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A Sturdy Seat

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Question: This little metal and wood "Envoy" chair surely came from an old classroom. What can you tell me about its history and value?

Answer: American Seating's Envoy line of mid-20th-century school furniture was a grade ahead of the cast-iron and maple desk and chair units it produced when the firm was founded in 1886 at the Grand Rapids School Furniture Company. These chairs were made in at least four sizes to fit grade-school children through adults. A similar Envoy chair was outfitted with a desktop and a book compartment in the base. Online listings sometimes attribute the Envoy chairs to Charles and Ray Eames, the renowned mid-century modern furniture designers, but I have not been able to confirm the connection. These sturdy chairs have survived the school of hard knocks in remarkable numbers. They are found at online sites priced from $25 apiece to a little more than $100.

-- By Tom Hoepf, associate editor of Auction Central News