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This is the suspect chair, is it actually the chair used in the Time Machine in 1960?

This has been a long going event starting early in 2004.

Rob Niosi had begun building his full size Time Machine and decided to copy the original machine more closely than he had thought to do previously. So he restarted a quest for an original chair. He contacted a company who could find things for a fee.

I had recently been contacted by an antiques dealer who wanted a copy of the Berninghuas catalog page showing the Hercules chair as they had two chairs and their matching back bars and were preparing to sell them. About a week later I received an e-mail from a company who was trying to locate a Berninghaus Hercules chair for a client. I told them about the antiques dealer and later discovered that their client was of course Rob. The dealer would only sell the chairs as a lot, both chairs and both back bars. Rob found another collector and together they bought the entire lot.

Rob now had his chair for his machine (more about his progress can be found on his website Time Machine Junkyard) and had no real interest in the back bar so he offered it for sale on ebay. The bar did not sell and he was contacted by a barber chair dealer named Jeff Kimble and was offered a Berninghaus chair, the one pictured here. Neither Jeff nor Rob suspected it was the chair from the film. The dealer was asking $10,000 for it. Rob turned it down as he now already had one and I suspect he paid less for his.

Shortly after Rob was contacted, I received an e-mail from Jeff Kimple who had found my website and saw the information posted about the chair used in the film. He suspected that his chair was indeed the same as used in the film. I was intrigued to say the least. I asked him to send photos of his chair with specific areas of interest. The various questions and thoughts are discussed below. I contacted Bob Burns to ask his thoughts and found that he had also been contacted by Jeff. Bob wasn't convinced it was the chair and wasn't interested buying it. I took Rob into my confidence and we discussed at length the possibility that this was the chair.

I was almost entirely convinced that this was indeed the actual chair but there was one thing which really had be confused, the chiseled out areas on the hand rests. The chair in the movie was not damaged in these areas and I couldn't imagine that anyone would do this. Then it came to me what probably had happened. Jeff had bought this chair and a second one from the same person. This person had had both chairs reupholstered to match his decor.

The person who I purchased the pair of chairs from told me he purchased the chairs approximately 20 to 25 years ago at Victorian Casino Auctions in Las Vegas NV. The chairs were in restored condition and all he did was change the upholstery to match his decor. The finish is old on the wood. — Jeff Kimble

I strongly feel that when both chairs were upholstered the hand rests had been swapped. All of the good parts had been put onto one chair and all the altered/damaged parts had been assembled into the second chair.

OK, so this is probably the actual chair more or less. At this point I had no idea of what Jeff wanted for the chair. Jeff finally gave me a quote, $15,000.

This was my response:

I understand now why you are hoping to sell the chair as a movie prop rather than as a barbershop collectible. With all the redo and imperfections in the chair a purist isnít likely to pay top dollar for it. Unfortunately, I donít think youíll get top dollar for it as a movie prop either. The parts which were installed on the chair for the film are missing i.e. the front replacement piece, and the additional legs. The arms are not original and it has been reupholstered. The other problem with a movie prop is provenance. The history you have only takes the chair back about 20-25 years to an auction somewhere in Las Vegas and doesnít connect it with the shop which sold the machine to Bob Burns.

I was also taken back a bit when you said you wanted $15,000 for the chair. The most Iíve seen one of these sell for was $6000 and it is in pristine restored condition. The guy who has the two chairs which were used in The Great Dictator has tried repeatedly to sell the pair for $27,000 with no takers.

So, the bottom line is, yes I would be interested in buying the chair as I think that some of it is likely from the film and to have some part of the original machine would be ideal, but it would take time and money to restore it to itís former incarnation. The quote on Mohair I got was $100 a yard and it will take probably 4-5 yards to recreate what the chair originally had plus the labor to have it done correctly. Also trying to trace it back to the shop which sold the machine would take a lot of time in detective work. Condition wise, I think the chair I have is in better shape and more original and I paid $4250 for mine. Iíd be willing to go $3200 for the one you have considering all the above details. — Don Coleman June 2005

I never heard from Jeff Kimble again. No counter offer or any correspondence at all. I corresponded with Rob and he suggested to offer Kimble his back bar as a partial trade for the chair. I e-mailed Kimble with the offer and still got no reply. Rob e-mailed me and said Kimble contacted him and wanted to buy the back bar to go with his chair so as to have a set. Rob declined and Kimble e-mailed him:

"Rob, I have no intensions on trading Coleman my chair. I want the backbar to go in front of my chair to make it a complete set. Are you ready to sell the bar? If so how much would you want for it. I appreciate your help and let me know what you want to do on the bar. "

Some time went by and then I received an e-mail from someone who had been in contact with Kimble and was considering buying the chair. The asking price was now $20,000. I told him basically what I had e-mailed Kimble about the condition and price and the person decided to pass on it.

2006: More time went by and I got word that the Time Machine chair was for sale in a shop in Disney World and the asking price was now $37,000! This was about the time that Frank Thetonia became aware of the chair and contacted the shop selling the chair. He tried to negotiate a lower price by telling them that he had bought the sundial for only $4000 and wanted the chair go along with it. They told him how great the two pieces would be together and he should be OK with the price of $37,000. There is a thread on this in our forum, you can read the progress by clicking here.

I e-mailed some contact info to Frank anonymously so Frank could contact Kimble directly. I didn't want Frank to mention he'd been in contact with me as then Kimble might suspect he was fronting for me and then not sell it to Frank. I didn't hear what transpired after that and it wasn't until 2009 that the chair resurfaced again.

I got an e-mail from Bob Burns in regards to an auction which he had heard about and it was this same chair. Now being offered for sale as The Chair from The Time Machine. The chair sold for $7,500 considerably less than his higher expectations only a few years earlier. I contacted the auction house and asked them to forward my contact information to the new owner as I wanted to ask about it but I never heard from anyone.

So as of May 21, 2010, that's the story so far. Where is it now, who owns it and what is their intentions for it, we can only choose but wonder.

From the original MGM studio drawing it is plain to see that the chair for the machine was not to be built but to be pulled form stock from the property department.

Photo of the chair in the Time Machine taken at the 1970 auction at MGM.

The original console was removed for filming of the date changes. The console in the photo was built by Tom Scherman a few years earlier when the machine was put on display at an exhibit at Lytton Savings

The chair was missing when Tom Scherman found the machine for sale. This photo by Chris Tietz was taken after Bob Burns purchased the machine and before the restoration.
The following photos are of the suspect chair which has now been sold as The Chair from the machine

It's easy to see in the upper photo the two holes that had been used to add the foot rest as the head rest.

The foot rest still has the holes for the supporting dowels.


The photo has markers showing the area which was recessed for the hinge when it was relocated. I found it difficult to see this though.

The black arrows indicate the mounting holes which would have held the legs to the chair.

The white arrows indicate damage done to the chair in order to attach it to a pedestal base which was not designed for this chair.

Rob pointed out that the underside of the chair is stained dark as was the chair in the film

Both hand rests have this area chiseled out. This was not the case on the hand rests on the "movie" chair.

Photo shows the lower ball of the spindle is missing
These replacement legs were of course removed when a pedestal was put back

 

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