Although there were different types of desks in earlier centuries the one that most people think of is the antique iron school desk.
How the Desk Was Made
This type of desk is usually made of wood and wrought iron in a scroll pattern. The iron holds the desk piece firmly to the back of the chair.
In this way the student's writing surface was attached to the chair in front. Some of the desk surfaces had a small cut out area to hold the inkwell. The first row of seats had no writing surface but since this row was usually made up of the small children, many who were not writing yet, it was not a problem.
Some of the desks were long and allowed for seating for two children while others were designed for one student to sit at. Often the feet would be bolted into the floor to keep the desk firmly in place.
Value of an Antique Iron School Desk
An item is usually classified as an antique if it is over 100 years old. Most iron school desks will fall into this category. While age has a part to play in the ultimate value of the desk there are many other things to take into consideration.
Rarity - If the desk is made of an unusual wood or is unusual in some other way it may be worth more than the average desk.
Detail - Some of these old desks were highly detailed with scrolls and special designs in the iron. The more detailed and beautiful a desk is, the more is it usually worth.
Provenance - If the desk was used by an important historical figure or was in a significant place it may be worth more than other desks. Make sure you get a certificate of authenticity or some proof of its historical significance. Just because it has Abe Lincoln's name carved in it does not mean that President Abraham Lincoln sat there.
Condition - A desk that is in excellent condition will fetch more than one that is very worn.
Availability - Some areas of the country will have more desks available than others. For example, you are more likely to come across many of these types of desks in Indiana than in Alaska. If the desks are hard to find they may be worth more in your area.
Most antique iron school desks are worth from about $75 on up. An iron desk with lots of scrollwork might go for $275 depending on the venue. Of course, there are rare and unusual desks that could sell for much more.
Images of Iron Desks
The Internet is a good place to find many images of the antique desks and even get an idea of their worth.
- Desk with unique carving on the base
- Desk with a very basic wrought iron design
- Classic iron school desk
Using Antique Desks
If you love the look of these desks but are not sure how you would use one consider the following ideas:
- Telephone stand
- Plant stand
- Display area for other antiques
- Reading nook
- Side table
There are many ways to use the iron desks if you use your imagination. Unlike most other antique desks the school desk will not lend itself well to office use. Think of it more like a stand or a table than a true desk when you are decorating.
Finding Antique Desks
You may find one of these gems locally, especially if you live in the midwestern states. Try any of the following venues:
- Thrift shops
- Garage sales
- Antique shops
If you can't find what you want at those places you can try the Internet; but remember that you will have the added cost of shipping.
Antique desks are a beautiful accent piece for almost any room. If you are lucky enough to find one you love, be sure and keep it away from humid areas and moisture. Iron will rust and can lead to serious problems with the structure of your piece.