The Complete Guide to Buying Antique Armchairs on eBay

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The Complete Guide to Buying Antique Armchairs on eBay

Antique armchairs have the ability to bring beauty, functionality and comfort to any room of the house. The designs and scents are unique to each piece, and can provide the owner with something much more valuable than new, or even second-hand furniture.

There are a considerable number of types of armchair available to buy, and a few simple guidelines can help with the identification and purchase of the right piece for anyone’s needs. With consideration of some simple points, such as what makes an armchair antique, the variety offered on the market, typical features, and how to evaluate and guard against possible damage, a prospective buyer is better prepared to find the perfect antique armchair from eBay’s selection.

History of Antique Armchairs

Some of the world’s earliest chairs were Egyptian wooden thrones, dating back thousands of years. As a result of their regal designs, employing high arm supports on either side of the seat, it can be said that these thrones were the first examples of armchairs in history. Initially reserved for the upper classes, wooden chairs of all designs became popular amongst the masses from the middle ages onwards.

Discover Antique Armchairs

With many purposes, styles and levels of comfort, antique armchairs can be found as solid as mahogany, or padded enough to fall asleep in. There are also many designs, with the arms of antique chairs often considered intricate pieces of design in their own right.

It is important for a buyer to consider what constitutes an antique before making a purchase. Interpretations of ‘old’ and ‘rare’ are subjective, and it is preferable to understand the age of an antique armchair before purchase. Some collectors regard 1930 as a cut-off for the term antique. This is due to the introduction of a US tariff on imported goods that did not include items of quality built before high-volume production. Others, more commonly, consider one hundred years as the mark of an antique.

Parts of Antique Armchairs

Antique armchairs take many shapes and sizes. Below are listed the common parts that are found across the range in antique armchairs.




One of four that support the chair under the seat.


One of two placed either side of the seat at elbow height.


Where the user generally rests their weight.


Vertical support behind the seat where the user can lean.


Vertical piece added to the seatback on some wooden designs.


One of two vertical supports that create the sides of the seatback.


Padded addition to the armrest on some wooden designs.


Four horizontal strips that create the outside support of the seat.


Connects and supports the four legs.

Types of Antique Armchairs on eBay

The variety of names given to antique chairs can run into the hundreds. Sometimes they’re simply defined by the era from in which they were made. They were made across the world, through many eras, from ancient Egypt to Victorian England. The range is vast, although some of the more common names that may be found are listed below.






Almost completely upholstered chair with curved back.


Upholstery may require careful cleaning.


A chair with a backrest design to fit around a 90 degree angle.

Space saving.

Not likely to be comfortable for long periods of time.

Morris Chair

Deep, reclined backrest with heavy cushioning and solid armrests.

Comfortable piece which is suitable for many rooms.

May be quite heavy and hard to move.

Ribbon Backed

Ornate backrest.

Attractive for its splat craftsmanship.

Splats can be thinner and more fragile due to ornate woodwork.


Light wooden chair with a back comprised of many thin vertical spindles.

A simple design that suits many settings.

Number of thin wood pieces increases chance of breakage.


Deep armchair with a high backrest that has an enveloping headrest.

Comfortable and solid.

Large and heavy to move.

Button Backed

A large chair with its upholstery fastened by buttons on the backrest.

Comfortable and solid.

Buttoned upholstery may need repair if broken.

Captain’s Chair

Similar to a Morris chair with a low saddled seat.

Light and versatile.

May not be comfortable for long periods of time.

Rocking Chair

An armchair with a base that allows it to rock back and forth.

Comfortable and fun.

Generally bigger and needs space for movement.

Factors to Consider When Buying Antique Armchairs on eBay

Before choosing which chair to buy, consider the points below:

  • The Frame – Some antique armchairs will have been reupholstered. It is important to be sure that the original framework is present for the piece to be an antique.
  • Seat Upholstering and Material – Upholstered chairs require greater care and can be more susceptible to damage such as tearing and stains.
  • Antique ‘Style’ – Design alone does not define an antique. A buyer should be sure of the approximate date of manufacture.
  • Wood Damage – Due to their age, antiques are fragile and prone to cracking and wear.
  • Refurbishment – Some antique armchairs will have different levels of refurbishment, which can alter their value.
  • Joins – The condition of the glue and joins on an antique armchair can drastically alter its ability to be used.
  • Moving – Transporting antiques is a delicate procedure. Check the geographical location of the item for sale, ensuring it can be transported and that there will be room for it to be kept.

Typical Features of Antique Armchairs

Below are listed some of the common features of an antique armchair.

1. Armrests

This is the defining characteristic of the armchair. A buyer should be sure they are suited to their needs.

2. Upholstery

Upholstery is padding that is added to the structure of the chair and can be anything from coloured fabric through to springs and leather.

3. Ornate Woodwork

Many of the elements in an antique armchair, especially those chairs that are not upholstered, are specially carved. These ornate designs can be found anywhere from the backrest through to the feet of the chair.

4. Specific Wood Species

Antique chairs are often sought after for the quality of the wood that they are built from. This could refer to anything from oak through to mahogany. Different wood varieties will give the chair different qualities, such as colour and weight.

How to Care for Antique Armchairs

There are a few simple guidelines to follow when it comes to ensuring that antique furniture is well cared for. Armchairs, like any piece of antique furniture, are fragile and require careful attention. One important factor is considering where the antique chair is stored. Direct sunlight and pests can easily damage an antique chair’s wood or upholstery. Be sure to keep antique chairs away from especially dry areas such as attics, as the wood that they are built from requires a certain level of moisture to maintain longevity.

Cleaning and polishing can be a great tool for caring for an antique piece, but a buyer should be careful not to overwork the chair with cloths, polishes or oils, as they can be detrimental if used too often. Many of the choices in antique care also depend on the existing finish or upholstery. If cleaning leather upholstery, ensure that it does not get too wet. It is also important to remember that the original wood finish of an antique armchair effects its value, so be care must be taken when purchasing refinished antiques or attempting any refinishing.

Popular Antique Armchair Manufacturers

Antique manufacturers are often no longer in operation, however it is still helpful to know some of history’s popular names:

  • Gillows
  • Parker Knoll
  • Edwards and Roberts
  • Howard and Sons
  • Robert H and James Simpson
  • Taylor and Son
  • Chippendale

Accessories and Add-ons for Antique Armchairs

Additional items can be bought alongside an antique armchair to help maintain it after purchase.

  • Refinisher
  • Antique Furntiure Wax
  • Stain Marker
  • Upholstery Cleaner

Finding an Antique Armchair on eBay

Once you determine the type of antique armchair you want to purchase, visit the Antiques portal on eBay, click on ‘Furniture’, and start searching item listings. The Categories list on the left-hand side of the eBay page helps to narrow the search.

Searching for Antique Armchairs on eBay

Search eBay listing titles for specific words when shopping for antique armchairs. For example, to find an antique captain’s chair, type ‘Antique Captain’s Chair’ into the search box, and then click the Advanced button to customise the results. Also visit eBay’s Search Tips page for more advice on searching for antique armchairs with keywords. If you can’t find the exact chair you want, try shopping eBay Stores.


When contemplating the purchase of an antique armchair on eBay, a buyer is faced with more considerations than simply where to put it once it’s ordered. Careful consideration of what armchair suits the buyer’s needs will help cross a number of styles off the list. Being aware of the styles and parts of antique armchairs can help not only with visual identification, but also potential considerations that go with the purchase of these fragile pieces of history. Once you have collected this information, you can buy an antique armchair safely and securely on eBay.

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