Shopping for an antique lamp can seem intimidating. You are setting out to buy a lamp that is typically over 100-years-old, and it can often be difficult to determine whether or not you are getting a fair deal with an antique lamp. You should be aware there are many fake reproductions of antique lamps on the market. It can often be hard to distinguish the reproduction antique lamp from the real thing. With a little practice, research and some shopping experience, you will be able to make a smart antique lamp buying decision.
Before shopping for your antique lamp, determine the style of lamp you would like to buy. Determine how you will want to use your antique lamp. Decide if you want your lamp for decoration, or if you want to use it as functioning light in your room. A mid-century gas lamp can add a decorative element to your room, but it will require extensive electrical work to get it to work as a modern lamp. For a decorative and functional lamp, you may want to choose an antique Tiffany lamp. When choosing your lamp, you will also want to determine how much space you have to devote to the piece. If you have a large area, you may want a floor or table Art Deco-style lamp. If you are short on space, you can get a smaller mid-century lamp or a Victorian-era hanging lamp. Do plenty of research on your antique lamp of choice. Know when your lamp was made, where it was made and any distinguishing features of the lamp. The Internet and antique auction catalogs are is excellent resources for this kind of information.
Visit your local antique shop and ask to see their selection of antique lamps in your chosen style. Do not buy the first antique lamp you see. Rather, use your first visit to an antique shop as a learning experience. Ask the sale associate questions and get a feel for the prices of the lamps. Go to another antique shop and do the same. Get a feel for the process and what is available in your local market. Once you feel comfortable in your local antique shop, you will want to visit antique auctions, garage sales, estate sales and the Internet. Auction houses, such as Sotheby’s, have special auctions devoted to a wide-range of antique lamp styles. However, an auction atmosphere can be intimidating. Visit a few auctions to get a feel for the process before diving into the bidding process. Unlike auctions, garage sales and estate sales don’t have high-pressure bidding. However, issues of authenticity often arise at garage and estate sales. Always ask for documentation with your antique lamp.
Thoroughly look over the antique lamp you would like to purchase. Note the patina on the lamp. The patina refers to the rust and dirt that has collected on antique metal surfaces. Strangely enough, patina on an antique lamp makes it more valuable. Make sure your lamp has all if its pieces. Missing switches or ornamentation can be very expensive to replace. If your antique lamp uses electricity, examine the condition of the wires. While you want the outside of your lamp to be in original condition, you will want the electrical wire to be up-to-date. If the wires look frayed and old, they will need to be professionally repaired before use. Test out any electrical lamps before buying them and find out of the wattage of bulbs you will need to use. You will want to make sure the wattage required by the lamp is still in use.
Before you complete the purchase, ask the seller to present the antique lamp’s provenance. Provenance is the official documentation stating the lamp’s history. The provenance will help to verify the authenticity of the lamp. The provenance will also tell you if the lamp has historical significance, and is therefore worth more. You may also ask to see any professional appraisal documentation on the antique lamp. Not all sellers will have appraisal documentation.
Make sure you know the return and exchange policy where you purchase your lamp. Keep in mind many antique sellers do not have return policies. Make sure you receive all original copies of the antique lamp’s provenance, appraisals and any electrical spec information available. If the lamp has been repaired, you will want copies of the repair documentation. If the seller provides any guarantees on your purchase, make sure you have them in writing.