Antique Sofa Guide: How to Identify, Value & Sell Vintage Couches

Do you have an old sofa or couch handed down in your family that you suspect may be an antique? Before tossing it to the curb or selling it for a few dollars at a garage sale, it‘s worth investigating if that vintage piece is a valuable antique worth real money. Antique sofas in good condition from the right eras and designers have sold for thousands or even millions at auction.

In this ultimate guide, we‘ll walk you through everything you need to know to identify, value, and sell an antique or vintage sofa. Discover if that dusty old couch in storage is a hidden treasure!

What Makes a Sofa an Antique?

For a sofa to be considered a genuine antique, it needs to be at least 100 years old. Vintage sofas are at least 20 years old but less than 100. Anything newer than 20 years old is simply considered "used furniture."

However, age alone doesn‘t make an antique sofa valuable. Condition, rarity, and provenance (history of ownership) also determine if an old couch is worth money. A sofa that is over 100 years old but in terrible condition may not have much value. But an antique sofa in pristine shape, made by a famous designer, and with an interesting ownership history could be incredibly valuable.

Generally, for an old sofa to have significant value as an antique, it should meet the following criteria:

  • Made over 100 years ago (pre-1920s for antiques as of 2022)
  • In good to excellent condition with minimal wear and damage
  • Rare or unique design from a desirable style period
  • Created by a renowned furniture maker or designer
  • Has a compelling provenance or ownership history

Now let‘s look at how you can identify an antique sofa and determine which style and era it comes from.

How to Identify an Antique Sofa

identifying parts of an antique sofa

The first step in identifying an antique sofa is to carefully examine its construction and materials. This will give you clues to when and how it was made. Antique sofas have distinct differences from modern couches, such as:

  • Solid wood frame – Antique sofas will have frames made of solid hardwood like oak, walnut, mahogany or cherry. Look for dovetail joints, mortise and tenon joints, or dowels – not particle board, plywood, metal fasteners or Phillips head screws which indicate a newer piece.
  • Hand-tied springs – Antique sofas utilized hand-tied coil springs in the foundation for support. Modern furniture uses zigzag coil springs or sinuous springs.
  • Natural stuffing materials – Cushions in old sofas were stuffed with natural materials like horsehair, goose down, wool or cotton. Newer pieces use synthetic foam and plush batting.
  • Old textiles – Original upholstery on antique sofas may include materials like silk, velvet, brocade, needlepoint, leather, or woven tapestries. Mid-century modern sofas may have barkcloth or nubby wool textiles.

If the frame, springs, and stuffing materials all appear to be pre-1920s, then you likely have a genuine antique sofa. The style and design are the next clues to pinpoint when the sofa was made.

Popular Antique Sofa Styles

Sofas and couches as we know them today didn‘t exist until the late 17th century. Here is a quick guide to some of the most prevalent antique sofa styles and their characteristics:

William and Mary (1690-1735)

William and Mary style sofa
– Characterized by high backs, scrolled arms, cabriole legs, and Turkish-inspired upholstery
– Named for co-regents William III and Mary II of England
– One of the earliest sofa designs, marking a shift away from benches and settles

Chippendale (1750-1780)

Chippendale camelback sofa
– Classified by straight or cabriole legs, upholstered seats, and intricately carved wooden framework
– Named after British cabinet-maker Thomas Chippendale who helped popularize the style
– Subsets include Gothic Chippendale, Chinese Chippendale, and French Rococo influenced pieces

Hepplewhite (1780-1810)

Hepplewhite style settee
– Features a light and elegant frame, tapered legs, shield-shaped backs, and sculptural details
– Named after London furniture maker George Hepplewhite
– Commonly made of Mahogany and inspired by Louis XVI, French Neoclassical design

American Federal (1780-1820)

Federal style sofa
– Characterized by Neoclassical design motifs, cleanly tapered legs, and graceful lines
– Popular with wealthy Americans after the Revolutionary War
– Sometimes called "Sheraton style" after furniture maker Thomas Sheraton

Regency (1800-1830)

Regency style sofa
– Typified by scrolled arms, brass inlay, turned legs, and more masculine lines
– Named for the Regency era in England and reign of King George IV
– Reflected Greco-Roman influences and archaeological discoveries of the time

Victorian (1840-1910)

Victorian style parlor sofa
– Defined by heavy proportions, elaborate wood carvings, dark finishes, and rich upholstery
– Corresponded with the reign of Queen Victoria, the Industrial Revolution, and mass production of furniture
– Included various revival substyles like Rococo Revival, Gothic Revival, Egyptian Revival, and more

Chesterfield (1800s)

tufted leather Chesterfield sofa
– Features a tufted back, rolled arms, and often made of leather
– Commissioned by the Earl of Chesterfield in the 18th century, but not widely produced until the 19th century
– An enduring sofa style that is still replicated today

Art Nouveau (1890-1910)

Art Nouveau era sofa
– Exemplified by whiplash curves, asymmetrical lines, and nature-inspired motifs
– Rose in contrast to mass production, with an emphasis on craftsmanship
– Eventually gave rise to the Art Deco style in the 1920s

These are just a few of the major antique sofa styles. Familiarizing yourself with the distinguishing features of each era and designer can help you identify and value an antique sofa. But if you‘re still unsure, it‘s wise to consult an expert for a professional valuation and authentication.

How to Value an Antique Sofa

So you‘ve carefully inspected your sofa and believe it to be a true antique based on its age, construction, and style. How do you determine what it‘s worth? Here are some options for valuing an antique sofa:

DIY Valuation Tips

valuing an antique sofa
If you want to get a ballpark idea of your antique sofa‘s value, here are a few tips to do your own research:

Professional Appraisal

For a more definitive valuation, it‘s best to have your antique sofa appraised by a professional. An appraisal will give you a documented opinion of the sofa‘s fair market value.
antique furniture appraiser inspecting a sofa

Seek out an appraiser who specializes in antique furniture and has professional credentials from organizations like:

Expect to pay a flat fee or hourly rate for the appraisal. While it costs money, an appraisal is useful if you plan to sell the piece or insure it. Keep in mind an appraisal is an educated opinion, not a guarantee of selling price.

Where to Buy and Sell Antique Sofas

antique sofa for sale in a decorated living room

If you‘re in the market to buy or sell an antique sofa, consider these reputable options:

Antique Stores and Dealers

Shop or consign with local antique stores and dealers in your area. They can offer in-person evaluation and handle the hard work of finding a buyer. You‘ll pay a commission on the sale, typically 20-50%.

Auction Houses

Sell your antique sofa through a live or online auction house that specializes in antique furniture. The piece will be promoted to their audience of collectors and dealers. Expect to pay a seller‘s premium on top of the hammer price.

Online Marketplaces

List your sofa for sale on sites like eBay, Facebook Marketplace, and Craigslist. For more curated antiques, try 1stDibs, Chairish, Etsy, and Ruby Lane. Be cautious of scams when selling online and vet potential buyers.

Estate Sales

If you‘re liquidating an entire house of antique furniture, consider hosting an estate sale. Shoppers can see the sofa in context and you may attract collectors and dealers. Hire a professional estate sale company to handle the event.

Whichever selling route you choose, be realistic about your pricing and open to negotiation. Not every old sofa is a valuable antique, but the right piece in great condition can be a special find.


We hope this guide has helped you identify, value, and sell your antique sofa. The world of antique furniture can be tricky to navigate, but with some careful research and expert advice, you can determine if you have a rare gem on your hands.

Whether you keep your antique sofa as a statement piece or pass it on to an appreciative buyer, these vintage pieces carry a rich history. By learning about antique sofa styles and valuation, you can become a more knowledgeable collector and preservationist of these timeless treasures.

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