How to buy thrift stores for vintage Chemex coffee makers


Oleg Romanko /

Thrift stores, flea markets, and estate sales can be overwhelming. With the sheer volume of stuff, how do you know where to start? How to spot the gems among all the garbage?

As a professional dealer who has been browsing thrift stores for almost 30 years, I can help you. If you’re ready to cut your shopping time in half, grab better deals, or walk away with some brag-worthy finds you can make for real money, read on.

From hard-to-find household items to resale products, anything in my “Thrift Shop Like a Pro” series is considered a BOLO (“be on the lookout” for) item. When you find it, buy it!

Featured discovery: Chemex coffee makers

In my house, coffee makers expire faster than half and half. Seriously, I bought two one-cup brewers last month. Each lasted about two weeks before the pump mechanism broke down and rendered the whole machine unusable.

I’m tempted to make a rant on planned obsolescence, but I haven’t had my coffee yet. Instead, let’s talk about a solution – the Chemex Coffee Maker, a sleek and efficient pouring machine with no moving parts.

Invented by chemist Peter Schlumbohm, Chemex first appeared on the market in the 1940s. Made of heat-resistant glass, the brewers look like an hourglass with a shaved top.

The cone-shaped upper part of the carafe, together with a special paper filter, removes sediment, oils and fats from the coffee. No bitterness and no grounds – the perfect cup every time.

But the smart design doesn’t stop there. The narrow neck of the carafe hugs the hand perfectly and protects it from the hot surface with a strip of wood called a “collar”. The necklace is secured with a leather cord tied through a wooden bead. (Don’t you like the mid-century design?)

A subtle groove molded into the glass acts as a spout. Simply remove the used filter and grounds in one compostable package, then pour in the coffee.

Why buy it?

In addition to brewing a premium cup of coffee, Chemex coffee makers see cool. By comparison, my now-defunct single-serve brewers look like poorly designed piles of plastic.

that of New York modern Art Museum and Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum agree on the artistic merit of Chemex – the permanent collections of the two esteemed institutions include a Chemex.

Properly used and maintained, a Chemex will deliver searing perfection for generations. An excerpt from an old company brochure says it best:

“The Chemex coffee maker is a perfect glassblowing masterpiece, which only very few glassblowers can deliver. Treated properly, with respect, it will last a lifetime.

If you want to resell Chemex parts at a profit, the market is fully caffeinated. A Chemex extra large 1950s recently sold on eBay for $ 330. On Etsy, a 8 cup vintage pattern in perfect condition recently sold for $ 199.

These prices are even more impressive when you consider that vintage Chemex brewers only cost a dollar or two in many second-hand stores.

Particularly in areas without a strong coffee culture, thrift store staff do not know what to do with a Chemex pot. Is it a weird vase? Laboratory equipment? A fancy spittoon? But hey, their confusion means good business for you and me.

What to look for

The Chemex mark is usually printed on the underside of the decanter, although I have seen molded markings near the spout on 1940s coins. The logo is simple – just “CHEMEX” in all caps with a patent number.

In the resale market, Chemex prices vary based on condition, age, and other characteristics. If you are buying for resale, pay special attention to:

  • Cut: With a few rare exceptions, Chemex brewers are available in one, three, six, eight and 10 cup sizes. The larger sizes (eight cups and up) sell the best.
  • Place of manufacture : Parts marked “Made in West Germany” were manufactured before 1990 and generally sell for higher prices.
  • Unique markings: The earliest Chemex coffee makers were made from Pyrex and some feature a green stamp on the body of the decanter that reads: “CHEMEX® US PATENT 2,411,340 MADE IN USA FROM PYREX® BRAND GLASS. »Decanters with the green stamp command higher resale prices.
  • Necklace Material: Some later Chemex models feature a plastic collar, but collectors prefer the original design of the wood and leather collar.

Pro tip: If you find a Chemex with large coffee stains, don’t despair. Remove the wooden collar and fill the carafe with lukewarm water and equal parts distilled white vinegar. Let it soak for 2-3 hours, then scrub with a bottle brush.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation for clicking on links in our stories.


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