Couple spends $5 on antique chair that may be worth thousands

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LITTLETON, Colo. -- Sarah Keepers and James Hull use weekends to visit garage and yard sales for  "Shabby Chic," the re-sale business they run.

Just over a year ago, they found an old wooden chair with an unusual design. So they decided to buy the plywood chair for $5.

It turns out to be a fantastic investment of five bucks, since the chair, which James used to play video games and then put in the garage to collect dust for almost a year, is an original Herman Miller, made in western Michigan in 1946.

“We just liked the chair because it had a unique look and seemed to have character,” said Sarah. “I was about to donate the chair to the Goodwill, but something told me to check out the silver decal label underneath the chair. When I did, it had the designer’s name…Charles and Rae Eams and the Herman Miller brand name right there for all to see.”

We contacted the Herman Miller outlet in LoDo, where Carie Mueller showed us pictures of the Plywood Chair, which is what it was called when it went into the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art, as soon as it was produced.

“The Eams were the first inventors to come up with a system to heat and bend plywood into unique shapes and designs,” said Mueller.

“They began their work with the U.S. Navy who needed a lightweight, leg cast and with metal in short supply following World War II, using plywood did the trick. What they learned making the cast, helped them come up with the Plywood Chair.”

The couple has contacted the Herman Miller Museum.

Herman Miller never worked for the furniture company. He loaned his son-in-law money to get the business started. His son-in-law decided to name the company after Herman and now the name means quality and ergonomic chairs and furniture.

In the past some of these Miller chairs have sold for big money -- from $14,000-140,000 is what some of the furniture has brought.

From the shock absorbers between the joints, to the classic 4-2-5 bolt system holding the piece of furniture together, Sarah’s chair is now worth a whole lot more than the half a saw-buck she paid for it more than a year ago.

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