10 tips on buying antique furniture

If you are a collector looking for antique furniture to serve as part of your collection, you know that the difference between two identical pieces can be hundreds or thousands of dollars. If you are a homeowner looking for antique furniture to round out your diverse or eclectic style, you know that the right piece will add just the right look for the ambiance you are attempting to create. If you have found a piece of antique furniture and do not know how to evaluate it, there are several characteristics that will impact its current worth as well as its ability to hold value.

Evaluation tips

History

Any antique store will have a variety of old items. Your task is to identify items that played a part in local, regional, or national history. For instance, having a chair that a king used will be much more valuable than the same chair owned by a commoner. That said, a piece can also be a part of a time period. In this case, it might not be a part of specific history, but it will have historic relevance because it represents an important part of a society’s cultural evolution.

Condition

It is obvious that you want to find a piece that is in good condition. What is not obvious is that it should not be in too good condition. If you find a piece that looks immaculate, it might have been re-finished. In this case, it will be worth far less than another piece that looks worse. When you find any antique, you need to make sure its condition represents its original condition, taking into consideration parts, knobs, or hinges. Do not buy anything with replacements.

Potential

Any antique should be viewed as an investment. As such, you need to consider its potential value. If you have an opportunity to make more money because of your connections or because a certain piece is enjoying newfound popularity, you should grab it. However, potential can be a fad, so you need to capitalize on this potential quickly, or you might lose money on your investment.

Manufacturer

You likely understand that pieces made by some manufacturers are worth more than others, and this holds true if that manufacturer was a famous individual. Some commercial manufacturers, however, are known for quality, and some are known for marking their pieces in unique ways, making identification easier.

Rarity

If the manufacturer only made a certain number of items, any piece you are considering will likely be worth much more than other items with a larger release volume. That said, rarity can also occur if most items in a certain time frame have been previously purchased or destroyed, leaving an otherwise common item exceedingly rare. As a buyer of antiques, you should know off the top of your head which items are rare and which are not. Knowing this will help you spot a bargain.

Relevance

Sometimes, technology or the passage of time will make a piece irrelevant. When this happens, the value can drop immensely because residential buyers are no longer part of the market. This happened with armories when modern houses introduced closets.

Pre-purchase tips

Inspect

Points of inspection include joints, the finish, and the manufacturer’s mark. Joints should be tight, but some looseness is to be expected. The finish should be original. Re-finished pieces might look nice, but they are worth less. Finally, a manufacturer’s stamp will help you verify authenticity.

Research

Just because something is old does not mean it is worth much, so you must do your research to determine the actual worth of a piece. You can consult online antique markets, or you can consult antique encyclopedias. In each case, you will be presented with a range of values. You need to determine if the piece you are considering is on the low end of that range or the high end.

Follow

Many antique dealers will publish weekly or monthly newsletters containing new acquisitions. If you follow them on social media, you will have a better chance at grabbing that rare item you have been waiting for.

Negotiate

Prices do not represent the actual worth of the item. Instead, they represent the actual amount of money a particular person wants. Furthermore, a price does not necessarily mean a person will not take less. You should determine your budget. Once you do your research, you should attempt to get the item for 10 to 20 percent less than the sticker price.            

 

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