Collecting antiques is both a fun and fulfilling experience. You don't just learn about the rich history of the piece, you get the chance to preserve its essence too.
Antique barber chairs are huge, heavy and delicate collectibles. Special care must be taken in order to maintain their condition. However, a fully restored piece can sell for thousands of dollars. It's definitely worth keeping and maintaining one.
As with any antique piece, condition is everything with antique barber chairs. It doesn't necessarily have to be very pristine. However, it needs to be working. It's kinda pointless to own without having to even sit on it.
There is not so much information available on antique barber chairs online. Owner's manuals are also hard to come by. In most cases, you're on your own if you want to restore a piece that's not in good condition. There are also a handful of antique restorers that will do it for you for a fee.
One step that's always a must when restoring any antique item is taking photos before and during disassembly. Since there is no owner's manual for this kind of work, the photos will serve as a reference guide as to where the parts go. Without the photos, it will be like assembling a puzzle without even knowing how it will look like in the end. It doesn't just wastes your time, it's stressful as well. So once again, have a point and shoot camera ready prior to dismantling the piece.
Valuing these antique heavyweights depends on several factors. Aside from the condition, the brand or manufacturer is also significant. Koken, Kochs, Emil J. Paidar, Belmont and Louis Hanson each have their own distinctive qualities. Kokens in particular, are the first to incorporate hydraulic lifts. Because of this, they are very popular among collectors and are pricey as well. Early models of Kochs barber chairs were made of wood, so very few survived the test of time. The one's that are in good condition are mostly displayed in museums. The remaining models being sold in auction houses can command a higher price.
Antique collectors love Koken barber chairs due to their remarkable style and superior quality. They were state-of-the-art in their hay days, being the first to feature a hydraulic lift for easy handling. The technology wasn't only convenient for barbers, it got the customers engaged too. Overall, it was good for business.
In the 1890's, Ernest Koken had already began working on his hydraulic lift barber chair design. Ernest, a German citizen, was already a reputable individual since 1874 (at age 19). But back then, he worked for a factory selling custom china shaving mugs. When he was just a young boy, Ernest would look at prototype designs as a pastime activity. He was an engineer by heart. It's no wonder that in 1881, he patented his reclining chair design. A decade later (in 1892), he patented his hydraulic chair. If you notice the modern barber chairs these days, most of them are hydraulically powered. This is all thanks to Ernest Koken.
At The Top
When Ernest died in 1907 due to heart failure, his son, Walter went on to run Koken Barber's Supply Company based in St. Louis. Not long after, the company had become the leading barber supply business in the United States. They didn't just sell barber chairs. They provided just about any barber supply as well, including lather brushes, razors, scissors, mirror cases, tool cases and many more. The building still exists today, bounded by Ohio, Sidney and Victor Streets, and alley of Texas Avenue. The National Register of Historic Places in St. Louis, Missouri lists the location as a historic district.
The company went bankrupt in the 1950's due to stiff competition. There were a lot of competing brands that claimed to have similar or better features at discounted prices. Add to that, the times were changing. In the early 60's long hair was all the rage, thanks to John, Paul, George and Ringo. Barbers didn't exactly know how to cut long hair. It turned out that the guys wanted a hairstyle instead of a haircut. In 1969, the Takara Belmont Company acquired Koken along with its numerous patents.
Up to this day, the Koken brand is still being endorsed by Takara Belmont. In 2011, they released the Koken Legacy Barber Chair with prices starting at 4,700 dollars. The brand has come a long way. It definitely wasn't priced that high in the early 1900's, but it goes to show how reputable these chairs are. The antique units are even more pricey, selling for nearly 7,000 bucks for a fully restored chair.
Koken is unquestionably THAT antique barber chair.
Kochs antique barber chairs are one of the oldest barber chairs in the United States. The Theo A. Kochs Company was formed in 1871 along Chicago's busy streets in the north. It produced chairs that improved on the models made by Berninghaus Co. and Archer Company. In addition, it also produced several kinds of barber's supply like poles, mirror cases, stools, shelves and wash stands.
Kochs barber chairs are made with top quality parts. No wonder they still exist today. Simply do a Google search on "kochs barber chair parts" and you'll find that many people have parts available for your particular model. Most of the time, the ones that go missing are the headrest and the wooden base. However, there are restoration services that can fabricate the parts that are beyond repair.
The Kochs Gold Medal Hydraulic Barber's Chair, No. 25 is an example of the company's earlier design. Most of its parts are made of quarter-sawed Oak wood and finished with golden varnish. In the middle is a reclining mechanism, controlled by a handle on one side. At the base is the hydraulic lift which is controlled by a mechanism that can be stepped on. The upholstery is composed of Mohair Plush leather that can be custom fitted with different colors.
Kochs barber chairs sold very well during their early days. Before 1885, more than thirty five thousand chairs have already gone out of the company's factory. This proved that its products are superior and efficient. A decade later, things have become very competitive. By 1905, the Kline Chair Company has filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Kochs but was later overturned. Competition eventually paved the way for other companies to emerge, including Koken and Emil J. Paidar.
Although we don't see that many Kochs chairs these days, the legacy that they left behind set the standards for eye-catching barber chair designs. The decorations seen in these chairs demonstrate the remarkable craftsmanship of their creators.
As of this writing, an eBay search of Emil J. Paidar would yield several vintage barber chairs and their parts. The chairs would sell anywhere from $400 for an "as-is" condition to more than $4500 for a fully restored and functional one. The listing on there is a testament of the brand's quality and design that's worthy of a collector's real estate and investment.
The Emil J. Paidar Company was based in Chicago, and it manufactured barber chairs from the early 20th century until the 70's. At one point in the company's existence, it was the nation's top manufacturer. It also made several other barber supplies that are both elegant and consistent with the brand. Among others, they include wall fixtures, barber poles, manicure tables, work cabinets and shoe shining stands.
In the 1930's, the company struggled to grow due to the country's economic situation. No matter how hard the times were, it managed to survive and eventually prosper. World War II helped Emil J. Paidar raise revenue through large incoming orders of cartridge cases as well as other war supplies. It became the biggest barber chair manufacturer in the late 1950's with a seventy percent share of the market.
The late 50's was also the time that the newcomer, Takara Belmont Company entered the US market. Since this competitor was based in Japan, it had the advantage of outsourcing less costly parts. It allegedly made barber chairs similar to that of Emil J. Paidar at a significantly lower price point. Intense competition wasn't beneficial at all to the leading manufacturer. Aside from the changing times, it was difficult for the business to keep loyal customers. With a cheaper price and rather similar features, it simply didn't make sense to purchase the more expensive brand.
In 1969, Emil J. Paidar saw its inevitable downfall with Takara Belmont's purchase of Koken Barber's Supply Company, the second largest manufacturer before Takara Belmont's arrival. Subsequently, its market share dwindled. It eventually went out of business, leaving the Japanese company the leading manufacturer until today.
The Takara Belmont Company is currently the leading manufacturer of barber equipment in the world. It surpassed its competitors in the United States when it entered the market in 1956. When it acquired Koken Manufacturing Co. in 1969, its market share basically increased to 70%. The company is known for its Belmont barber chairs which are well designed and are top quality while being priced competitively. These days, it continues to develop more sophisticated models that are functional and exquisite.
Hidenobu Yoshikawa began Takara Chuzo Ltd. in Japan back in 1921. A decade later (in 1931), barber chair production began. Barber chairs was the company's main selling point. Fast forward to 1950, when it released the hydraulic adjustable barber chair. In 1956, it established the Takara Company N.Y. Inc. as an offshore subsidiary. This would eventually come to be Takara Belmont USA, Inc. In 1959, the overseas venture continued by the setting up of Belmont Chairs London Ltd. Takara's growth did not stop there. In the 60's, it expanded to cosmetic products by partnering with Wella, a company based in Germany.
In as early as the late 1800's, the barber supply industry in the United States was already booming, with the Archer Company and the Eugene Berninghaus Company leading the charge. They developed the first barber chairs that would later on become the benchmark of barber chair designs. Soon after, Theo A. Kochs Company and Kline Chair Company followed with their own designs that supposedly improved on the previous models made by competing firms. In the early 1900's, Koken Barber's Supply Co. and Emil J. Paidar Company emerged as the fiercest rivals. Both of these manufacturers made the finest and most innovative chairs at that time. There were ups and downs along the way, but it wasn't until the arrival of the Takara Company that the industry became more interesting. There was even a filed complaint that suggests raising import taxes foreign barber shop manufacturers in an attempt to level the playing field. But that hasn't stopped the newcomer from gaining more market share. By 1969, Koken sold out to Takara Belmont. As a result, a new market leader was born.
The barber chair that you see in modern barber shops today is probably from Takara Belmont. But one of the best chairs to have your haircut on is certainly from an antique Belmont barber chair.