If it’s popular – it will be copied. It was true then – and it’s true now. Over the past few years – and no doubt directly related to the website this blog belongs to – I am becoming increasingly fascinated with tell-tale signs a piece is genuine or fake. I hope this post will be the first of many, where I can share what I learn along the way.
Today I came across an article on Eames and the areas to keep an eye out for when buying – if the aim is indeed to acquire a genuine piece.
The most valuable Eames pieces date from the first decade of production: 1946-1956. But pieces from the later ’50s to the early ’60s can have collectible value, too. The designs for the home range were being phased out in the mid 60s while the business lines continued so in terms of collecting the latter has less value today.
Roughly 70% of pieces had paper marks, so the presence or even remnants of one is a good sign. However it’s important to bear in mind that the lack of a mark is in no way conclusive that you’re dealing with a fake – as the labeling back then was a bit loose.
The paper stickers were usually colored red, cream or black and typically say “Charles Eames” or “Designed by Charles Eames.” They also have the name of the manufacturer: Herman Miller Furniture Company including logo. Underneath it will say Zeeland, Michigan or Venice, California, which are the locations of the company’s factories. Keep an eye out for more specific addresses in particular longer postcodes as they didn’t exist in the 1950s. The molded fiberglass models such as the popular Bucket and Shell chairs are highly collectable and often have marks with the name ‘Zenith Plastics’ still on them.
On wooden chairs, tables and recliners, the sticker often includes the name “Evans” from the Evans Product Company that manufactured the plywood the Eames used.
The underside of a piece may also have three letters stamped, impressed or hand-written on it. These letter abbreviations are the model names such as “LCW” which stands for “Low Chair Wood”, for example, while “DCM” means “Dining Chair Metal.”
The finish on an original Eames piece would apear faded and carry the signs of 50 years worth of wear and tear. Keep an eye out for pieces in pristine bright and glossy condition claiming to be original vintage. The earliest furniture was in muted colours. Bright saturated hues were introduced later.
But although signs of age are a good thing – the overall condition is important and the more original the condition the better. Items can take a serious hit to their value if they have been refinished or altered in any way.
Like with anything collectable the value increases if a piece is rare. Some Eames models were made in various colours or upholstery, some of which had very limited production runs and as such they are more valuable than the rest.
I’m a firm believer in originals and licensed manufacturers when it comes to design products and I would rather go without (which I frequently do) than buy an item claiming to be something it’s not. I prefer to put my available budget towards the best my money can buy in terms of materials, design and craftsmanship but that’s just me – and probably why I have a few empty spots in my home waiting for that perfect piece.
Know Your Eames