Antique School Desk: Identification And Value Guide

Many of us recall our first desks from elementary school, and this kind of furniture takes us back to our memorable childhood school days.

Antique school desks have been among us for centuries, and their designs transform from basic to more advanced and stylish levels.

Antique wooden school desks can be a fascinating find for someone looking to put together their study or office space. They can be a great complement to any home, especially ones that are built in historic districts.

So if you want to grab your hands on the vintage school desk and want to know everything about these remarkable antique desks, then keep reading!

In this guide, we will look at the history these antique school desks hold, different types of vintage school desks, their identification and value, and how these are helpful in the modern era!

Hence, stick to this guide, and you will leave with the most authentic and helpful information about antique school desks.  

Vintage Wooden School Desk
Vintage Wooden School Desk (Value: $69.00 Source: eBay)

Antique School Desk History

These antique school benches were produced in the late 1800s for use in one-room schools. Weathered surfaces and wear patterns on the slats are common characteristics of these benches.

Since the beginning of education, students have been using school desks that closely resemble those available in today’s educational institutions. The big difference between then and now is that they were much more plain and simplistic compared to the ones of today.

Vintage Mid Century 1950's 1960's Wooden School Desk
Vintage Mid Century 1950’s 1960’s Wooden School Desk (Value: $117.89 Source: eBay)

These antique school desks are designed for more than just writing on, but also to help students learn how to sit correctly and instill a sense of orderliness in children who may be rowdy at home or while waiting their turn in class.

In 1868,  Herbert L. Andrews from Chicago presented the first ever school desk design. The model’s primary purpose was to ensure students” comfort by adjusting the table height.  

There are different kinds of antique school desks, including those made out of hardwood and other materials such as metal and clay that contain carvings.

Antique School Desk Types

Many types of school furniture existed in the past, such as desks, stools, and chairs. These pieces were primarily made from wood or metal to prevent them from warping or rotting over time.

The school desk has gone through numerous phases over the past years. The early 18th-century classic wooden bench advanced to the 20th-century modern chrome design.

But there are some dominating designs and styles of antique desks that you can look up for your antique collection of desks for your garden, homes, and schools.

1. Standing Desk

At the end of the 19th century, standing school desks appeared. Their design is somehow similar to a fashion school desk.

Students can use this desk while sitting or standing as well. Fold the seat and push the desk up to work from a standing position.

These standing desks were more useful in younger grades because the students had to stand while answering or writing questions.

Numerous proof exists that prolonged sitting adversely affects blood circulation, making these standing tables a healthy option for kids.

Vintage Old 1950s Oak Wood School Desk
Vintage Old 1950s Oak Wood School Desk (Value:$88.43 Source: eBay)

2. Jean Prouve’s Desk

Jean Prouvé Dactylo BDM 41 Desk, Circa 1946
Jean Prouvé Dactylo BDM 41 Desk, Circa 1946 (Sold $32,800)

This simple wood and steel combination desk was from 1935. That was also a very cost-effective combination on the threshold of World War II. The Jean desk is also a symbol of unity and loyalty.

This desk is a two-seater with built-in storage space allowing the students to put their accessories while working.

3. Chrome Desk

Antique school desks continued to evaluate their designs and styles. This desk from the 1960s is made of chrome plastic rather than costly wood or steel used to make antique school desks.

This chrome desk also had a covered stored space under the desk. Students can access this area by holding up the desktop and utilizing it for their belongings.

Its modern appeal reflects the rise of modernism as public interest grows.

Vintage 1966Mid-Century Modern Child's School Desk and Chair, Green, Chrome
Vintage 1966Mid-Century Modern Child’s School Desk and Chair, Green, Chrome (Source: Etsy)

4. Adjustable School Desk

This one seated desk with some storage space is from the 1930s. But its most significant feature is its ability to adjust it to ensure the students’ comfort.

This fantastic antique school desk is not only fully functional as it was initially created, but also has a sizeable adjustable top that can be used as a table or writing surface! This desk has an authentic Victorian charm and will provide your child with plenty of years of the same enjoyable learning experience you had.

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Vintage Metal Melsur Mid Century School Desk Adjusted Height
Vintage Metal Melsur Mid Century School Desk Adjusted Height (Value: $100.00  Source: eBay)

5. Munkegaard Desk

Arne Jacobsen Munkegaard School Desk Produced by Fritz Hansen in Denmark
Arne Jacobsen Munkegaard School Desk Produced by Fritz Hansen in Denmark (Source $4,577.84)

It’s a lovely old-school design from 1955. This design includes a small chair and a detached desk.

The desk has a large writing area and plenty of storage space for all your school supplies.

6. Chinese Bench School Desk

Chinese Bench School Desk
Chinese Bench School Desk (Source: 1stdibs)

The Chinese bench school desk is from the early 19th century. This desk is different in style and does not match with its counterparts of the same ear from America and Europe.

Only a single student can use this desk because it is one seated.

The model comprised a seat and a chair that differed in storage space. It was the first time a pull-out drawer replaced the open space under the table as a storage space. Western designers later adopted this practical, creative solution in their models.

7. Skid Chair With Table


This 1950s school desk design made it easier to organize the classroom and gave students more autonomy. The table and chairs, in this case, were separate units made of wood.

Despite the construction’s minimalist appearance, a different finish from previous models increased durability. The simplified Danish model made it simple to change the classroom layout. Additionally, stacking during cleaning and storage was greatly simplified.

8. One Arm Desk

This one-arm desk style came up during the 1970s and is a modern version of the antique school desk. Some schools in developing and underdeveloped countries still use this one-arm desk for the students in classrooms and exam centers. The size counted incredibly small to save space with an essential desk-chair attachment.

The workable is attached to the chairs’ right side making it less comfortable for left-handed students.

This one-arm desk was initially made of wood, but now they are also available in plastic and chrome material.

Beautiful  Vintage Student Solid Wood School Desk
Beautiful  Vintage Student Solid Wood School Desk  (Value: $269.00 Source: eBay)

9. Welsh School Desk

Welsh School Desk

With its unique design, this Welsh antique school desk will be a perfect addition to any home. Originally from the 1920s, this is a masterpiece of Welsh craftsmanship, and it is made from solid oak and has been carefully restored.

The sloping front desk offers plenty of space for you or your child’s pencil case and other school accessories. Two drawers make this perfect for storing books or anything else you might need handy at the right time!

This beautiful piece of furniture would also make an ideal addition to any modern office space that needs some character. A great place to hide documents or some extra stationery while keeping your workspace neat!

10. Rettig Bench

Rettig Bench

The origin of this retting bench is in Germany. Its popularity grew after it came into existence in 1895. The table surface was directly in front of the chair, and its inclination provided plenty of space for writing.

This bench could accommodate two students, and the increased support made it easier for them to enter and exit. Furthermore, this type of design saves classroom space.

11. Simple School Bench

Simple School Bench

The definition of an antique school bench is quite simple – it is a type of chair or bench primarily used in schools or similar educational establishments. These benches have changed over time, and the design you might find today looks quite different from that used in the 1700s.

However, the main themes and designs used in antique school benches remain the same.

Simple antique school benches are no different in durability; they are often made from solid timber or steel around a hardwood frame.

Antique school benches are mostly made from wood nowadays, although a few types of metal could be used in some models. This piece of furniture was initially designed for children to sit on during lessons and was usually quite simple.

12. Fashion School Desk

School desks began to search classrooms for individuals in the late 1880s. People were able to skip the organized attribute by combining a chair and a writing desk. The Sydney School Furniture Company developed it in Ohio. Students could easily use the space in front of the classroom to complete in-class tasks.

Vintage Children’s School Desk Adjustable Height Table
Vintage Children’s School Desk Adjustable Height Table (Value: 85.49 Source: eBay)

Antique School Desk With Inkwell Value

It isn’t easy to put a value on an antique school desk with an inkwell. It is because, while it was produced over one hundred years ago, many of them are still in use.

In the early 1900s, this antique desk was most likely used in a public school. It has an inkwell, a storage box for writing utensils, and a place for books on top. The desk is worth $50 to $200

Unlike the traditional tablet or laptop, which can only be used for one thing at a time, a school desk with an inkwell can function as an office or even bedroom set for those who don’t have much space at home- it is multifunctional!

Vintage Child's School Desk
Vintage Child’s School Desk                    Value: $80.00             Source: eBay

How To Identify an Antique School Desk?

Do you have an old school desk gathering dust in the basement? Or is it just sitting out in the open for all to see? If so, you might want to consider how best to identify whether or not this is an antique school desk. It will allow you to sell it on eBay or trade it for a newer model.

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Antique school desks are those that were made before 1900. However, there are other ways to figure out if a piece of furniture is old and, therefore, potentially worth more money than its worth by weight alone.

  • One of the most important things to identify is how the piece of furniture was constructed. Old desks are made of thick, sturdy wood such as cherry, oak, mahogany, etc. Although newer ones may be made of less expensive woods and plastics, they aren’t nearly as sturdy or heavy.
  • A vintage school desk could be worth more if you can identify its maker or manufacturer.
  • Identifying the maker or manufacturer of a piece of furniture is essential because it can provide explicit clues about how old the article is. For example, some old-school desks are made by classic American furniture manufacturers such as Drexel, Schoolmaster, and Franklin.

These companies knew that school desks were a popular item for students throughout the twentieth century, so they released many different styles and models so that there would be a specific type to fit almost any situation. And because there are many different patterns, shapes, and sizes in these old-school desks, identifying one’s maker is critical to determining how much a piece may be worth.

  • Another thing to consider is whether the piece has any special features. Some old school desks were manufactured with unique storage spaces or compartments; these typically came in the form of drawers. Therefore, if you are looking at a piece with no drawers, it’s possible that it was just a cheaply made model not worth much.
Vintage Oak School Desk
Vintage Oak School Desk (Value: $766.38 Source: eBay )

Antique School Desk Value

Antique desks offer much more: a richer sense of history, a conversation piece in any room, and added storage and workspace for your home office or den.

If you’ve turned a corner and suddenly found yourself in front of an old desk, it’s no wonder you’re wondering just how much it is worth.

An antique school desk is worth a lot more than you might think. Sure, it may seem that antique desks are worth just a few bucks, maybe a couple hundred at the most.

A quick search on eBay will show you that antique desks can fetch hugely inflated prices these days. Most antique dealers will tell you that the value depends on the quality and age of the object.

That said, antique desks are worth more than $50 to $700. But the actual value of antique school desks varies depending on their exact quality, age, design, and condition.

Moreover, the wood type of desk also affects the value of the antique school desk. For instance, a vintage school desk made of Old Mission oak will nearly fetch you at least $1,000 or more.

Be aware that there is a clear difference between vintage designs from the first half of the 20th century and at least 100 years old antique school desks.

Antique Chandler School Desk
Antique Chandler School Desk                      Value: $185.00                  Source: eBay

Factors Affecting The Value Of Antique School Desk

Whether you have a vintage school desk or want to buy one for your use, it is vital to know the additional factors that affect the value of these antique school desks.

So check out these factors before selling or purchasing a vintage school desk because these factors will help you to decide the value of the desk.


The condition of an antique school desk drives prices up or down depending on how well it is preserved and if it retains its original character. Scratches, chips, and missing pieces diminish the value of furniture, but this can sometimes be compensated with a lower price point. However, when collectors want a piece for their collection that is pristine or just one-of-a-kind in terms of design and style, then they may have to pay more than they would otherwise have had to.


The demand for a specific type of antique school desk also affects its value. Because these vintage school desks are not available abundantly. If many collectors want a specific antique desk, more buyers will be willing to pay higher prices to obtain it.


The materials used in constructing a piece of furniture can significantly affect that piece’s value. Antique school desks built with rare or exotic materials and high-quality craftsmanship may be worth much more than others, and this can be predicted by checking out how well the materials are preserved.

For example, suppose the desk is constructed of wood chosen precisely for its durability and quality. In that case, it will be worth more than one made of standard construction materials.


The age of the antique school desk also affects its value in the eyes of collectors. Antique school desks from the 18th and 19th centuries are especially prized, but they might not be as highly valued if they are in poor condition.

Style and Design

The style and design of an antique school desk can also affect how much a collector is willing to pay for it. If the antique school desk is more elegant and stylish in its design, it will be more expensive than the ordinary ones. Collectors who want traditional pieces or those that match a particular style they like may need to dig deeper into their pockets than they would otherwise have had to.

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Usage History

A piece’s usage history affects how much it is worth. If an antique school desk has been used in someone’s home or workspace over a long time, then the chances are that it is not worth as much as one that has been preserved well and has never been used by anyone.


The condition and design of an antique school desk can be fully appreciated when it can still retain its original components and materials. Collectors who want to enjoy every detail will often pay much more for a piece than those not concerned about its originality.

Modern-Day Antique School Desk Use

The innovation’s purpose of these desks was merely to use them in schools and serve the students by providing them ease while learning. But there is no doubt that these antique school desks are multipurpose.

In modern-day life, you can repurpose them and use them as antique pieces of furniture in your homes and offices.

Some modern-day use of these aesthetic-looking desks is given below!

  1. The first and most obvious use of antique school desks is as a piece of furniture. Sometimes they become elaborately decorated with mirrors, carpets, and lace curtains. They are also used in offices due to their large surfaces where documents can be put together while working on them simultaneously.
  2. The second use for antique school desks is as a cabinet. These desks are usually large and can easily be used to hold various items when not in use. These items can be of any size, but the general rule is that they should not exceed the desk’s height.
  3. Create a leisure space for yourself by using these extraordinary vintage school desks. A relatively small-sized desk can be a perfect fit for it. Consider a spacious area like a roof, backyard, or balcony to ensure desk safety.
  4. You can use these vintage school desks as occasional end tables. And create your space for magazine reading and enjoy a cup of coffee with your partner, as these tables can easily hold lightweight items.

Antique School Desk Maintenance

Antique collectors face a significant challenge: whether they should spend money on repairs or leave them alone entirely since they are antiques.

But some things are critical to be fixed because they affect the overall value of the piece. For example, if a desk has come apart due to rusting or some other defect, it needs to be refurbished rather than left.

If you have a vintage school desk from the 1900s-1950s, it is crucial to maintain it to last longer.

It is often advisable to consult professional services to restore your old vintage school desk. But if you want to do that on your own, then we have shared some valuable techniques that you can follow to extend the life of your vintage school desk.

Deep Clean

Deep clean your desk if its color looks dull and there are many dust particles on it. For this process, carefully remove the nuts and bolts. You can deep clean the desk with soap and a soft cloth. This deep cleaning process of the desk will bring back the life and colors of your vintage school desk.

Wood Nourishment

If your antique school desk is continuously exposed to sun, rain, and mold, these factors will negatively affect the wood of these desks. And over the years, dirt stains and cracks will appear on the desk’s surface.

But luckily, you can deter these changes by applying wood oil or polish over the disk’s surface and can renew the natural wood of the desk.

However, if you don’t want to lose your antique school desk, it is always advisable to take care of it. You can enjoy the ambiance of these vintage school desks by protecting them from the harsh weather and direct sunlight.


Antiques are objects that, by law, must be over 100 years old to qualify as such.

These days, most people opt for sleek, minimalist desks because they provide a clean surface to work from and make an attractive addition to their houses.

And their search for these desks ends up at vintage school desks which are simple yet fashionable and unique in their styles.

Collectors and antique furniture lovers can use these antique school desks in versatile ways as they use a little space and can enhance the beauty of their houses and collections with the charm of these desks.

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