Ask A Worthologist Question: Koch Barber Chair

An early 20th-century barber’s chair, made by Theo A. Koch.

An early 20th-century barber’s chair, made by Theo A. Koch.

Jeff S. is trying to sell a barber’s chair he had purchased a few years ago. The prices dealers are offering are leaving him flat. So engaged WorthPoint’s “Ask a Worthologist” service, and it was forwarded to me. Here is Jeff’s question:

“I paid $1,600 for this Koch Barber chair at an auction in 2006. I’ve moved to a smaller place and I no longer have room for it. I’ve called some dealers who have informed me they can’t get even sell them for that now retail. All the offers were all less than $500. I know dealers have a mark up and have to make a profit, but I feel I’m being ripped off.”

Unfortunately, I had to tell Jeff that if he was determined to sell the chair, he’d have to resign himself to taking a haircut:

“Jeff, in the antique & collectibles market, there are often great changes in values for certain items. Depending on the economy, decorating trends and demographics, values do not always go up. Such is the case with this barber chair. Things such as brass cash registers, general store paraphernalia and barbers’ chairs tend to be “nostalgia items,” and as such, have a great appeal to a certain generation. This tends to drive dramatic increases in value that are often followed by a gradual drop or leveling-off when that collecting or decorating trend runs its course. In the case of barbers’ chairs, they were in great demand until the late 1990s, which along with other items that appealed to Baby Boomers—such as Coca Cola collectibles, juke boxes and pin ball machines—have had a bumpy downward trend in values since then.

“This particular chair dates from the first quarter of the 20th century, made by Theo A. Koch, a well respected manufacturer that had been making barber chairs since the 1890s. Values for these 20th-century chairs depend a lot on the condition of the chrome plating on the metal frame work and the upholstery. Examples like this chair, on which the chrome plating and the upholstery is in good condition, have sold for less than $600 at auction this past year; quite a drop from pre-sale estimates in the $800-$1,400 range it would have garnered in the previous couple of years. So, in answer to your question, what you are being offered would be in the ball park for what dealers are willing to pay for barber chairs like yours in the current market.”

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Mike Wilcox, of Wilcox & Hall Appraisers, is a Worthologist who specializes in Art Nouveau and the Arts and Craft movement.


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