With their beautiful heirloom-quality woodwork and old-fashioned charm, antique wooden high chairs are popular with vintage baby gear collectors and interior decorators. You can find these pretty pieces at a variety of local and online retailers, often for very affordable prices. Unfortunately, there are safety concerns involving using these high chairs for babies, but they still look beautiful as display pieces.
Where to Buy Antique Wooden High Chairs
Because of their quality craftsmanship, wooden high chairs are easy to find. Your local antique shop will have at least a few in stock, and you can also find them at estate sales, flea markets, and auctions. In addition to these local sources, several online retailers offer wooden high chairs as well.
eBay has a great selection of antique high chairs from all eras. Before you bid on an item, be sure to check whether the chair can be delivered to your home. It's also a good idea to look at the cost of shipping for a large item like this. If you don't find the perfect high chair, stop back later. New items are listed all the time.
RubyLane is a great place to find almost any kind of antique item, and high chairs are no exception. Although the selection isn't as large as you'll find at some other retailers, the sellers are usually knowledgeable about the high chair's history and condition.
Etsy is an artisan and vintage marketplace, and it has a good selection of wood high chairs from several eras. The merchandise available changes on a regular basis, so it's a good idea to check often if you're looking for something specific.
With classified ads for almost every major metropolitan area and many rural areas as well, Craigslist is a good source for antique high chairs. Look for listings with photos to help you determine whether following up is worth your time. Check often so you don't miss out on the perfect chair.
Antique High Chair Shopping Tips
Although no one knows when the first high chair was produced, it's certain that busy parents needed something to assist with baby feeding. Most wood high chairs on the antique market hail from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when factory-produced furniture was in its heyday. Earlier models, as well as some from this era, may be handmade. Later high chairs were often constructed of metal, enamel, and plastic. Some wooden high chairs are painted or feature painted designs.
As you shop for a wood high chair, expect to see high-end furniture details like caning, spoon carving, exotic woods, turned legs, and other pretty touches. Hardware may be brass or cast iron. Some chairs feature wheels or casters to make it easier to move them around the house. Most chairs have removable trays or trays that can lift up over the baby's head.
What to Look For
When shopping for an antique high chair, you'll see examples in all kinds of condition. Use these tips to find a high chair in good shape:
- Make sure the item is stable and doesn't wobble much. Wobbly legs signal that the furniture needs some repair work.
- Look for a complete chair with intact hardware. The tray should lift easily up or over the top of the chair, as it would have when children used it.
- Check the condition of the caning. If it isn't in good shape, you may find someone to repair it. Restored caning will increase the chair's usability and appearance, but it will decrease the value slightly.
- Ensure all wooden parts are present and intact. The footrest, arms and any other decorative dowels should still be in place. If any are missing, you may have a difficult time finding ones to complete the chair.
- Look for any serious damage such as gouges, broken dowels that have been re-glued, or miss-matched hardware before you purchase a vintage high chair.
Antique High Chair Values
There's no general rule of thumb about the value of antique high chairs, which can range in price from $50 to over $500, depending on condition and any special touches. The best way to find the value of an old high chair is to compare it to similar examples that have recently sold. Here are some recent high chair sales:
- A beautiful white wicker high chair in excellent condition sold for almost $220 in 2021. Its value likely came from its remarkable attractiveness as a display piece.
- A white wood high chair dating to about 1850 sold for around $80. It was in rough condition and had some repairs, which may have made it less valuable.
- A Victorian wicker and wood high chair by manufacturer Heywood Wakefield sold for almost $350. As a very beautiful decorative piece with a known manufacturer, it had high value.
Identifying Reproduction High Chairs
Because of their charm, antique high chairs are often reproduced. Use these guidelines to tell a modern reproduction from a genuine antique:
- Reproduction high chairs may be made of a single type of wood, while antiques usually feature multiple wood species. Look at the bottom of the footrest, the underside of the seat, and the tray.
- Fake or reproduction wooden high chairs often have lower-quality construction than a genuine antique model. Expect to find staples or tacks, fiberboard or particle board, and glue residue on a reproduction chair.
- A reproduction chair may appear to be in mint condition. Since high chairs get a lot of use and abuse, genuine antiques usually have worn areas, scratches, and a patina.
Getting a Good Deal
The condition of the high chair, its construction, the presence of all parts, and its desirability will all affect its price. If you fall in love with a chair that has condition issues, you may be able to talk the seller down on the price. Similarly, many antique stores will also bargain with customers who make large purchases like high chairs.
Safety of Antique High Chairs
According to Consumer Reports, parents should be cautious about using antique baby items like wooden high chairs. These pieces may not meet current safety standards for baby equipment, and they may be plagued with condition issues that can compromise children's safety.
If you're interested in using an antique high chair, purchase the ASTM Consumer Safety Specification for High Chairs and modify the high chair as needed to ensure it meets this standard. Woodworking and antiques companies may sell safety straps you can add to antique high chairs; check with your local retailer.
Charming Decorator Item
Although they may not be safe for use with today's babies, antique wooden high chairs are still a charming decorator item. Use yours to display a favorite doll or animal or to add heartwarming appeal to your kitchen or dining room. No matter how you choose to display it, your high chair will bring beauty and old-fashioned style to your home.