How to Identify & Value Antique Sofas (Guide 2023)

Recently I visited a local thrift store, where I stumbled upon an old sofa priced at about $30,000. The couch sure looked old, with carvings & dark finishes. But then I looked at the base, and there were screws and gum! Yes, it was a new, forged piece, a scam!

Now scams like this aren’t unknown to antique sofas. Crafty makers copy the antique designs, achieving an ‘old’ distressed look in no time. So to identify a REAL antique sofa, you must dig into their marks & brands. And we’ll discuss all of it here!

Key Takeaways

  • You can identify your antique sofa by its dovetail joints, tufted backs, wooden frames, and etched brand marks.
  • There are about 16 types of antique sofas, of which the Chesterfield, Chaise Lounge, Mid-Century Modern & Barrel-back ones are the most precious.
  • Antique sofas with Hardwood, Softwood, or Cast Iron sections cost more due to their brushed, handmade finishes.
  • Bored with the typical Bare Wood or Metal sofas? Pick hand-painted Black, Brown, Red, or Silver sofas for more value.

How to Identify Antique Sofas From New Ones?

An old, 1800s Sofa with Tufted Backs

With an untrained eye, even a new, dusty sofa in your shed might look old. So don’t miss out on these aged features to ensure if it’s really antique or not:

  • Simple dove-tail joinery, hand-carved details, and interlocking pieces
  • Natural materials – Hardwood, Leather, Horsehair & Cotton
  • Aged furniture leg styles – Ball & Claw, Bobbin, or Cabriole
  • Hand-tied springs & Wooden dowel arms
  • Tufted or Buttoned backs with Silk, Velvet, or Brocade upholstery

When & How Did Vintage Sofas Evolve?

Did you know that the Egyptians made the first sofa roughly 4000 years from now? Crude and hand joint, this was more like a planked bench with a backrest. Even the Egyptians called it ‘Suffah’ (bench) for the same reason.

Later, it arrived in Rome & Europe. But Europeans didn’t find it soft & proportioned. So, by the 1600s, they worked on carved frames, each with leather or velvet upholsteries. But such designer sofas had only one pattern and back!

By the 1800s, makers focused on many designs like Rococo & Victorian. Some even used tufted buttons, arched backs, and carved handles, hiking their costs. But then there was a severe recession by the 1940s, and people moved to cheaper furniture. And the antique sofas became a past glory!

16 Types of Antique Sofas & How to Identify Them?

Since the sofas came into existence, they have undergone countless changes. Makers tweaked the back’s design over the years, giving us the following 16 types:

Sr no.Antique Sofa TypeUnique & Collectible FeaturesYearEstimated Cost 
1.Chesterfield SofaBurly, button-back sofas with deep tufting, rolled arms, leather-clad backs, and studded trims1800s$1500 – 19,000
2.Camelback SofaArch-back sofas with small bumps in the center, scrolled arms, and tapered legs1700s$500 – 4000
3. Divan SofaLow-profile sofas with Velvet or Brocade upholstery, curved backs, and narrow sections1700s$100 – 1200
4. Chaise LoungeLook for long, narrow seats with extended legs, sloping backs, and one-arm designs1750s$500 – 13,000
5. Tuxedo SetteeLow-profile sofas with same-height back & arms, hand-tied springs & upholsteries1900s$500 – 3500
6. Lawson CouchSeparate back cushions, lower arms, straight backs, and tweed or leather upholsteries1900s$1000 – 6000
7.Mid-century Modern SofasLook for sleek, minimal designs with peg legs and leather or wool upholsteries1940s$2,000 – 29,000
8.Tight back SofasStraight & high back sofas with pulled over upholsteries & carved frames with fixed cushions1800s$400 – 3000
9.Wingback SofasWide sofas with winged, extended-back sofas that encase the sitter1700s$600 – 5500
10.Barrel-back SofasTub-like sofas with curved or rounded backs around the sitter1920s$700 – 8000
11.Knole SofasHigh backs, Loose cushions, Adjustable angle arms, grid-like upholstery tufts & decorative finials1700s$500 – 3000
12. Slipper CouchLow-profile, armless sofas with curved backs, hand-tied springs & Mahogany or Oak frames1750s$300 – 5000
13.Bustle SofaCurved or Serpentine-shaped sofas with a slight bump at the back & Victorian, Edwardian, or Art Nouveau motifs1900s$900 – 4500
14.Louis XV SofasLook for curved, feminine sofas with Cabriole legs, ornamented frames & Rococo motifs1800s$800 – 9000
15.English Club SofasSimple, 2-seat sofas with pleated, rolled arms, turned legs, and block color upholsteries1770s$2000 – 12,000
16.Boudeuse CouchesSmall, curved sofas with a central, horizontal backrest, coil-like springs, and Edwardian or Victorian designs1800s$400 – 1500

6 Antique Sofa Identification Factors & Features (With Prices)

Now, let’s see how different factors like age, materials & colors help you identify your antique sofa:

1. Antique Sofa Age & Years

A Symmetrical, Cushioned Sofa from the 1800s

You can identify an OLD & AUTHENTIC sofa by its crude edges, uneven thickness, and solid wood finishes. Also, look for dovetail or dowel joints as in the old 1700s models. Besides, check for any maker’s date stamp or label under the bottom frame.

But if the label’s faded or torn, spot these aging clues to verify:

Antique Sofa YearsAgeHow to Identify?Average Value
1600s324 – 423 yearsDramatic, curved & asymmetrical sofas with crude dowel, tenon-mortise joints, and velvet upholsteries$5000 – 40,000
1700s273 – 323 yearsCurved, symmetrical, and balanced designs with high wingbacks, gilded elements, and velvet or brocade upholsteries$2000 – 26,000
1750s223 – 273 yearsSolid wood – Oak or Walnut sofas with detailed Chinese motifs, plain or arched backs, linear sections, and carved elements$1000 – 18,000
1800s173 – 223 yearsClassical, Greek, or Roman designer sofas with tufted arms and brocade or velvet upholsteries$900 – 12,000
1850s123 – 173 yearsIndustrial, machine-polished sofas with glued joints, arched backs, minimal carvings, and solid Oak designs$400 – 7000
1900s50 – 123 yearsCurved or Organic furniture, each with floral or light-colored inlays, minimal designs, and silk or cotton upholsteries$300 – 5000

2. Vintage Couch Frame Materials

Just like other antiques, the earliest 1600s sofa had hardwood – oak, walnut, or mahogany frames. But then, in the 1800s, makers moved towards metal & steel. And by the 1900s, they even used plastic, Rattan & Wicker, too!

So let’s see how to spot & appraise such aged sofa materials:

Old Sofa MaterialsCollectible FeaturesEstimated Cost
Hardwood – Walnut, Mahogany, Oak & WalnutYellowish or Chocolate brown sofas with straight, pop-like grain  & British or American motifs$800 – 23,000
Softwood – Pine, Cedar & FirWhite, Beige, or Yellowish couches with rustic or provincial motifs & knotted wood designs$600 – 18,000
Rattan & WickerLightweight knotted or woven furniture with organic, natural, or tropical designs$300 – 2000
Metal SofasSuperior Iron, Bronze, Brass, and Steel sections with Scrolls, Curves, Flowers & Geometric designs$500 – 12,000
PlasticLight & molded sofas with simple geometric – Circle or Triangle forms, pop art stickers, and linear sections$300 – 2000

Pick antique sofas with crude Shellac, Varnish, Wax, or Lacquer finishes for an old make.

3. Old Sofa Upholstery Materials

Antique Sofa with Printed Cotton Upholstery

It’s not just the frame materials; even an old sofa’s upholstery affects its age and value. It’s so that the old 1800s sofas had leather, velvet, or horsehair upholsteries. But, by the 1900s, makers used silk and linen too!

Below are some clues to identify & value such fabrics:

Antique Sofa Upholstery MaterialsAverage Value
Silk (Damask & Taffeta)$1500 – 19,000
Velvet & Brocade$800 – 15,000
Leather & Horsehair$900 – 20,000
Wool (Woven & Tapestry)$300 – 8000
Linen (Casual & Provincial)$300 – 5000
Cotton$200 – 3500

Try to get antique sofas with Floral, Geometric, Marbled, or Patchwork patterns for better designs.

4. Antique Sofa Brands

Different Types of Antique Sofa Brands

One of the easiest ways to identify your vintage sofa is by its brand! So, just get a magnifying glass and check for any stamped or etched maker marks on the following spots:

  • Back of the couch – Wooden frame or Metal plate
  • Tags or Stickers at the seat’s bottom
  • Etched marks on the furniture arms, or legs
  • Sewn logos on the cushions or pillows

Found it? Great! Now go on, and confirm the brand’s name, features, and costs below:

Antique Sofa BrandsYearsUnique & Special FeaturesEstimated Cost
Duncan Phyfe1800 – 1850sFederal-style sofas with refined designs, lyre-shaped motifs & reeded legs$900 – 6500
Ercol1950sSolid Oak sofas with slant legs, straight backs, flutes, and a stamped logo at the base$1000 – 5000
G-Plan Couches1960Handcrafted, 3-seater sofas with reclining footrests, Art Nouveau or Art Deco designs & foam cushions$500 – 2000
Nathan1934Simple 2-seater sofas with Wood frames, leather upholsteries, and Fiber-filled cushions$2000 – 10,000
Jentique1950sScandinavian or Art-deco style sofas with Solid Oak sections, varnishes, and geometric designs$1000 – 5000

Branded sofas with original ‘Made in USA’ or ‘Made in Europe’ stamps cost more than others.

5. Antique Sofa Colors

Antique Sofa with Beige Cushions

You won’t obviously get new-age galvanized or multicolored finishes with old sofas. But you can still look for matte black, brown, and white finishes to identify the 1600s models. And if you want the colored ones, go for the 1700s brushed red and blue sofas!

Vintage Sofa ColorsAverage Cost
Black, Brown & White$1000 – 20,000
Beige & Gray$600 – 8000
Blue, Green & Purple$400 – 15,000
Metallic Silver & Gold$1000 – 18,000
Red, Yellow & Orange$600 – 15,000

6. Vintage Sofa Arm Styles

Vintage Sofa Arm Styles

The arm style is another visual clue to identifying old sofas! Antique sofas have seven arm styles, each with a different shape and value. Of these, the curled English or Chippendale ones are old, often from the 1700s, while the boxy, Tuxedo ones are newer.

Here’s how to identify & value an old sofa based on its arm styles:

Vintage Sofa Arm StylesTop FeaturesEstimated Value
English or Chippendale Rolled ArmsRounded, outward-turned, low-profile arm with classic English designs$600 – 19,000
Tuxedo ArmsRectangular & Boxy, upholstered arms with same height sections$400 – 2000
Saddle ArmrestsRound, wide, and gently sloped armrests with an inward curve$900 – 7000
Track ArmsStraight and boxy arms with straight, polished edges$1200 – 9000
French & Provincial ArmsScrolled or Curved arms with countryside carvings$2000 – 15,000

Can You Polish Antique Sofas? 

Ideally, you shouldn’t polish your antique sofas as it might damage the original finishes and devalue your couch. Instead, apply a thin layer of ‘Paste wax’ to save the wood from natural wear and tear.

How Do You Clean Old Sofas Naturally? 

Prepare a simple 0.25:1 solution of vinegar & oil, and rub it horizontally along the wood grain. Now, wipe the sofa with a clean cloth and water, and air dry it for 4 – 5 hours.

Which Oils Can You Use on an Antique Sofa? 

You can use any regular wood oils like linseed, Danish, tung, hard wax, olive, teak, or mineral oil with antique sofas.

Now that you have my guide, I’m sure you can identify any antique sofa like a pro! Just check for any marks, brand names, logos, edges, & armrests, and you’re done! And you can use the same rule for identifying old furniture, like Windsor chairs, old rocking chairs & school desks.

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

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