Hitchcock furniture was produced from 1825- until his death in 1852 and from the fall of 1948 to spring of 2006. There are some tell tale ways of telling the approximate age of a chair.
Will refinishing my Hitchcock furniture bring the value down?
The answer is definetely not if it is done right. It will only bring the value up. Like I stated above, Hitchcock (even in the 1800's) was mass produced furniture and will never be worth millions. Antique chairs sell for less than used newer ones. All good furniture must be well made and all Hitchcock furniture is well made, but what really makes a piece of Hitchcock furniture valuable is the ornamentation (stenciling, striping, banding) and the finish. There is nothing special about the materials used. They are just quality paints and stains and any refinisher can restore that. The hard part is the stenciling. If someone has the exact stencil patterns and someone who knows how to do Hitchcock stenciling than it will bring up the value. You can take it one step further and Bring your pieces to us and we can do a full restoration on it. We have a separate site for that. You can click right here www.hitchcockrestoration.com and it will bring you there.
1825-1832 chairs were all sighned "L. HITCHCOCK HITCHCOCKSVILLE CONN WARRANTED" All the "N"s should be written correctly and NOT BACKWARDS. You will only find chairs. Hitchcock did not make case furniture in that factory that anyone knows of so if you have anything other than a chair that is signed it was made after 1950. Anything with the "R" for registered trademark was made after 1952.
1832-1843 chairs were all sighned " HITCHCOCK,ALFORD& Co HITCHCOCKSVILLE,CONN WARRANTED" These chairs can have both backwards "N"s and correctly written "N"s, and no registered trademark.The reason for this was that many of the factory workers could not read or write and they were required to cut their own signature stencils.
1843-1852- it is presumed chairs were unsighned. Hitchcock had little to do with the factory at this point because he had opened another cabinet making shop in another part of the state. This is where everyone says that their unsigned "genuine" Hitchcock chair was made. Every time I get someone telling me it is genuine Hitchcock, all I can say is prove it. Truth be told there is nothing special about a signed Hitchcock antique. These chairs were massed produced back in the 19th century just like they were in the 20th century. They will never be expensive antiques for this reason and that is why a good condition newer slat rush chair is worth more than an antique one.
1948-1952 all chairs were signed "L. HITCHCOCK HITCHCOCKSVILLE CONN WARRANTED" IN A LARGER THAN NORMAL FONT WITH BOTH BACKWARDS "n"S AND CORRECTLY WRITTEN ONES. Hitchcock made ONLY rush seated chairs, some mirrors, and a couple of benches and it seems they had the signature that they use today with the larger font. The first wood seated chair Hitchcock ever produced was the Inn chair, and I am still not sure of the exact year it was first offered, but it was after 1952. ALL HITCHCOCK CHAIRS MADE FROM 1948 ON WILL HAVE THE "HCCo" STAMPED ON THE BOTTOM. Hitchcock chairs of today were blueprinted from antiques. Hitchcock chair co. agreed to stamp every piece so people would not confuse them with antiques.
1952 Hitchcock used the "HITCHCOCK ALFORD.&CO HITCHCOCKS-VILLE CONN. WARRANTED" with the cirlcled "R" for a registered trademark (unlike the antique pieces). This signature is found mostly on mirrors. The Hitchcock chair book does does not specifically say what signatures were used and when during this period, just when the names were registered.
1955 - 2006 All chairs were signed how we usually see them with the "L. HITCHCOCK HITCHCOCKSVILLE CONN WARRANTED" With the backwards "n"s and registered trademark. The registered trademark is not always there because it could be missed when the stenciling is done, or it would rub off. I have seen more than a few blurry or incomplete signatures. Its part of the artistry.
CARING FOR YOUR FURNITURE
Hitchcock furniture like most all modern furniture had a clear lacquer finish on it. Because of this , you just have to use a mild soap and water. I would not recommend using any polishes or oils. Your clear coat finish that every piece gets is what protects the finish. Polishes, oils and waxes will not protect the clear coat finish and will actually have the opposite effect. It will actually slowly eat away at the finish. (see the next paragraph)
ANother thing I reccomend to do (if you can) is have high use items such as tables and chairs re-shot with laquer. When you see paint rubbed off the arms of chairs, it means the clear laquer has to rub off first. This really is going the extra mile and almost no one does it, but if you want it to last even longer and freshen it up, I reccomend a professional spraying (in a paint booth) with a quality professional grade satin clear finish.
My chair's finish is sticky and it will not clean off.
When this happens it is usually the clear coat finish breaking down and the only thing you can do is strip and refinish the chair. This happens because of waxes, polishes and oils. The biggest culprit is the oil from your hands. It happens most often at the tops of the chair where you grab them to move them. It also happens there because it is the most polished place
WHITE, BLONDE, LIGHT YELLOW, ETC HITCHCOCK FURNITURE
As you can see, this section is really just a hodge podge of info. When I start to get alot of questions about a particular subject, i research it to the best of my abilities and write a short paragraph or 2 hoping it will help someone. I have seen alot of white Hitchcock furniture listed as "blonde", "yellow", " off white", etc. The color is called "white". It is not a refrigerator white, but kind off a creamy off white. Now, why does the white furniture turn yellowish after time you ask? It is because of a combination of 2 things, the sun, and Amber. Until the early 1990's, the laquer protective finish on all furniture had amber in it. When the sun hits the amber in the finish, it turns it yellow. I cannot begin to tell you how many husbands who are smokers I got off the hook explaining that it was not caused by the affects of their cigarette smoking. Today there is a true clear satin finish, and newer white Hitchcock furniture (like MOST of my x-mas) will never turn yellow. This really happens to all Hitchcock furniture (and all furniture) but it is really only on the white that you notice it.
There are 2 types of rush seating I see used on Hitchcock chairs when they are replaced. There is natural rush which is cattail rush grown in 1 part of NY state (Hitchcock's anyways) and Fiber rush which is twisted paper. Hitchcock NEVER used fiber rush. Their chairs are all hand woven, that is why they are so expensive to replace. Also, when replacing the seat, the front, back, and sides must be removed. The plugs on the front must be drilled out to remove the screws. Going back together new plugs must be made, shaven down to size, and touched up with paint or stain. Alot of times the side pieces are brittle and break, and must be replaced. That is why you see prices in the $150-$200 range for replacing a seat. DO NOT BE FOOLED, A RUSH SEAT CAN NEVER BE REPAIRED, ONLY REPLACED. If you want to spruce up your seats, even Hitchcock reccomends a coat of SHELAC every few years. Shelac should because it has more flexibility than clear laquer, but Hitchcock themselves switched to using a 50/50 mixture of wood glue and water which works great.