Why an old $77 Ikea chair now sells for thousands as a collectors' item


Think Ikea furniture isn't worth holding onto? Think again.

Millennials are getting older. They're becoming more established in their careers. That means more disposable income. So what are they buying with their extra cash?

Some are collecting vintage Ikea furniture. And they're paying thousands of dollars for it.

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Take these Verner Panton "Vilbert" chairs, for example. One chair sold for about $77 in 1993. Today, a set of four is going for $5,160 on auction site First Dibs. Too pricey? Just one chair from this Esty shop has one for a mere $814. The multi-colored chair consists consists of medium-density fiberboards screwed together to form a geometric seat.

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Old Ikea furniture is certainly having its heyday. The demand for vintage Ikea pieces has been growing over the last year, according to Barnebys. The auction and art search engine tracks sales around the world.

"Our records show that there is a huge demand, greater than ever before, for vintage Ikea furniture," Barnebys co-founder Pontus Silfverstolpe told Daily Mail. "There has been a big boom within the last year that has been felt in markets all across the world." Old chairs, tables, bookcases and even porcelain sets have been selling for thousands. One sold for just under $65,000.

The popularity of old Ikea pieces is also due to their familiarity. Many of the Ikea pieces fetching impressive prices at auction come from the '70s, '80s, and '90s. Silfverstolpe says when a new generation dips their toes into the auction world, they start by buying what they know. "They usually start to buy what they saw around them when growing up," he says.

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The U.S. Census Bureau states 1982 as the year the first Millennials were born. Pew Research Center cites 1981. That means "old" Millennials are now in their mid-30s. It's a generation that's moving on up. The Snapchat-addicted, still-living-at-mom's, crop-top-wearing Millennial stereotype doesn't represent this group at all.

What some Ikea furniture is worth 20x its original value

Not all old Ikea furniture falls into this upper echelon of auction-worthy. The BILLY bookcase from your college apartment isn't going to sell for thousands. The in-demand items have a couple key qualities.

FastCompany points out that many of these pieces were brought life by designers who ultimately went on to become some of the most recognizable names in Scandinavian furniture design. Those $5,160 chairs? They were designed by Verner Panton, an influential Denmark furniture and interior designer.

Much of the furniture is also quite rare. They were either limited runs, or were discontinued due to poor sales. Demand is much higher for certain pieces when there are simply fewer of them to get your hands on.

And of course, the more pristine the condition, the better. That might seem counterintuitive, as today's Ikea furniture isn't exactly heralded for its quality and longevity. It was a different story when the furniture retailer first entered the market in 1943. Many of Ikea's earlier products were well-made and have withstood the test of time, Barnebys co-founder Silfverstolpe says.