Furniture designer buys 30s chair for $50: sells at Sotheby's for $85k

Sitting on a goldmine: LA furniture expert, 33, buys 1930s Danish wingback chair for $50 from Facebook marketplace – then sells it at Sotheby’s for $85,000

  • Justin Miller, 33, found a leather chair on Facebook Marketplace being sold by a homeowner in Beverly Hills
  • He went to look at the chair, and thought it was impressive: research told him it could be valuable, but he had no idea how much
  • On June 7 the 1930s chair by Danish designer Frits Henningsen was sold at auction by Sotheby’s and reached $85,000 

A Los Angeles-based furniture designer is celebrating after buying a leather chair for $50 on Facebook Marketplace – and then selling it for $85,000.

Justin Miller, 33, said he thought the Danish wingback chair, dating from the 1930s, was worth more than the sellers wanted, but he had no idea it would be worth 1,700 times the sale price.

‘I make home content for TV and social media, so I spend a lot of time on Facebook Marketplace finding items for projects I am working on,’ he told Newsweek.

‘Whenever I find something that looks unique and well made, I will look up online to learn more about it.’

The brown chair was created by Danish designer Frits Henningsen.

‘When I first saw the chair, I loved the color of leather, and I thought it had a really interesting shape, so I wanted to learn more about it,’ Miller said.

Justin Miller, 33, found this chair at a Beverly Hills house sale via Facebook Marketplace

Miller posted a TikTok showing the Sotheby’s auction happening, in real time

Replying to @harryjowsey I CAN’T BELIEVE IT!! My chair finally went to auction. What you see here is the hammer price, the buyer ended up paying $22k more on top of this. Thank you to the @Sotheby’s team for their hard work. CRAZY! #homedecor #interiordesign #diy #thriftfinds #thrifted #facebookmarketplace #sothebys #auction #rarefind #antique

He found it when a Beverly Hills family listed their furniture for sale, and when he went to inspect it in person the owners said it was ‘worth a lot of money’.

Henningsen was known for his ‘exceptional craftsmanship and innovative approach to creating beautiful furniture,’ according to Sotheby’s – which sold the chair at auction on June 7.

They described the chair as ‘a rare and important example of his work’.

‘Henningsen, having learned from generations of furniture and cabinet makers in his family, utilized high-quality materials and traditional fabrication techniques to yield a sturdy and durable chair,’ Sotheby’s wrote.

‘The curved lines combine with the historic wingback form to create a visually novel yet elegant design.

‘The present chair, likely one of only fifty or so examples known to have been produced, retains its original leather and presents a unique opportunity to acquire a peerless object that has become an icon of Danish design.’

The leather was damaged, but Miller said Sotheby’s secured it, and buyers would restore it correctly.

‘The future owner will probably take it to a conservator and have it fixed properly and seamlessly. It’s insane what these leather restorers can do,’ Miller added.

Miller said he frequently buys and sells furniture online

The chair was eventually sold for $85,000 – the unknown buyer will also have to pay $22,000 in fees

He filmed a TikTok of the auction, which showed the moment the hammer came down.

Miller said he hoped it would reach $40,000, but he had no idea it would reach more than double that.

The ‘hammer price’ for the chair was $85,000, but the seller had an additional $22,000 of fees to pay – making the total amount paid $108,000.

‘I have found some amazing pieces on Facebook Marketplace,’ said Miller.

‘Definitely a few that could be sold for a few thousand each, but nothing quite like this.’

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