brand, and Location.

Read on for more, plus some pricing guidelines. And also see my post on how and where to sell your cabinets.

Augest 2016 UPDATE: This story was written in 2010. Prices HAVE gone up, as more people are now looking for these cabinets. That said, this is still a tricky market because of the hassles involved in making an old kitchen work for a new space and because professional refinishing is often required.

I have been watching the market for vintage metal kitchen cabinets on ebay since 2002. And, I began hosting a buy-sell forum for metal kitchen cabinets here on RetroRenovation.com in Dec. 2007 — the forum is now closed and offline. These are my “credentials” to suggest ideas on this question, but even so, the answer will depend on a number of factors – including luck. So make your own decision about how much to charge. So, now that the disclaimer is in place, here are my thoughts on value:

1. Condition — The number-one determinant of value, I’d say, is condition. If the cabinets are are in excellent shape — with their original finish — and don’t need repainting, that will add to their value. Repainting cabinets can get expensive and is a hassle. Rust on the sink cabinet also is not good. And a serious ding will pretty much bring a cabinet’s value to zero. My advice to buyers is: Hold out for cabinets in excellent condition, they are out there. AND REMEMBER: Old products and materials can contain hazards, such as lead paint. Get with your own properly licensed professional to assess what you are dealing with so that you can make informed decisions how to handle. For more links and info see our Be Safe/Renovate Safe page .

2. Number of pieces available…size of your set — It can also be quite a hassle to retrofit someone else’s kitchen into your kitchen space. I bought 67 cabinets to get the right fit into my 15’x15′ space. And I made it work by the skin of my teeth. I know several readers who are in the process of collecting 2 or more sets just to get the right pieces. So in general I’d say that the larger your set, the better luck you will have finding a buyer.

3. Brand — I tend to believe that the larger-name brands are going to find a home sooner because of the issue above, that is, people collecting multiple sets. From my research I’d say that the big name brands were and are: Youngstown, Geneva, St. Charles. There are some folks who say that St. Charles was the cream of the crop…but I have 1963 Geneva’s and I think their quality is terrific. If you have a less-common brand — like Crosley, Tracy, American brand — you still may find a buyer, especially if there is a collector watching far and wide to find just the cabinets they like.

4. Location — I tend to believe that the market for cabinets is very local or tight regionally. Buyers are most likely going to want to come pick up the cabinets personally as shipping is costly. They also are likely to want to see them. So, the closer you are to a large city the better you chances may be of finding a buyer close enough to work with.

The last factor is: How much time do you have? If you need your cabinets out of the garage next week… well, don’t be thinking you’ll get the top possible dollar. While interest in these cabinets is growing, it’s still a collector’s market. If you plan for some time to connect with the right buyer you may get a better price.

Okay. All that said, how much?

$5,000+?
Early on in the forum’s life, a large set of cabinets (sorry, I forget the brand) in a great shape, from a church kitchen in Iowa, sold for $5,000. At that time, that was the most I ever heard a set sell for.

$3,000?
I bought my 67 cabinets — 100+ linear feet in great shape, original finish, great color – for $3,000 in 2005. The reason I got them so cheap  (in my estimation) is that the seller would not break up the set, and she was in the heart of Gotham. Also, 2005 was ‘early days’ before these cabinets became as collectible as they are today.

And just so you have an idea of what a buyer might have to go through: I took a day off work and paid my hauler to go with me to NYC to check out the cabinets and viability of moving them, BEFORE I made my decision. I then had to pay another $3,000 to the hauling company  for the cabinets’ Escape from New York. Then for 4 months, I had to rent a Pod to house them in my front yard while the kitchen renovation got under way. During this entire time, I also had to endure my husband’s beady-eyed stare, he did not believe the grungy cabinets would be worth the effort. (Fortunately, all the NYC grime protected their finish, they are gorgeous and all is well here in Pam’s Retro Paradise once again.) After I installed all I could (in mudroom and garage, too), I sold the remaining 28 cabinets (pictured above) for $2,500 minus commissions to ebay and paypal. One bidder, at the last second. So that’s the saga of one buyer. Honestly, the seller in NYC probably should have paid me to take them off her hands – I am sure she would have had to pay some dough-re-mi to cart them off to a dump. But it was a non-profit… I didn’t even dicker.

$2,000?
A really beautiful, large set of St. Charles’ sold out of a Detroit-area home for $2,000. I think the buyer (a reader) got some nice vintage appliances, too. Had to drive 3 hours.

$300-$1,000?
Smaller sets… in great condition: $300? $500? 1,000?-maybe

$100-$300?
Smaller sets… in bad condition: Less.

Why don’t the cabinets sell for more? They are expensive to repaint. They are a hassle to hunt down, pick up, store and then try to retrofit into an existing kitchen. To that right person it can be very gratifying, but Retro Renovation takes a lot of energy physically and creatively – it’s hard work and time consuming.

Be-Safe-Circle-Reno-Safe-with-message-500v2

A note on sink cabinets with porcelain-on-cast-iron or -steel drainboard sinks:

If these are in terrific shape — if the drainboard sink is in pristine condition — they can be worth…$250 or more on the open market? If you have a name brand – especially a Youngstown, I think — you may have good chances of finding a buyer looking for this important piece. Places like historichouseparts.com sell them for more, but remember they are dealers so have underlying fixed costs.

Common question — on refinishing:

This blog is not a fixit blog per se — and I am not an expert on these questions. That said, readers have used several methods. In general you can read about them in their stories which are either in Kitchen Help / Steel Kitchen Cabinets or Kitchen Help / Readers and their Kitchens subcategories. That said: My key advice is: Get with your own properly licensed professional to help you with such questions. And importantly, be aware that there may be hazards in old products and materials — for example, there may be lead in the paint on these cabinets and in the finish and manufacture of the sinks — so get with your own pro to determine what you are dealing with so that you can make informed decisions how to handle. For more info and links see our Be Safe/Renovate Safe page –> http://retrorenovation.com/renovate-safe/

For more info:

Comments now closed, as they are getting redundant

Be-Safe-graphic2.3

Get our retrolicious free newsletter.

Newsletter-sign-up-2NMAS

Get our retrolicious free newsletter.

Comments

  1. kristi says

    We needed to replace the pipes in my mid-century brick ranch. After the kitchen sink base was “pulled” from the wall, the doors and drawers would not close as they had before the job was done. Now–I am trying to locate a replacement sink base (the upper cabinets are in very good condition) and it is like finding a needle in a haystack. So…I have been looking at wood cabinets, but they do not appeal to me. Reading customer comments and articles on your site have really helped me decide to continue looking until I find what I want.

  2. Carolrac says

    We are cleaning out my parents 1950 s brick rancher. My brothers have decided to do a renovation. We have a set of vintage steel cabinets that our father used as a workbench. Would they be worth anything?

    • pam kueber says

      Carol, see the story… plus we have a complete category about steel kitchen cabinets including stories on how to sell them in Kitchen Help / Steel Kitchens category.

  3. Teresa says

    I have original (to this house built in 1954) American Standard metal cabinets that are in very good condition. I’m looking to remodel my kitchen and would like to sell these. I have upper and lower cabinets. Can you give me any information on where I would go or who I could contact in my area that would be able to appraise them or might be interested in purchasing these from me. I can send pictures.
    Thank you!

  4. Larry Wilson says

    I have a small set of Youngstown upper and lower cabinets that were installed in a newly built home in the early ’50s, ostensibly new. The original cast-in sink counter was missing when I bought the house, if it ever was there. Due to the condition of and ongoing need to retrofit such things as doors and drawer fronts, the entire set is just not worth trying to restore nor make prifitably sellable. Therefore, they are targeted for my DIY woodworking shop remodel this summer. Just a rerminder to those who have a metal kitchen cabinet set—- TAKE CARE OF IT!!! if you ever intend to market it.

  5. Rhonda Henson says

    Just about agree with every word you said. Found my set of Morton kitchen cabinets on Craigslist for $600. That was 12 cabinets. 4 of those couldn’t be used in the kitchen. Put two of them in my laundry room and are amazing there. It was a huge undertaking grinding all the paint and treating the rust and repainting was also a nightmare and all very costly but I would absolutely do it all over again In a minute. Very pleased with my retro renovation,

  6. Barbara says

    I have a set of St Charles cabinets that are only the boxes, the previous owners changed the doors to cherry. We will be remodeling our kitchen. Should I bother trying to sell the boxes?

    Thanks
    Barbara

  7. Roxanne says

    I have a complete set of Youngstown cabinets & was wondering approx. what they would be worth. I have 3 top cabinets & a corner, I have 3 bottoms & corner, a large sink with drain boards on each side, also 2 multi shelves that are the same length as the upper cabinets not sure if they were for plants or nick knacks. They are in need of painting & there is some rust under sink other than that no damage, dents or missing shelves, they have the original handles. Located in northern Arizona

  8. Brandi Herrera says

    Its 12:35 am and im outside with a flashlight looking for the maker of my double dtainboard single sink on metal base so I can price it against the article recommendations….I’ve listed it already one place and I think its to low ($1000.00) I’ve seen them priced 5x’s higher in same or worse shape. I want to be an honest seller – I do have interest in it but I have no idea what to tell them when they come over the weekend other then it could be a 1925 rare or a 1950 vintage (my thought is 1950). I live in a Los Angels suburb but im able to ship it. (Thanks to my brother in law who ships or is be in trouble) can you give me advice on selling it or at least an opinion. I’ve only had one rude lady questioning the price but I think she wanted it just didn’t want to pay for it. I love it and im thinking of ripping out my pool house sink to install it but got the evil eye thing from the hubby….I noticed these sinks tend to give husbands eye twitches and stare issues. Thanks for taking the time to keep all informed, love this article.

  9. says

    We have white Geneva cabinets in the first house we bought, and now rent out. So disappointing to hear you cannot find the back plates behind the handles. Drives me crazy. The kitchen also has red counter tops with stainless steel trim. You can’t find kitchens like this anymore. It seems indestructible. Can you pop out the handle back plate and switch them out, if you find some in better condition?

  10. Lydia says

    I recently purchased a metal cabinet/pantry. The handle looks kind of retro with a name on it BAR— . it has been pained a few times, but in really good condition. I would love to find out the manufacturing company.

  11. HRead42 says

    We have a Youngstown sink unit with double drain boards. Finish is not original but in ok shape, box is pretty rusty and one drawer doesn’t open. I’d love to reuse the sink top in a kitchen remodel. Any resources for how to clean it up properly, and/or ideas for how to incorporate it into new cabinets?

    • pam kueber says

      HRead42, this blog is not a fixit blog per se. That said, readers have used several methods. In general you can read about them in their stories which are either in Kitchen Help / Steel Kitchen Cabinets or Kitchen Help / Readers and their Kitchens subcategories. That said: My key advice is: Get with your own properly licensed professional to help you with such questions. And importantly, be aware that there can be hazards in old products and materials — for example, lead in the paint on these cabinets and in the manufacture of the sinks — so get with your own pro to determine what you are dealing with so that you can make informed decisions how to handle. For more info and links see our Be Safe/Renovate Safe page –> http://retrorenovation.com/renovate-safe/

  12. Bill says

    I have the Youngstown 60″ kitchen sink base cabinet with the double sink and drain boards. Took it home instead of the dump when remodeling a kitchen in 1996. Kept it in a storage shed and now most of the paint has blistered into small pieces that easily scrape off. I’m considering refinishing it for resale purposes and [edited: gives a lot of details on DIY plan…] [edited… and:] for restoring the shine to the sinks and drain boards since they’re only dull with no rust nor any worn spots. [edited]

    • pam kueber says

      Bill, thanks for your comment… but I edited a lot out. On issues like this, I recommend readers get with their own properly licensed professionals. Note: Old materials and products in our houses can contain hazards — in the case of old cabinets and sinks, for example, there may be be lead in their paint and/or finish and/or manufacture — so again, everyone should get with their own properly licensed pros to assess what they are working with so that they can make informed decisions how to handle. For more info and links see our Be Safe / Renovate Safe page http://retrorenovation.com/renovate-safe/