How to Identify Antique Chairs – Age, Styles & More (2023)

From the age-old Egyptian chairs to the 1800s Victorian ones, antique chairs have come a long way! And, with time, the crude, planked chairs evolved into cushioned ones, giving better comfort & aesthetic. But even then, collectors after the antique hand joint chairs.

Do you know why? Because these chairs can sell for up to a whopping $10,000 today!

But it’s not just the money; antique chairs have a huge demand due to their regional carvings, wax finishes, and raw frames. So, if you want to spot such an old & rare antique chair, this identification guide is all you need!

Key Takeaways

  • You can identify antique chairs with crude wood sections, metal accents, dove-tail joints, and typical wing or ladder-like backs.
  • Antique chairs have about 16 types, of which the Fauteuil, Wingback, Windsor & Rocking chairs can value up to $9,000.
  • Branded chairs, especially those from Stickley & Herman Miller, cost more, up to $15,000, because of their original tags & certificates.
  • Different maker’s marks like stamped inlays, registries, government stamps, logos & material symbols will help you know if your chair is vintage or not.

How Do You Identify a REAL Antique Chair?

A Group of Antique Wood Chairs on Ground

Are you wondering if that old, dusty chair in your shed is antique? Then, find out if it has the following aged features:

  • Mahogany, oak, or walnut sides with brushed brass or bronze accents
  • Rugged horsehair or straw padding
  • Detailed carvings – political, floral, religious, or natural
  • Simple dove-tail, tenon-mortise, or interlocked joints
  • Brushed shellac, wax, or varnish finish
  • Shield, balloon, or ladder-shaped backs
  • Handcrafted furniture legs – cabriole, flemish, fluted, reeded & bobbin

Who Made the First Antique Chairs & When?

You might be surprised to know that the Egyptians made the first chair in 3000 BCE, roughly 5000 years ago! But it looked more like a stool, with low backs, out-curved legs, and ivory inlays. Also, the seats had planks and were uncomfortable.

So, the Italian artisans added cushions, pads, and straight feet for balance. And during the Renaissance, they revamped the chairs’ inlays with intricate religious, political, and natural motifs. Later, these chairs were popularized in England, America, and Asia.

During the 1800s, the makers focused on Rococo, Georgian, Victorian, and Mission chair designs and added tufted backs, leg rests, and armrests. But during the Industrial Revolution, the production of these chairs was automated, making the original antique chairs collectible!

12 Types of Antique Chair Designs & Their Identifying Features

Different Types & Patterns of Antique Wood Chairs

Now, let’s learn about different antique chair designs & figure out why they are valuable today!

Old Chair DesignsIdentifying FeaturesYearsEstimated Value
Fauteuil ChairsUpholstered, open-side chairs with curved or scroll-shaped arms, reeded legs, and shiny, gold-polished frames1600s – 1700s$1,500 – 9,000
Bergere ChairsSimple, leather-upholstered chairs with enclosed sides, painted or gilded frames, and tasseled or embroidered cushions1700s – 1800s$3,500 – 6,000 (for a pair)
Morris ChairsLook for large, deep seats with adjustable, reclining backs, bow arms, and turned outward legs1800s$500 – 7,000
SavonarolaWavy, x-shaped frames with a unique folding mechanism, flat legs, and two-piece frames1600s & Above$600 – 5,000
Curule ChairFour-piece crossed & u-shaped frames, each with gilded gold frames & Roman or Italian motifs1750s$500 – 3,500
KlismosSleek, flared chair with u-shaped, out turned legs, neoclassical horizontal panels & openwork, Greek designs1750s$700 – 4,000
Wingback ChairsTall, high-back chairs with tapering bases, angular panels, rolled arms, and superior leather or hide upholsteries1600s$3,000 – 12,000
Shaker ChairsSimple, straight, or curved chairs with tapered legs, ladder backs, straight armrests, and straw or leather upholsteries1830s$200 – 3,000
Windsor ChairsSpindled chairs, each with solid or planked seats, arched backs, and reclined, straight or fluted legs1700s$500 – 9,000
Fiddle-back ChairsLook for a central, curved & carved back column, shell or fan-shaped legs & rush, straw, or embroidered seats1600s$600 – 3,000
Eastlake ChairsGeometric & monarchical chairs with dramatic, grid-like designs, crossed, u-shaped legs, plush upholstery & tufts1880$500 – 3,000
Press-back ChairsMinimal & armless chairs with spindled arms, etched metal plate designs, and caned wicker or wood seats1600s – 1800s$400 – 2,500

4 Types of Antique Chairs Based on Their Use & Features

Antique Windsor chairs with an Orange-toned Varnish

Apart from the designs, makers had also made different chairs for various purposes over the years. Below are the four types of chairs based on their use:

Types of Antique Chairs (Usage)Collectible FeaturesAverage Value
Corner Chairs (Indoors)Squarish, diagonal, or U-shaped seats with 4-6 legs, curved top rails & tapered frames$300 – 4,000 (rare museum pieces can cost up to $30,000)
Chaise Lounge ChairsLong & reclining seats with straight, curved, or tapered legs, swirled backs, and extra raised supports for the head and neck$700 – 5,000
Rocking ChairsLook for oak, walnut, or mahogany rockers with a flexible, curvilinear body & spindle legs$900 – 11,000
Beach Chairs (Outdoors)Simple, folding chairs with canvas seats, splayed legs, and reclining backs$150 – 1,400

6 Main Antique Chairs Identification & Valuation Factors

If you’re still confused about your antique chair’s model & value, let’s use some easy factors like age, materials & brands to identify it:

1. Antique Chair’s Age & Marks

Aged & Planked Antique Wood Chairs

Age is the most crucial factor in spotting an antique chair. But how will you know a chair’s exact age? Simple, by check for the following marks on its frames, base, or seat:

  • Stamped, branded, painted, or inlaid makers marks on the seats (the 1800s)
  • Inscribed government or registry marks in a circle (1800s)
  • Paper or fabric labels with the retailer name & patent information on the base (1850s)
  • Original upholstery tags with the fabric name, care instructions & details

But if your chair’s faded and has no visible marks or tags, jump on to the visual clues below:

Old Chair ErasAge Top Era-specific FeaturesAverage Price
Renaissance (1400 – 1600)423 – 623 yearsHeavy, ladderback & boxy chairs with simple, planked seats, straight or criss-cross legs, Italian, French, or Flemish armrests, and crude, tenon & mortise joints$4,500 – 21,000
Baroque (1600 – 1720)303 – 423 yearsBold Italian, French & Spanish chairs with curved, serpentine motifs, gilded carvings & twisted legs $3,000 – 19,000
Chippendale & Rococo (1750s)264 – 273 yearsPlayful, asymmetrical chairs with straight, carved, spindled, or geometric backs, lyre frames, outward legs & scroll or floral arms$1500 – 12,000
Neoclassicism (1800s)124 – 223 yearsGreek & Roman chairs, each having straight backs, classical motifs, leather or hide upholsteries, and shiny chrome inlays$600 – 7,000
Modernism (1900s)73 – 123 yearsBold, minimal & streamlined chairs with screwed joints, geometric inlays & portable plastic or bakelite sections$200 – 3000

2. Vintage Chair Frame Materials

You all might associate an antique chair with crude, hand-cut wood frames. But antique chairs weren’t only made of wood; they have many materials, like brass, steel, bamboo, etc.! So let’s see how you can use antique chair material to identify & value it:

Antique Chair Frame MaterialsIdentifying FeaturesEstimated Price
Wood – Oak, Walnut, Mahogany, Cherry, Pine & SatinwoodLook for dark, hued wood with a prominent grain structure, inlays & dovetail joints$1,500 – 20,000
Iron, Brass & BronzeBlack or gold-colored furniture with thick, intricate panels, inlays, and alloyed finishes$3000 – 18,000
Bamboo & RattanCheck for bent, curved wood sections, each with glued or rope-wound joints$500 – 4,000
Steel, Aluminum & BakeliteWhite-hued, casted furniture with a glossy or powdered finish$200 – 5,000
Plain & Frosted GlassClear, transparent, or stained panels & inlays with typical wooden frames$200 – 1,500
Vinyl & Vinyl PlasticLuxurious & textile-based furniture with flexible sections, outward legs & tufts$150 – 2,000

Try to get antique chairs with a brushed, waxed, frosted, or oil-rubbed finish for an old make.

3. Old Chair Upholstery Materials

It’s not just the frame materials; even an old chair’s upholstery material displays its age and affects its value. For instance, the earliest 3000 BCE chairs had no cushions, while the 1500s ones used hide and leather. And by the 1700s, makers used velvet and brocade, too!

Here’s how to identify and value vintage chairs with different fabrics:

Vintage Chair Upholstery MaterialsAverage Cost
Horsehair, Leather & Hide$4000 – 20,000
Velvet & Damask$1000 – 19,000
Wool & Wool-blend$800 – 8,500
Linen & Linen-blend$800 – 7,000
Cotton & Cotton-blend$500 – 4,000
Polyester & Polyester-blend$200 – 1,500

Pick antique chairs with diamond, embroidered, floral, pictorial, textured, or marbled patterns for a good value.

4. Antique Chair Brands

Aged & Branded Antique Chairs

Want a shortcut to identify & value your antique chair? Get a magnifying glass to check if there’s a burnt or stamped logo on its back or drawers. Or, look for the brand’s original metal tags on the lower back or side edges!

Here are some valuable antique chair brands:

Old Chair BrandsTop Identifying FeaturesEstimated Cost
Stickley BrothersLook for original ‘L & JG’ stickley medallions, tags, paper labels & decals$2,000 – 15,000
Eames (By Herman Miller)Look for original ‘Herman Miller’ certificates of authenticity & branded paper labels$700 – 19,000
HitchcockStenciled signatures with glossy black finishes, caned seats & golden inlays$600 – 3500
ThonetLook for embossed stamps – ‘Thonet Wien Gump. 396,’ ‘Thonet Wien,’ & ‘GT’$1,000 – 5,000
Baker FurnitureLook for marked ‘Baker furniture,’ tags with authentic logos & stamps$900 – 7,000
Knoll SystemsCheck for original, sewn ‘Knoll International,’ logos on the seats & upholstery.$500 – 6,000

5. Vintage Chair Styles

Different Styles & Patterns of antique Chairs in a Thrift Store

Do you know that people made antique chairs all around the globe? Some worked with local Rococo designs, while others preferred the standard geometric, Art Deco & Colonial motifs. And some ditched these patterns and used religious Islamic or Egyptian motifs instead.

Here’s how to identify & value such different chair styles:

Antique Chair StylesAverage Value
Colonial, Victorian & Bauhaus (carved)$500 – 9,000
Art Nouveau & Art Deco (geometric)$1200 – 19,000
Rococo (natural, flowering designs)$1,000 – 13,000
Byzantine & Continental (gold-inlay)$500 – 4,000
Islamic (calligraphic inlays)$200 – 2,500
Egyptian (webbed & padded)$300 – 4,000
Italian & Roman (minimal, lacquered & curved)$300 – 4,000
Renaissance & Queen Anne (classical or Gothic motifs)$500 – 14,000

6. Antique Chair Colors

Antique Chair Colors & Patterns

If your old chair has simple, natural wood or metal sides, it might be an old 1700s chair. But, if it has colored or lacquered red, blue & green, or purple surfaces, it likely belongs to the 1900s, worth $300 – 4,000.

Check out more details about chair colors here:

Vintage Chair ColorsEstimated Value
Black, White & Gray$700 – 11,000
Beige, Brown or lacquered wood$2,000 – 15,000
Metallic Gold & Silver$1500 – 19,000
Red, Orange & Yellow$300 – 4,000
Green, Blue & Purple$200 – 4,000

How Do I Identify a Victorian Chair?

You can identify old Victorian chairs by their square backrests, curved designs, and intricately carved, gilded, or inlay designs. Alternately, look for simple cabriole legs, scroll arms, and tapering seats.

Which Oils Can You Use on Antique Chairs?

You can use any regular linseed, lemon, lavender, tung, or mineral oil to polish your antique chairs.

How Do You Clean Antique Wood Chairs Naturally?

Apply a simple wax-based cleaner such as beeswax or carnauba wax to a clean, lint-free cloth and gently brush off all the impurities. Now, just wipe the chair with a warm and moist cloth, and keep it in an indoor, well-ventilated place for drying.

How Do You Clean Old & Moldy Wooden Chairs?

Prepare a simple, 1:1 solution of distilled vinegar, linseed, or vegetable oil and mix it together with a fork or grinder. Now simply rub this solution over the mold-affected areas and wipe them off with a clean cloth.

Identifying valuable antique chairs might seem challenging at first. But now that you have my detailed guide, I know you’ll be able to spot the brands & marks easily. Just don’t forget to wipe off the dust and mold first. You don’t want that to cover your marks, right?

And it’s not just the antique chairs. Even other old furniture items like ‘Hoosier cabinets,’ ‘antique sofas,’ ‘bassett furniture,’ & ‘school desks’ are worth a lot! Want to know why? Hit that subscribe button and join the journey!

Judith Miller
Judith Miller

Judith is an antique expert with nearly 20 years of experience in the field of antique identification and valuation. She has reviewed over 30 thousand vintage items and has worked with numerous antique shops. She enjoys seeing new places, attending antique shows and events, and sharing her knowledge with people! Know more about me

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *