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.

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.

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.

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12 most popular IKEA products of all time
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12 most popular IKEA products of all time
12. Ribba frames make your photos and art pop.

Price: $1.99 — $19.99. 
Find it here.

Simplicity is a top design principle at IKEA, and the Ribba frame series proves it.

Ribba frames come in a variety of sizes and in black, white, and steely gray.

11. The Färgrik mug is the quintessential coffee cup.

Price: $0.99
Find it here. 

The white stoneware Färgrik mug goes with any kitchen color scheme — plain and simple.

Plus, you won't break the bank replacing it if one crashes on the floor.

10. The Klippan loveseat fits small budgets and smaller apartments.

Price: $399
Find it here.

Stretching just over 70 inches, the Klippan sofa squeezes into most shoebox apartments. It's available in white, gray, and caramel.

If you make a tough stain, you can buy a replacement cover for as little as $29.

9. The Docksta table completes a minimalist kitchen.

Price: $179
Find it here.

The Docksta table blends in with its soft edges and a simple silhouette. The white finish allows an eclectic assortment of chairs or decorations to stand out.

8. The Ektorp sofa is built to last.

Price: $499
Find it here.

Small details such as the strong seams, changeable covers, and reversible seat cushions toughen up the Ektorp sofa to withstand years of use.

Plus, the foam and polyester fiber-packed seat cushions give great support.

7. The Lack table series hardly lacks style.

Price: $7.99 – $49.99
Find it here.

"Basic" isn't a bad thing when it comes to IKEA's preeminent table series. 

Tables, ranging in size and proportions, come in a wide variety of colors and finishes. They're lightweight so you can move them easily and feng shui your living room over and over again.

6. The Stockholm rugs add a burst of color to any room.

Price: $99 – $349
Find them here.

Stockholm rugs are made by hand in textile centers in India that provide good working conditions and fair wages, according to IKEA.

They're also adorable and available in checkered and picnic-blanket-like patterns.

5. The Rens sheepskin rug brings warmth into your home.

Price: $29.99

Find it here.

IKEA's white sheepskin rug begs to be thrown in front of a fireplace and curled upon. It's irresistibly soft.

The wool is soil-repellent and durable, though not machine-washable.

4. The Kallax shelving series became an instant classic.

Price: $15 – $249
Find it here.

The internet freaked out when IKEA discontinued everyone's favorite shelf, the Expedit. But it's back with a new name (Kallax) and a sleek new design.

Kallax shelves, which come in multiple sizes, are durable thanks to a scratch-resistant surface and rounded corners that make them less painful to bump into.

3. The Malm bed frame series streamlines the bedroom.

Price: $149 – $559
Find it here.

A millennial's first apartment isn't complete without a Malm bed frame. The Malm come in two flavors: one that raises the mattress high off the floor and another that includes storage.

2. The Poäng chair sells 1.5 million units a year.

Price: $109 – $229
Find it here.

Created by famed Japanese designer Noboru Nakamura, the Poäng chair is one of the most iconic IKEA products of all time. It recently celebrated its 40th birthday with a limited-edition frame and six new covers.

Style, quality, and an affordable price point helped the Poäng chair stand the test of time.

1. The Billy bookcase is the most ubiquitous piece of IKEA furniture.

Price: $69.99 – $544.97
Find it here.

A Billy bookcase sells every 10 seconds, according to the New York Times. Why? It speaks directly to the IKEA ethos of simplicity that makes the company a global success.

The Billy bookcase can also grow with its owner over time. New shelves can be added when your library expands, and it's available in a variety of heights, widths, and finishes.

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"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.

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.

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IKEA around the world
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IKEA around the world
Shoppers wait in a long queue outside a store of Ikea in Gwangmyeong, south of Seoul, on December 18, 2014. Global furniture giant Ikea opened its first store in South Korea a much-anticipated market entry that has stumbled at a number of commercial and cultural hurdles along the way. AFP PHOTO / JUNG YEON-JE (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
ALMHULT, SWEDEN - MAY 12: KEA CEO Peter Agnefjà ll announced a collection of furniture that can wirelessly charge devices at the Democratic Design Day conference at the IKEA headquarters in rural Sweden. May 12, 2015. (Randy Risling/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Shoppers walk past a logo of Ikea at its store in Gwangmyeong, south of Seoul, on December 18, 2014. Global furniture giant Ikea opened its first store in South Korea a much-anticipated market entry that has stumbled at a number of commercial and cultural hurdles along the way. AFP PHOTO / JUNG YEON-JE (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
EMERYVILLE, CA - JUNE 26: A customer leaves an IKEA store on June 26, 2014 in Emeryville, California. Swedish furniture retailer IKEA announced that it plans to raise the minimum wage for its retail employees in the U.S. by an average of 17 percent in 2015. The minimum wage will increase by an average of $1.59 to $10.76 an hour. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
A picture taken on November 28, 2013 in Toulouse shows the parking of an Ikea store.AFP PHOTO / REMY GABALDA (Photo credit should read REMY GABALDA/AFP/Getty Images)
An aerial view shows a Ikea department store on November 17, 2011 over Vitrolles, southern France. AFP PHOTO/GERARD JULIEN (Photo credit should read GERARD JULIEN/AFP/Getty Images)
View of the Ikea store in Roissy-en-France, north of Paris, as workers of the Swedish furniture designer Ikea hold a national strike calling for higher wages. The strike hit 16 of the 26 French stores, and some 500 workers out of the 5,500 due to work today according to management and about 50% of the personel according to the CGT union, one of the three unions that called for the strike. AFP PHOTO / JACQUES DEMARTHON (Photo credit should read JACQUES DEMARTHON/AFP/Getty Images)
A general view of Swedish retail giant IKEA in the coastal Israeli city of Netanya on August 24, 2009. Israel pressed Stockholm to condemn a report by a Swedish newspaper about alleged body-snatching that has stoked tensions between the two countries. Sweden's Aftonbladet newspaper sparked the row last week when it published a report claiming Israeli soldiers snatched Palestinian youths to steal their organs and returned their dismembered bodies days later. The Swedish government has declined to condemn the piece, saying it has to respect the principle of freedom of expression enshrined in its constitution. Hundreds of Israelis have signed an online petition to boycott the Swedish retail giant IKEA to protest the article and Stockholm's stance, the daily Haaretz reported. AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
NANJING, CHINA - AUGUST 28: (CHINA OUT) A member of staff works in a new IKEA store on August 28, 2008 in Nanjing of Jiangsu Province, China. IKEA launched a new store in Nanjing, the sixth shop in China, covering an area of over 30,000 square meters. (Photo by China Photos/Getty Images)
Haparanda, SWEDEN: Visitors at the new IKEA furniture department store 15 November 2006 in Haparanda at the very northern Swedish boarder to Finland and Russia. AFP Photo/Thord Nilsson (Photo credit should read THORD NILSSON/AFP/Getty Images)
BEIJING - APRIL 12: A Chinese worker performs during the opening ceremony of IKEA's new Siyuanqiao store on April 12, 2006 in Beijing, China. The world's leading home furnishings retailer, opens the 43,000 square meter store which is the world's second largest IKEA store on Wednesday. (Photo by Cancan Chu/Getty Images)
BRISTOL, ENGLAND - AUGUST 12: The sponsors balloon is seen as part of the night glow balloon display at the 'IKEA Bristol International Balloon Fiesta' at the Ashton Court Estate on August 12, 2004 in Bristol, England. The 26th annual festival, which runs until August 15, is the largest balloon fiesta outside the U.S. attracting 150 balloons and over 500,000 visitors. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
DELFT, NETHERLANDS - DECEMBER 11: The exterior of an IKEA store is shown December 4, 2002 in Delft, the Netherlands. All 10 stores of the furniture retailing giant in the Netherlands were closed after explosives were found December 4 in IKEA stores in Amsterdam and Sliedrecht, the Netherlands. (Photo by Michel Porro/Getty Images)
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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.

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