After riding a wave of popularity for its collectible baskets for nearly a decade, the Longaberger Company has announced it is going out of business.
In a message sent to salespeople, published by the Columbus Dispatch, officials of the Ohio-based basket maker offered little details on the closure.
“I am very sorry to have to tell you that Longaberger, at this time, has ceased operations,” the company’s message said. “I’m heartbroken to have to pass this information along, but I wanted to help you to get the information you need now from the website so that you can be prepared as you contact your customers.”
The note advised sales consultants to “please take action as soon as possible” in contacting credit card companies and also advised against attempting to place any further orders.
A ’90s icon
The fall of Longaberger seemed unlikely in the 1990s, when the company hit its peak numbers. With sales of $1 billion and close to 8,000 employees, Longaberger baskets were one of the hottest home decor and collectible items on the market, according to the Columbus Dispatch.
The company’s office in Dresden, Ohio, which was shaped like one of its signature baskets, saw up to 60 busloads of visitors a day, who’d come and pay homage to the basket maker.
The history of the Longaberger Company goes all the way back to 1919, when J.W. Longaberger started working with the Dresden Basket Factory. Even after changing jobs numerous times, Longaberger always kept his love for handmade baskets.
Fast-forward to the 1970s when his son, Dave, asked his father to make a few baskets to sell locally. They sold quickly and eventually, in 1976, Dave Longaberger opened J.W.’s Handwoven Baskets, which eventually became the direct-sales company, Longaberger.
Sadly, in 1999, at the peak of the company’s popularity, Dave Longaberger died of kidney cancer at the age of 64. That, combined with the public’s changing design tastes, seemed to doom the company. The beloved basket building was sold and financial and family relationship problems plagued the heirs of the company.
What are they worth today?
How about those Longaberger baskets you may have sitting in your house — are they worth any money? Experts say you shouldn’t get your hopes too high.
“The resale market for Longaberger baskets is at the garage-sale level at the moment,” Helaine Fendelman, a brand expert who has written for Country Living magazine, told the Columbus Dispatch recently. “With that said, if a basket sold for $100, $150, what will it sell for at a tag sale? Maybe $20, $25, or someone who doesn’t know or doesn’t care may take $10 or less.”