If you're thinking about making a serious billiards career or you need to outfit your Victorian gentleman's lounge with recreational furniture, then antique Brunswick pool tables are the decorative items for you. Just one glance at these wooden relics and you'll immediately be transported back into the late-19th century, where billiards wasn't just the at-home game that it is today.
History of the Brunswick Company
John Brunswick, a Swiss immigrant to the United States, began his manufacturing career as a carriage builder in Cincinnati, Ohio in the early 19th century. His early business--the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company--was well known for its attention to detail and the quality products that they produced. Yet, his business acumen shifted in 1845 when Brunswick was introduced to a luxurious billiards table. Immediately fascinated by the item, Brunswick felt that he could create something similar but with a higher quality, and set out to do so. Brunswick's billiards tables were very well received and his company grew to become the largest billiard manufacturer in the world by 1850. Even 150+ years later, Brunswick continues to be a leading name in the billiards market, producing both professional and recreational tables of various sizes, designs, and prices.
Famous Owners of Brunswick Pool Tables
As billiards was once viewed as a common recreational activity, especially among the social elite, many notable characters throughout history have owned Brunswick billiards tables themselves. Some of these include:
- Abraham Lincoln
- George Custer
- Mark Twain
- Andrew Carnegie
- Henry Ford
- John D. Rockefeller
- J.P. Morgan
- William Randolph Hearst
- Teddy Roosevelt
- Babe Ruth
- Humphrey Bogart
Ways to Identify an Antique Brunswick Pool Table
Pool tables are pretty easy to identify with the naked eye thanks to their brightly colored surfaces and ornately decorated wooden frames. However, antique pool tables didn't always share the same appearance as modern pool tables have now. These historic tables came in two different styles--billiards and pool. During the mid-19th century, billiards tables didn't have any pockets for the billiards balls to fall into, while pool tables were known for having these added pockets. Yet, once billiards companies began to distance their products from their prior disreputable saloon connections, they began to market only pocket-equipped tables, with the two names becoming interchangeable.
That being said, with companies recreating their historic styles in their modern-day lineups, it's important to be able to recognize when you're in the presence of a true antique. These are a few quick tips for helping you pick out an antique Brunswick table on the fly.
Check for the Brunswick Name or Mark
By the time that Brunswick was manufacturing billiards tables, having manufacturing marks or a similar kind of identifying logo was a regular practice. This means that most Brunswick tables you find are going to have either the company's name written on the wooden frame's underside, or on a metal (oftentimes brass) placard affixed to the frame itself. Keep in mind that the company wasn't always named Brunswick, and so a lot of these antique tables will have the Brunswick-Balke-Collender name instead.
Check these marks for appropriate signs of aging such as scuff marks, the appearance of a patina, or faded ink. Taking this step can give you some added insurance that you've got an actual antique on your hands.
Look for Certain Historic Design Elements
Antique Brunswick billiards tables are well-known for their superior craftsmanship and luxurious ornamentation. Whereas you can find modern tables an inch thick and made out of flimsy plastics, these 19th and early 20th century tables were manufactured to last for decades. Similarly, as these sports tables were marketed to the social elite, no expenses were spared in their construction or in their accompanying prices.
Thus, what you're looking for might look like a bit over-the-top in relation to modern design. Some of these decorative elements to watch out for include:
- Intricate carvings in the wooden frames
- Inverted pyramid shape that extends downwards from the center of the table
- Thick, carved wooden legs
- Rope epaulets tacked onto the table's corners
- Dovetail joints
- Painted details highlighting the carvings in the wooden frames
A Few Antique Brunswick Pool Table Models
In the more than 150 years that Brunswick has been making pool tables, there have been many styles and changes, and these are a few of the company's lasting models.
Brunswick Cabinet No. 3
The Brunswick Cabinet No. 3 made use of the wasted space beneath the pool table. Not only was it a beautiful piece of furniture; but it had cabinets which could be used to store a variety of items. It had egg and dart molding and Doric caps. Made in mahogany or walnut, this was a very elegant, classic pool table and was first manufactured in 1894.
The Challenge was made from 1892 to 1905. It was a classic table with minimal decoration, in keeping with the Mission style that was just coming into vogue at the time.
The Elizabethan was manufactured in 1926. It was very medieval in design, with heavy details and deep carvings.
The Home Comfort
One of the most interesting styles is the Home Comfort, uniquely made for the middle class in 1908. This was a smaller-sized table that could be quickly converted into seating.
The Monarch was an incredibly intricate design that was made in 1875. Heavily carved, this table was inlaid with several kinds of wood, including:
- Bird's eye maple
- Burl ash
- California laurel
- French walnut
It had cast iron legs that were shaped like lions. This remarkable table is one of the most sought after antique tables because of its lavish decoration and unique beauty.
The St. Bernard Mission
The St. Bernard Mission table is the epitome of the Mission style that was so popular in the early 20th century. Produced from 1892 to 1905, it features the chunky southwestern accents and primitive carvings of Mission furniture.
How Much do Antique Brunswick Pool Tables Cost?
With any functioning antique Brunswick pool table, if you're in for a penny, you're in for a pound because these tables are anything but cheap. Of course, you should keep in mind that full-sized, modern wooden pool tables can cost tens of thousands of dollars on their own, so it's only logical that these premiere, historic artifacts would cost at least as much, though in many cases, much more. Interestingly, restorations don't actually detract from their values too much, and fully restored Brunswicks consistently sell for thousands of dollars.
However, the current billiards table market seems to award higher prices to tables with greater ornamentation. Thus, the streamlined tables of the Art Deco-inspired 1920s tend to sell for less (though still for a lot of money) than those boasting the pure Victorian opulence of the 1870s-1890s.
For example, these are some of the antique Brunswicks that have either recently sold or been listed at auction:
- Art Deco Brunswick pool table - Sold for $6,500
- Mint condition 1880s Brunswick pool table - Sold for $21,000
- 1880s Monarch Brunswick table with exquisite lion's head carvings - Listed for $44,000
Where to Find Vintage Brunswick Pool Tables
If you're looking for a vintage Brunswick pool table, you may have to be patient. It might be awhile before you find one at your local antique shop since these tables have such a stellar reputation in the market that they're quickly sold and also take up a lot of floor space meaning that they're not always stored by in-person retailers. However, you can often find these tables in various states of restoration online. Unfortunately, with these online purchases, you'll need to be prepared to pay a hefty shipping cost, but it may be the only way for you to own one of the highest quality antique pool tables ever created.
These are some online businesses that offer antique Brunswick tables for sale:
- Billiard Restoration - Billiard Restoration carries and restores antique pool tables of all kinds.
- Antique Billiard Tables - Antique Billiard Tables carries a large selection of antique pool tables and accessories like billiard cues.
- Classic Billiards - Classic Billiards carries several types of antique tables that were built from the 1870s to the 1950s, and they also carry custom accessories and do pool table restoration.
Time to Take Your Shot on a Brunswick
If you want to add an antique Brunswick pool table to your home, you should expect to pay a premium price for it. For any antique Brunswick table, you can easily pay upwards of $20,000 or more because they're considered the pinnacle of historic pool tables. If they're properly cared for, these tables can retain their value for hundreds of years after they've been constructed, meaning your investment in one of them today might just turn into a potential future investment for your grandkids and great-grandkids down the line.