Telling the Age of Your Vintage (or Newer) Eames Lounge

eams-lounger1

The most common way of determining the age of an Eames lounge chair is by knowing what the leather cushions contain. The lounge was originally designed in 1956 with 100-percent down and duck feather fill.

OK, now that you have discovered if that Eames lounge is real or fake (The Iconic Eames Lounge Chair; Is That One Real or Fake?), how do you determine its age? Because these chairs were mass-produced, certain parts, pieces and custom orders floated from year to year, so using exact years to date an Eames lounge often does not work. I have used years in this article as examples of periods between design changes, not as an exact science of dating a chair. Instead of determining the year the chair was manufactured; let’s refer to the design as “Series 1 production,” “Series 2 production,” and so on.

The most common way of determining the age of the chair is by knowing what the leather cushions contain. The lounge was originally designed in 1956 with 100-percent down and duck feather fill. After several years, most of the chairs were made with a mix of down feathers and foam. The reason for this change was that Charles Eames, the designer, didn’t like how the cushions became flat and unsightly after years of use. Eventually, sometime around 1971, all of the Eames lounge chairs were made with a mix of foam and fiber fill, no more feathers.

However, custom options were still offered to the public, and there is evidence of the lounge being offered with 100-percent foam cushions as early as 1960. A good way to confirm the age of the frame/cushions of the chair is to see if the clips, which hold the cushions to the wood shells, are circular and silver in color. If so, these are pre-1971 clips. After 1971, the clips became long, thin and black in color.

The earliest production chairs had push-on rubber “boot” glides on the feet of the ottoman.

The earliest production chairs had push-on rubber “boot” glides on the feet of the ottoman.

This design stems from the ottoman base being used originally as a side chair base, which was only designed to accept boot glides.

A side chair base, which was only designed to accept boot glides, was used as the original ottoman base.

A lesser-known way of determining a chair’s age is by close inspection of the foot glides on the ottoman. The earliest production chairs had push-on rubber “boot” glides on the feet of the ottoman. This design stems from the ottoman base being used originally as a side chair base, which was only designed to accept boot glides. When this base was adapted for use on the ottoman, customer complaints poured in. It turns out the boot glides were easily lost and not adjusting like the glides on the lounge chair base. This changed the design and called for the ottoman to receive adjustable, screw-in glides (domes of silence), which match the chair.

visible-screws

First-year production can also be confirmed by the armrests carrying three screws instead of the more common two screws. These screws hold the arms to the frame. If you have an Eames lounge set and the ottoman has boot glides and the armrests have three screws, rejoice! It is of the earliest examples and about as close to 1956 as you can get!

Some say the chair can be dated by the wood type, which was mainly Brazilian rosewood veneer. This is more a question of desirability than age, as Rosewood was used for the Eames lounge until that particular wood species was discontinued in 1990 due to harvesting restrictions. Now, the lounge is made of walnut, cherry and palisander, which is a fairly close match to the original rosewood, but not as rich or vibrant when it comes to the wood grain.

The original round Eames label.

The original round Eames label.

The black horizontal label was used from the 1970s into the 1990s.

The black horizontal label was used from the 1970s into the 1990s.

The most recent label is the silver horizontal label.

The most recent label is the silver horizontal label.

Labels can also help with the dating of your chair. The round disc is the earliest label design, and was used from 1956 to the 1970s. The black horizontal label was used from the 1970s into the 1990s, while the most recent label is the silver horizontal label.

There is some debate as to the illusive “swivel ottoman” and whether it was part of the first production run by Herman Miller in 1956. Some suggest the chairs were produced with swivel ottomans up until 1958. If this were the case, however, more lounge chairs with swivel ottomans would have turned up on the open market, especially with the popularity of this design and the number of chairs produced during the first two years. In 15-plus years of dealing with this design, I have never seen a swivel ottoman nor heard of one coming to market.

I have spent the last several weeks researching the swivel ottoman and found nothing to show the swivel ottomans were mass-produced. After speaking with numerous other experts, auctioneers, collectors and dealers, only one person had heard rumor of a swivel ottoman being seen in India and owned by a company (now former) where the Eameses designed their offices in the mid 1950s.

The swivel ottomans were obviously part of the prototypical run of this design in 1955, early 1956. What I do know is the first 10 chairs or so were produced at the Eames Office in California, and not mass-produced by Herman Miller. These chairs most likely had swivel ottomans, and evidence of this is seen in the Eames Lounge Chair video which aired on the Arlene Francis Home Show in 1956. As far as the swivel ottoman goes, it is as rare as hen’s teeth! If you know of a swivel ottoman out there ,or one that has been sold, please send me some info on it as it would be very intriguing to hear some history! Oh, by the way, the swivel mechanisms involved a bronze ring so if a bronze ring is missing, then the ottoman has most likely been doctored or it is fake.

Values can range quite a bit when it comes to selling or buying and Eames lounge. Because the chairs are still in production by Herman Miller, the older chairs will bring the highest prices if the condition is acceptable. If you want to purchase new, you can expect to spend around $3,500 from Herman Miller or an authorized dealer, or more if you upgrade the chair with certain options. A newer “used” chair usually sells in the $2,400 to $2,900 range. The earliest versions fetch anywhere from $4,000 to $5,000 or more—according to recent auction sales—if they are in unrepaired/very good to excellent condition.

Here is a quick, easy way to remember approximately how to date an Eames lounge if you have one or if you plan to buy one in the near future. Just remember, when it comes to buying an original Eames lounge chair for investment, the earlier the better!

SERIES 1 PRODUCTION: Silver circular clips, down cushions, boot glides to ottoman base, three (3) screws to armrests.
SERIES 2 PRODUCTION: Silver circular clips, down cushions, adjustable/screw glides to ottoman, two (2) screws to armrests.
SERIES 3 PRODUCTION: Long black clips, foam cushions, adjustable/screw glides to ottoman, two (2) screws to armrests.
SERIES 4 PRODUCTION: Any lounge produced after 1990.

I would like to thank Daniel Ostroff from Eames Office for his help in providing images and info for this article. Further informative and historical information regarding Charles and Ray Eames can be found at the following sites:

www.eamesoffice.com
www.eamesfoundation.org
www.vintage-eames.com

For very specific questions regarding your Eames item, you can contact Daniel Ostroff via e-mail at vintage@eamesoffice.com. He is not an appraiser; those types of questions should be directed to me.

Other articles about the Eames Lounge Chair by Bradley Downs:

The Iconic Eames Lounge Chair; Is That One Real or Fake?
How to Tell if a Eames Lounge Chair Has Been Repaired

Bradley Downs is a Worthologist who specializes in mid century modern furniture and the owner of www.odd2mod.com in Atlanta, Ga.

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20 Comments

  1. Per says:

    i noticed some chair people refer to has a number like 560,or 670/671 and the like in the name. i’m guessing this has to do with the way the chair was specified. could someone explain what these numbers mean? thanks!

  2. Hi. Those are model numbers. The 670 is the Herman Miller model number for the chair and 671 is the model number for the ottoman. If placing an order with Herman Miller, you would request the 670/671 set and then specify wood type, leather color, etc. Of course the chair is now most widely known as the Eames Lounge. Hope that helps! Bradley Downs
    odd2mod.com

    • Dermot says:

      Excellent information thanks! I’m looking at a mid 70’s chair right now with the aim to purchase, however thanks to your advice I now notice its been repaired on both sides (The mounts). The repair looks excellent, however I wonder if you have any sense as to how much reduced the price should be? The owner is asking 3k

      Thanks

      • Susan says:

        I have an Eames lounge and ottoman( mid 60’s). There is a small tear in the ottoman. Here is my question…Will it be worth more to not fix or should I fix it Thanks,Susan

  3. Hi. I would pay no more than $1,500.00 for a repaired lounge (with the rest of the chair being near mint)
    That is if I were to keep it only as I would not have much resale value left in it. Keep searching. Very nice versions from the 1970s, even 1960s, do turn up un-repaired and for around the same money. Thanx! Bradley Downs odd2mod.com

  4. Coral Norris says:

    I have two Eames lounge chairs and ottomans from the early to mid 60’s purchased by my parents. One ottoman has slip-on glides so I know that is older. But I’m not sure which chair is older; on one the clips that hold the head cushions are up and down, on the second they are at an angle. Does anyone know which is older?

  5. stefan burgess says:

    Greetings,

    I greatly appreciate this article, thank you for making it available. I have recently come upon what I believe to be an early 670 chair. It has a black circular label, whereas the others which I have seen are silver. Does this indicate anything?

    Thank you for your time.

    • Chris says:

      Hi Stefan, just read your question about black sticker on Eames Lounge Chair. Can you tell the reply you got as I have a chair with black sticker too?

      • Sam Ferguson says:

        The black stickers were used by herman Miller in the mid 1960s. Before that, they used a round white sticker (and, before that, a silver rectangular sticker). After that, they used a black rectangular sticker, and then a silver rectangular sticker.

  6. Mark tanis says:

    I own an dames with a swivel ottoman. My father worked at hm in the 50’s and 60’s as the director of purchasing…..I grew up with the chair. It is in excellent shape.it has boot glides on the ottoman.

    I also have a Herman miller dining table from the 50’s 60’s. Round with a flush mount lazy Susan in the center…..would like input.

    Also other George Nelson pieces….CSS, etc.

    Curious myself on some of this.

    Feel free to contact me.

    Mark

  7. Richard Goff says:

    I have two chairs and one stool. Can you tell the age by the patent sticker? Mine ends byt patent number d-155-273
    3-114-575, 3-124-390.

  8. Michae Krass says:

    What does a stamped number on the inside of all 3 shells of a 50’s or early 60’s Brazilian Rosewood Lounge Chair mean?

    Thanks.

    • Gordon says:

      Michae, I was wondering the same thing. My numbers are all #202. I thought mine was a ’70s+ chair. What are your numbers?

      • Sam Ferguson says:

        Herman Miller stamped the inside of most shells as a quality control measure, to make sure that the shells came from the same master piece of wood so that the shells on the three parts of the chair would match.

  9. The 202 number is a batch number for your chair, used to keep the three
    veneer flitch-matched plywood shells together during manufacturing. One of mine is 941. The number itself doesn’t have a meaning.

  10. Gerard Habib says:

    I have been offered a Eames replica 670 & 671 for about $1382.00 the chair is in a good condition but has some scratches on the wood and leather, the chair looks fairly good for a replica with.

    The antique store owner says it is made under license by a company called Casino in the 70’s

    just want your opinion is the company casino valid and am i going to pay too much for a replica.

    Thanks
    Gerard

  11. Larry says:

    I have a swivel ottoman. I want to know if my chair is numbered. The back shell, with the cushion removed, has a #21 under tape. Couls this signify that the chair is number 21? Thanks

  12. Helen says:

    Hello -

    I have an early chair that has 100% down cushions making up the two back rest cusions, but the bottom cushion is 50% down, 50% foam. There are 3 screws to the arms. Is it possible that I have a married chair?

    (The ottoman has exactly the same cushion type (color, age, etc.) as the bottom of cushion of the chair, with screw-on glides.)

    Thank you!