The Glow of a $12 Million Desk

Early American furniture is fetching precious prices

MADE IN U.S.A. may not have the cachet it once had, but in the realm of antiques, the phrase is coming to mean extraordinary value for well-fixed investors. When two tiny, exquisite 18th century Philadelphia tables were auctioned at Christie's in Manhattan last Saturday, the prices they fetched were breathtaking. The first item, a dainty piecrust tea table, sold for $1.2 million; the second, a rectangular pier table less than 3 ft. high, was whisked from the block for $4.6 million.

Outrageous? No, right in line with last June's auction of the most expensive piece of furniture ever sold: a $12.1...