The first Morris chairs were manufactured in England by the William Morris Co. around 1866 and were the first known reclining chairs produced. Later, furniture makers like Gustav Stickley copied Morris’ design, and the Stickley furniture company continues to manufacture them today. Because of their clean lines and Mission style, Morris chairs were a popular choice during the Arts and Crafts movement in the early 1900s and today are equally at home in traditional as well as contemporary decors. As with any antique, a Morris chair's value is based on age, condition and history.
Research Morris chairs. Books like “Stickley Brothers Furniture Identification and Value Guide” by Larry Koon are a good place to start. Web sites like Kovels can be helpful in establishing a going price. Talk with antique sellers and collectors of Arts and Craft or Mission style furniture.
Inspect the chair. Chairs made from about 1895 to 1914 were more ornate, boasting curved legs and feet. These early examples are worth more due to their style and rarity. Later Morris chairs, like those manufactured during the Arts and Crafts movement, were heavier and simpler. They had wide paddle-like arms, plainly crafted legs and square slats supporting the back and arms. An antique chair will show signs of wear. The upholstery, if it hasn’t been replaced, may be worn through in spots. A leather covering will be cracked and will have a patina that comes only from years of wear. The arms will look smoother and more worn where a person rested his hands. If the chair doesn't show normal signs of wear, it may be a comtemporary Morris chair or it may have been refinished, making it worth less than a true antique chair.
Look for labels and tags. Many furniture companies marked their chairs with identifying labels, tags and decals. While not all of these survived the years, finding one can help calculate the chair's value.
Look online at auction sites like eBay to see what the average asking price of Morris chairs is and then check back to see what the chairs actually sold for. Visit antique shops and shows to see what dealers are hoping to get. A 1902 Gustav Stickley Morris chair with the original finish, cushions and authentic Stickley label recently sold for over $46,000. This is a rare find. More common Morris chairs of the early 1900s have been appraised at around $3,000.
Consult an expert. An appraiser will give you her professional opinion as to the worth of your chair based on condition, age and manufacturer’s marks, if any. If you know the history, or provenance, of the chair, that will add to its authenticity as well as its value.
Any antique is worth only what someone is willing to pay for it.
An antique's value is not affected by sentimentality.
Jan Czech has been writing professionally since 1993. Czech has published seven children's books, including “The Coffee Can Kid," which received a starred review from School Library Journal. She is a certified English/language arts teacher and holds a Bachelor of Arts in education from Niagara University.