Antique chairs are amazing collectors’ pieces. They tell a story, look incredibly beautiful, and round up the home decor of every single household, even the most contemporary one. Antique chairs offer a glimpse into the past, reflecting antique chair-making techniques, styles, designs, and overall craftsmanship.
Nowadays, these chairs are highly sought-after and people are willing to pay thousands of dollars for a single chair. Interior designers, collectors, and overall furniture enthusiasts are obsessed with antique chairs, and for a good reason. If you’re just embarking on this journey, we’ve prepared a detailed overview of types, styles, and chair identification information, as well as a price overview of the most valuable chairs.
There are many antique chairs, without a doubt, and all of them tell a story. Some chairs were used by only one person throughout their life, while other chairs were used by many. Some chairs were never used. Either way, antique chairs offer a glimpse into the past, reflecting the craftsmanship, design, and style of different eras throughout history. Nowadays, antique chairs are highly sought-after, either by collectors,
interior designers, or people who simply appreciate the craftsmanship and quality of antique items; plus, these chairs often look incredible and fit any contemporary interior beautifully.
While there are many antique chairs one can choose from, some chairs do stand out from the rest due to their scarcity, aesthetics, provenance (history of ownership), or historical significance. And that is exactly what we’ll explore in the following paragraphs. So, without further ado, let’s get started!
Most Valuable Antique Chair Styles
The antique chair marketplace is filled with different chairs, including different types, styles, and chairs from different historical eras. Because of that, it can be difficult for an untrained eye to really identify the most valuable chairs. Some antique chairs, despite being hundreds of years old, have little or no monetary value, while others stand out and can be sold for tens of thousands of dollars. So, let’s go over some of the most valuable antique chair styles and see which chairs are truly valuable and pricey;
Queen Anne Wing Chair
If ever there existed a cozier chair than the Anne Wing one, please let us know, because this one was truly made for a chill book-reading evening under a warm, cozy lamplight. This chair features a high, upholstered back, sloping arms, and a rather interesting fabric pattern; it is generally a toned-down, subdued floral or line pattern with a dusty color scheme that pairs wonderfully with the wooden legs. On average, this chair can be sold for anywhere between 1,000 USD and 5,000 USD. The highest price for such a chair is currently around 12,000 USD, for an 18th-century Queen Anne walnut wingback chair.
This chair was originally made in the 18th century, by the well-known English furniture maker George Hepplewhite. The Hepplewhite chair is known for a rather straightforward style; straight lines, inlays, and incredible linework pattern in the wood. The seat is cushioned and features a wonderful floral pattern with expert seaming. The Hepplewhite chair-making style did become popular again in the 20th century, so one must only purchase from respectable sellers if looking for a genuine 18th-century model. A Hepplewhite chair nowadays is sold for around 2,000 USD, while the highest price can go up to 12,000 USD for a pair of Hepplewhite armchairs.
The Chippendale chair was first made in the 18th century by a famous English furniture maker Thomas Chippendale. He was inspired by the Neoclassical style, as well as Rococo for his furniture pieces, especially chairs. The chair features a finely-worked wooden structure, as well as a padded, upholstered seat, often made from colored leather. Chippendale chairs are known for their highly intricate backrests, so you can expect to see intricate linework and patterns in the form of dragons or flowers. This gave the chair a more Oriental feel, while still being classical Chippendale. Nowadays, such a chair is sold for around 1,200 USD, but the highest price can go up to 88,500 USD for a set of 12 Chippendale chairs.
Jules Leleu Chair
Jules Leleu was a famous French furniture designer, who specialized in decorative painting and furniture making. His chairs, even nowadays, are among the most sought-after models, and as such, the highest-priced models as well. His chairs were made in different styles, fitting of different eras in which he lived; one can clearly notice, for example, a difference in the pre-war and post-war designs. Nevertheless, a Jules Leleu chair nowadays is sold for around 110,000 USD for a set of dining chairs. A single chair might cost you around 20,000 USD (usually Art Deco style, side chair).
Klismos is a light, elegant chair first developed and made by the ancient Greeks (as seen on the Greek pottery from the 5th century BC). In 1922, the Klismos chair was adapted by Edvard Thompson, and later, the Greek furniture makers, Susan and Eleftherios Saridis recreated the chair in the 1960s. Nowadays, antique or vintage Klismos chairs are sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars, despite them being made by different furniture and chair manufacturers. For example, a set of 20 Klismos chairs in mint condition is up for sale for around 160,000 USD. For a single Klismos chair, you can expect to pay up to 4,000 USD.
Antique Chairs – Identifying and Setting Value
How To Identify an Antique Chair?
For an untrained eye, it can be hard to differentiate between a vintage and a true antique chair. Identifying antique chairs usually require in-depth knowledge about such furniture, but not everybody has the time to learn about the history of antique chairs. That is why we’ve created the following crash course in regard to identifying antique chairs. Here are the things you should pay attention to;
- Look for marks of wear and tear – Antique chairs should show signs of use and age, such as worn edges, dents, and scratches. These marks can help you determine whether a chair is truly old or has been artificially aged. Mid-century vintage chairs often come in pristine condition, while truly antique chairs have to have some wear and tear marks, even when in mint condition. Chair upholstery or padded seats often indicate the extent of chair use.
- Examine the joints and construction – Antique chairs were often constructed using traditional woodworking techniques, such as mortise and tenon joints. Look for signs of hand carving and hand tool marks, as these can be indicators of an authentic antique chair. If you notice that the joints were, for example, glued, then the chair is not antique.
- Check the materials and finishes – Antique chairs were often made from high-quality materials, such as hardwoods, and finished with hand-applied oils or varnishes. Look for natural variations in the wood grain, as well as signs of patina or age in the finish.
- Look for saw marks – A truly antique chair, made in the 18th century, will have straight saw marks. Circular saw marks indicate that the chair was made in the 19th century, and is still considered antique. Contemporary chairs do not have saw marks and are uniform in construction, while antique chairs were handmade and such work is spotted in saw marks or carving details.
- Research the style and design – Different historic eras had distinct styles of furniture, so researching the design and style of a chair can help you determine its age and origin. For example, Louis XVI chairs were popular during the late 18th century and were characterized by neoclassical lines and ornamentation. Art Deco chairs were made in the early 20th century and are characterized by leather upholstery, lacquered wood, and geometric curves and lines.
- Consult an expert – If you are unsure about the authenticity or value of an antique chair, it’s best to consult an expert. An experienced appraiser or antique dealer can provide valuable insight and help you avoid buying a fake or overpriced chair. If you’re not able to talk to an expert in person, you can always consult online appraisal services.
What Makes an Antique Chair Expensive?
Sure, antique chairs are super old and made by some past famous furniture makers. However, it can be hard to understand a 6-digit price for antique chairs, especially if you’re just embarking on this journey. So, here are some of the main factors that determine the value of a chair;
- Condition – as we mentioned previously, truly antique chairs must show some signs of wear and tear. However, well-preserved antique chairs, that were not restored or improved in appearance, are highly valued, and as such can cost a lot of money. That is why some sellers cover their antique chairs in plastic covers to protect and preserve them as long as possible.
- Manufacturer – certain antique chair manufacturers were rather popular and highly respected in their age. That is why their chairs nowadays are highly valued, and their value keeps on growing with time. Well-known chair makers, like Hepplewhite, Chippendale, or Leleu will always be highly valued and highly priced.
- History of ownership – imagine selling or buying a chair that was once used by the Queen of the United Kingdom; of course, you would be willing to value it higher or buy it for a higher price. That is why the history of ownership, aka provenance, is important when talking about antique furniture. Having documentation to prove it is essential as well and can make a difference between selling a chair for a thousand, and ten thousand dollars.
Where Can I Purchase Antique Chairs?
Here are some of our top online marketplaces for selling and buying truly antique chairs, so you can get a sense of the current marketplace and the prices;
- Etsy – of course, Etsy is indispensable when it comes to everything antique. Here, you can find some exceptional examples of genuine antique chairs from different decades. From the most historic to the most intriguing ones, there’s something for everyone. If you have any specific interests, or designs you’re into, you’ll probably find them on Etsy.
- 1stDibs – this is an excellent place to check out if you’re looking for mint-condition, high-end antique chairs, sold as single chairs or in sets. They are antique, unique, and in good or mint condition with clear origin and manufacturer information. The prices are also higher-end, so make sure to keep that in mind if your budget is a bit tighter.
- Ruby Lane – this is a perfect marketplace for those looking to buy good-condition antique chairs. Here, you’ll find collectible antique chairs in good or even mint condition that will be a great addition to any home. The items are identified to come from specific manufacturers or countries and are all checked for genuineness. There are also affordable items as well, so basically, there’s something for everyone’s budget and interests.
Antique chairs are a fascinating and valuable part of our cultural heritage. They offer a glimpse into the past and reflect the design, craftsmanship, and style of different eras. While there are many valuable antique chairs, the most valuable ones are those that are rare, historically significant, and aesthetically appealing. As you can see, if a chair is scarce, made by a popular furniture maker/designer or if the chair is well-preserved, the price will instantly go into four, five, or even six digits. Whether you are a collector, interior designer, or history enthusiast, antique chairs are sure to provide a source of inspiration and appreciation for years to come.