Finn Juhl and the drivers of vintage value
The perceived value (and so the price) of a vintage Danish light is usually fairly closely related to its historical retail price. Broadly speaking, the more expensive the light originally was, the higher the value placed upon it today as a collectors' item. There are good reasons for this. The lights that were most expensive to buy in the 60s and 70s were those produced to the highest standards of quality and/or made from the most expensive materials and/or the most costly to develop and produce because of their complexity or the amount of manpower employed in the process. The high-quality design and production specifications of such lamps is what makes people prepared to pay higher prices for them today, just as it was when they were originally retailed.
There are, however, exceptions to this rule, which reveal some of the other factors driving vintage value. Finn Juhl’s mid-1960s Lyfa light is a good example. The design, with its tilting shade, was available in wall, table and pendant versions, the latter (pictured above) retailing at the end of 1966 for a mere 134 Danish krone for a 27cm diameter version and 150 kr for a 34cm version. At the same date, retail prices for other Danish lights included 395 kr for the Fog & Mørup Hekla, designed by Jon Olafsson & Petur B Luthersson, 439 kr for Fritz Schlegel’s Lyfa pendant, 236 kr for Verner Panton’s Moon pendant, produced by Louis Poulsen, and 333 kr for Poulsen’s PH table lamp, designed by Poul Henningsen.
Today a collector might expect to pay something in the region of one UK pound for each krone of the original price for all the abovementioned lights – with the exception of the Finn Juhl, for which the asking price is likely to be closer to 10 UK pounds for each original krone.
What lifts today’s price for this light so far above those of its contemporaries? Part of the answer is its scarcity. It was not in production for many years and seems not to have sold in very large quantities, so supply today is very limited in comparison with some of the other lights mentioned – some of which are still being manufactured today. The other part of the equation is Finn Juhl’s status as one of the great Danish designers and the fact that the Lyfa light is the only light he designed means that demand is high. Thus the forces of demand and supply lift the price of the light onto a plane of its own. Unless, of course, someone discovers a huge cache of unsold stock in an old lighting warehouse...