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How much is my antique sofa worth?

Have you recently inherited or purchased an antique sofa and want to know its value? Mearto provides quick and affordable online appraisals of antique sofas. All you have to do is click on the “Start Appraisal” button above and follow the steps to send us information about and images of your antique sofa. One of our qualified and experienced specialists will review and get back to you with a fair market and insurance value, typically within 48 hours. Have questions about the valuation provided, or would you like some advice about selling your antique sofa? We are here to help! Our platform allows you to chat back and forth with a specialist to ensure that all of your questions are answered.

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What is the history of the sofa?

Sofas in various forms have been in use for thousands of years. The word “sofa” is derived from Arabic and means, simply, a long bench. Early sofas were used in ancient Egypt and during the Roman Empire. Upholstered sofas didn’t become common until much later. Although they had existed previously, the invention of the sewing machine at the end of the 18th century made padded furniture much more attainable. Advances in furniture construction have produced many styles of sofas, and they are one of the most ubiquitous types of furniture in today’s homes. 

What are the different kinds of sofas?

There are many different styles of antique sofas. Some basic types include the following:

  • Canapé: This style of sofa originated in the 1700s. The wood frame is visible and often curved and carved with intricate designs. They are traditionally upholstered in rich fabrics like brocades, velvets or damasks. They often have padded armrests and carved legs.
  • Camelback: These sofas are distinguished by the shape of the backrest, which slopes on each side and peaks in the center.
  • Tuxedo: This style originated in the 1920s and features a boxy silhouette and panel-like arms as high as the back of the sofa. Another hallmark of the tuxedo sofa is the tufting detail on the backrest.
  • Chesterfield: These sofas are covered in deeply tufted leather and have a hidden upholstered base. They often feature rolled armrests and nailhead trim. They were first built in the 1700s, when it is said that the fourth Earl of Chesterfield commissioned one. 
  • Fainting Couch: These couches feature backs that rise steeply on one end. They were popular in the 1800s and designed to emulate ancient furniture styles. 
  • Chaise Longue: This style originated in France in the 1600s. A chaise longue is styled as an elongated chair, and may have a raised back at the end, or sometimes at both ends. 
  • Loveseat: This kind of couch seats only two people. It may be designed like a standard couch, so that both people face the same direction. Alternatively, the seats may be arranged in the tête-à-tête style, on an S-curve, so that two people can face each other but with a divider between them. 

How are sofas valued?

A sofa’s value is related to its age, materials, maker, rarity, condition and style. 

To find the date of an antique sofa, tags or markings are the first thing to look for. Markings may be present on any part of the furniture, but often on the bottom. They can even be on the fabric. Once you identify the manufacturer of the sofa, you will be able to identify its exact date range. A serial number is also a good way to date an antique sofa. Mass-produced or not, antique sofas will have a serial number. Just like the markings, the serial number will enable you to accurately date the furniture. 

The upholstery material used on your antique sofa is directly correlated to its quality, longevity, aesthetic, and comfort. Some common materials used for antique sofas are leather, velvet, silk, wool, cotton, and chenille. Aside from the cover, the filling material on a sofa is also critical during appraisal as it helps to determine comfort.

The manufacturer of the sofa may also determine a higher price. Sofas made by these well-known furniture makers are rare and tend to fetch good prices at auction: Herman Miller, Thomas Chippendale, Matthias Lock, Henry Copland, Thomas Sheraton, John Linnell, and William Kent.

Condition is important for value. Ideally, the sofa should not have any missing parts such as legs or arms. In addition, it should not have broken embellishments or stained fabric. You should be extra careful when doing any refinishing work on your sofa. An important factor to look for when appraising a sofa is the finish. A close look can give clues about whether a finish is original or whether the previous owner has had the pierce refurbished. 

Different styles will also indicate different periods. There are, however, many sofas that are reproductions of older classic designs, so it is important to look for details indicating the authenticity of a piece. 

Which sofas are the most expensive?

Generally, the most highly-valued sofas are pieces that have been kept in good condition and those made by famous manufacturers.

Some of the most expensive sofas sold at auction have been original pieces by famous manufacturers. Chippendale sofas from the 1600s are generally priced from $5000 and up. A 1960s Eames sofa by Herman Miller can go for thousands.

Sofas with famous previous owners are rare and valuable as well. A couch previously owned by Winston Churchill, although in poor condition, fetched £7,500 in 2009.

Leah

Leah Illingworth is a content specialist here at Mearto. She loves learning and writing about art and antiques each day in addition to exploring the history and stories behind art movements and objects.

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