Antique furniture can add a bit of history and character to a room but there are a few things you have to consider before buying an old gem. Antique furniture is considered to be any piece of furniture that is over 100 years old. Just because a piece of furniture is classified as “old,” does not mean it is antique. In addition to being over 100 years old, the furniture must have aesthetic and historical value to truly be considered antique. As you shop, keep in mind there are many fake antique furniture reproductions on the market. However, armed with a little research and some insider antique buying tips, you will be on your way to understanding the antique market and making a smart furniture purchase.
When looking for antique furniture, there are a few common antique terms you should know to help you understand your purchase. One of the most used antique terms is “original condition,” which means the piece of furniture has all of its original hardware and pieces. An antique furniture item in “original condition” has more value. “Patina” is another common antique term; this describes the look of your furniture. “Patina” means the furniture has rust, scuffs and dirt from years of use. Strangely enough, “patina” adds value to your antique piece. The term “Original finish,” ascribes the look of wooden antique furniture. “Original finish” means the varnish or protective coating on the furniture is the same type that was used when the furniture was first made. The last of the lingo you’ll need to understand before hitting the stores is, “provenance.” “Provenance” is the documented evidence of the antiques history. You now have all the antique lingo you will need to buy your piece of furniture history.
Before hitting the antique shops in search of your purchase, you may want to check your own attic or storage unit. Many great pieces of antique furniture have been found discarded in grandma’s attic or hidden away in a garage. If you look around and find you don’t have any hidden treasures, then you will want to go to the antique shops. Browsing through your local antique shop will give you an overview of what is available in your area, and the average market price for certain pieces of antique furniture. Antique shops are a good place to practice your lingo and identification skills. Once you feel comfortable in your local antique shop, you may want to expand your search to auctions, garage sales, estate sales and the Internet. Auction houses, such as Sotheby’s, have authenticated antique furniture for sale. However, an auction atmosphere can be intense. Visit a few auctions to get a feel for the process before diving into the bidding process. Garage sales and estate sales are less high pressure then an auction, however, be careful when making your purchase. Issues of authenticity may arise at garage and estate sales. Always ask for the “provenance” of the furniture. The Internet is also a good resource for antique shopping. You can find many rare items on the Internet, but as with garage sales, be careful. Make sure you arrange to see the furniture item in person before making your purchase.
When buying antiques, you will need to make an educated decision on whether the piece of furniture is an authentic antique or a reproduction. If you are purchasing the item for aesthetic value only, then a reproduction may not be a bad purchase. If you are a hardcore antique hunter, then you will need to verify the pieces authenticity to the best of your ability. Look for signs of age on the piece of furniture. Wood shrinks over time, and antique wooden furniture will be cracked, warped and faded. Examine the edges of the wooden piece of furniture. The corners should have imperfect, slightly ragged edges these are signs it was created with a pre-industrial handsaw. If there is a mirror or glass in the furniture, it will be thin and slightly warped due to the effects of gravity. The antique furniture should also have imperfections. Most antique furniture was made by hand and not all the boards and edges will be completely uniform. Keep in mind that signs of age can be faked on antique furniture. If the cracks are uniform in length or the “patina” looks painted, then you may have a reproduction on your hands. Use your best judgment when purchasing an antique, buy from reputable sellers and always ask for the provenance of the furniture.