There were barber chairs around the civil war, made by Rechel Brothers and others.
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The first and most important aspect of any vintage barber chair is its authenticity: since so few true vintage barber chair models are available, many replicas exist, and the difference between the two can sometimes be difficult to determine. Look for well-known brands that are known to be true antiques, and be sure not to buy a chair that is advertised as made before the 20th century. The first barber chair was invented and came into common use in the early 20th century, so a chair advertised as older than that could be a replica.
The overall condition of the vintage barber chair will have a significant impact on the cost of the chair as well as the comfort level and visual appeal. Be sure to look for a vintage barber chair that is in relatively good condition, or in such condition that refurbishments will be possible. Structural damage to the frame of the chair will be more difficult to repair, while upholstery can usually be repaired or replaced fairly easily. If you plan on using the vintage barber chair in a barber shop, tattoo shop, or other business in which customers will sit in the chair regularly, you must also make sure the chair is safe and solidly constructed, ensuring it is ready for regular use.
Be sure to research the different vintage barber chair brands commonly found in the antique market. Koken, Koch, and Weber are the more common vintage chairs, and in order to find a true vintage chair from these brands, be sure to research the common characteristics of each according to the time period in which the chair was made. If you encounter a chair that is advertised as antique or vintage, confirm by your research whether the chair fits the qualifications of antique or vintage. This may require some digging, but plenty of resources are available on the internet to help you distinguish between an authentic chair and a fraud.
Remember that a true vintage barber chair will cost a fairly significant amount of money. If you want the look and feel of a vintage chair but you do not want to pay the vintage prices, you may want to consider a replica chair. These chairs will be built new, but in the style and tradition of vintage chairs. Anyone considering this style of chair for regular business may want to purchase replicas to avoid safety issues that may arise from the antiquated vintage chairs.