How to Buy a Vintage Deck Chair

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How to Buy a Vintage Deck Chair

For over a century, the classic deck chair has been gracing ocean liners, beachside, gardens, and promenades alike as a practical, beautiful, and functional piece. And, more and more these days, people are becoming interested in purchasing vintage deck chairs as antiques or collectables as well as for personal use as part of a garden's decor. As such, the process of purchasing a vintage deck chair can be complicated and involves proper preliminary work and research.

This guide is designed to help the vintage deck chair buyers to understand the piece they are looking for and also how to search for it. The first section presents a brief history of the deck chair including how it has evolved into its modern form. After that, a step-by-step guide through the purchasing process can help buyers to understand their options when it comes to vintage deck chairs, whether they are refurbished furniture pieces or not. This guide also includes a discussion of where and how to buy a vintage deck chair with emphasis on doing so through eBay.

The Evolution of the Deck Chair

The deck chair is far from being a modern invention. Indeed, the existence of an X-shaped chair with folding seat has been traced as far back as ancient Egypt and has appeared in many cultures in between then and now. From those times, through their diversified modern use, the deck chair and its history are both interesting and noteworthy.

The Deck Chair: An Ancient Piece of Nobility

Far from being only the common garden furniture we know and love today, the deck chair is one steeped in nobility and style. Of course, the actual deck chair one would find in a shop or online is a modern invention; however, there are several examples of similarly-designed pieces throughout history. This begins with an X-shaped folding chair with intricate animal carvings and covered with animal skins which was discovered in the tombs of ancient Egypt.

Folding chairs with an 'X' design were also used by ancient Romans, but were reserved for nobles and public figures. As well, these chairs have been found among seventeenth-century British inventories. This most famously includes the times following the execution of Charles I when the Council of State was reported to sit in folding chairs decked in crimson velvet and golden lace.

The Deck Chair Gets Its Name

The traditional deck chair known today, a wooden folding chair with a canvas seat, was patented by John Thomas Moore in 1886. These original chairs were, at that time, exclusively manufactured in Macclesfield, Cheshire, and used on the decks of cruise ships. This was because the folding chairs were easy to transport and stack when not in use. In fact, it is from this use that they derive their name.

Indeed, the deck chair held an important place among the golden age of the ocean liner. Traditionally, passengers would reserve deck chairs with the crew of their ship who would then place a paperboard nametag to the canvas or wicker seat of the chair. This practice was so popular that a famous 1912 picture of survivors from the 'RMS Titanic' seated aboard the 'RMS Carpathia' shows a the now-famous ocean liners' deck chairs with paperboard cards, a practice which continued on the Carpathia for years afterwards.

Modern Versions of the Deck Chair

As time has gone on, the use of the deck chair has extended far beyond the decks of large ships while the design of the deck chair has evolved dramatically from the simple wooden and canvas structure patented by John Thomas Moore. Modern deck chairs can be found on beaches and promenades as well as gardens.

The materials used to manufacture modern deck chairs include treated wood that protects them from the elements as well as vinyl and other treated fabrics similarly designed to help the furniture last. As such, vintage deck chairs are those most likely to resemble the original wood and canvas models manufactured by Moore rather than the modern iterations. However, that definition is one that the buyers should personally define.

How to Buy a Vintage Deck Chair

Understanding the history of the deck chair is merely the first step in actually locating and buying a vintage piece that fits one's preference and budget. This involves understanding the term 'vintage deck chair' as well as considering the methods and best practices for evaluating any furniture item that is classified as such.

Defining 'Vintage'

Though 'vintage' can have a range of meanings to sellers, one point that buyers must consider before moving on in the purchasing process is what they define as vintage. This delineation can help them to eliminate potential items from the start and know which shops and websites are best to patronise in the pursuit of their product.

To some buyers, vintage deck chairs are only those which resemble the original design of John Thomas Moore. Namely, the original type of deck chair designed by Moore had only one recline position, whereas later versions were made with multiple reclines thanks to an extended, notched wooden rod in the back of the seat. This means that, while it is generally accepted that vintage deck chairs are not those with fancy New Age additions, such as electronically-adjustable seating, there can be some wiggle room in defining the mechanical function of a chair for other buyers.

Where to Find a Vintage Deck Chair

Once a buyer has decided upon what he or she considers vintage, there is the question of buying older, often antique deck chairs. Some buyers have the option, however, of saving money through refurbishing the deck chair themselves. Others may want to purchase a ready-to-go vintage deck chair, already refurbished.

Refurbishing Old Deck Chairs

Deck chairs were extremely popular in the mid-twentieth century and as such many people are able to find dilapidated canvas and wood frames in an old garden shed or in storage at their parents' or grandparents' house. Others can pick up cheap units at flea markets or online and then undertake the refurbishing process themselves. It is actually quite simple to restore these old pieces of furniture to their former glory. Usually, all buyers must do is treat the wood and replace the deck chair fabric.

Buying a Vintage Deck Chair

For those without the time or the skills to refurbish a vintage deck chair themselves, the other option is to buy already-restored deck chairs from dealers who specialise in this process. These refurbished pieces can obviously run a bit higher in price, but they can be used upon receipt. Generally, refurbished deck chairs are offered through specialised dealers or online.

How to Buy a Vintage Deck Chair on eBay

The final option that buyers should consider is using eBay to buy vintage deck chairs. The many sellers on this site who specialise in garden furniture offer both fully restored vintage deck chairs and those which are yet to be refurbished. Users, once familiar with the eBay buying process, can easily compare both of these options.

The eBay buying process begins with a quick and easy registration for an account. From there, you can also start an account with PayPal which helps you to protect your personal and financial information online while being an accepted payment method by many sellers and shops. After you are registered, you can begin the search process from any one of eBay ' s pages. Simply type in a general or specific search term, such as 'vintage deck chair', into the search bar found on any eBay page. If you are looking for more specific items, you may also want to consider using the 'advanced search' feature. This can help you to eliminate needless search results and save time by limiting items according to your budget or any other preference or category.


Buying a vintage deck chair can be an excellent way to add style and a bit of history into one's garden decor. With a rich history that dates back to Ancient Egypt and Rome and a modern storyline straight from the UK itself, this is a fabulous piece to own and share with family and friends.

However, buyers who are interested in getting a vintage deck chair must first decide what that means to them. They need to determine whether or not they only want to stick to models that resemble the earliest of John Thomas Moore's or if they are rather interested in vintage deck chairs with more diverse recline features.

After that, there are two major ways that buyers can acquire a vintage deck chair. The buyers can either search one out and refurbish it, of find dealers who specialise in doing this for their clients. Both options are likely to be found on eBay, which also offers buyers the opportunity to go through all the steps necessary in one marketplace. Knowing how to buy a vintage deck chair is as easy as knowing where to look and how to search eBay.

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