Shop for Antique Furniture Like an Old Pro

by Gina Blitstein · 0 comments

In today’s mass-produced, disposable culture, it’s sometimes nice to seek out pieces of furniture for our home that were built according to individual taste and for the purpose of lasting many generations. To find such pieces now, one must look to antique furniture, which was crafted at least a century ago. While it would seem that furniture as old as that would be worn out, that’s rarely the case. Often built better and of higher-quality materials than modern pieces, much furniture considered to be antique has plenty of life and charm to offer.

Even if one is able to spend considerable money on high-quality furniture manufactured today, modern pieces may lack certain elements that create the appeal of antiques, which include:

  • history
  • quality
  • craftsmanship
  • investment value

Locating antique furniture

Antique shops abound but they’re not the only places to find antique furniture. Private home sales, estate sales and even the Internet are rife with potential treasures. When shopping for antiques, bear in mind that furniture with history can become romanticized in our minds, making it all too easy to overestimate its value based more upon emotion than facts. The most important thing is to deal with someone you feel is reputable and who will provide you with true information about the furniture you’re considering purchasing.

When considering an antique furniture purchase, make certain you are indeed looking at an antique and not something newer or an antique reproduction. Buying antique furniture wisely takes some basic knowledge and considerable research.

Consider these factors when making your final purchasing decision to ensure you purchase a piece with value for a fair price:

1. Is it really antique?

To identify a piece as antique, look for elements that distinguish it from modern manufactured furniture, such as:

  • artistic handiwork and/or design
  • materials that are uncommon to modern furniture manufacturing, including wood and hardware
  • slightly uneven surfaces
  • less-than sharp corners and edges which indicate it was made by hand
  • general imperfections, such as boards of varying widths
  • larger, uneven dovetail joints, indicating they were handmade
  • wormholes
  • thicker, more substantial wood veneers
  • signs of aged wood, including cracking, warping, fading and slightly ragged edges
  • wear in the spots where it would be expected
  • thin, slightly warped mirror glass

2. Age = Antique Value

Much of a piece’s value has to do with its age, which can be determined by factors such as:

  • Style – Certain styles were popular during certain eras.
  • Construction – Elements such as glue, wood pegs and dowels can provide clues as to when the piece was crafted.
  • Hardware – The cruder the nails and screws, the older the piece.
  • Patina (gloss of the piece) – Wear to the patina indicates use, which is indicative of age

3. Determining a fair price

To determine an appropriate price for a piece of of antique furniture, it’s all about fact-gathering, research and patience. Factor in this intel before you settle on a price:

  • Price comparison – What’s the selling price of pieces of similar age, origin and style?
  • Condition – Pieces in better condition generally have greater value.
  • Quality – Just because it’s old doesn’t mean it’s well made; look for quality workmanship.
  • Artistic appeal – Intricate detail often increases value.
  • Mark (or label) of its creator – Research furniture with this in relation to other pieces by the same maker to help determine value.
  • Rarity – A rare find is more valuable.
  • History – A previous owner or location of note may increase a piece’s value.

Knowing what to look for when buying antique furniture can help you bring a piece of historic, quality craftsmanship into your home for a fair price.

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