How to Buy Antiques

How to Buy Antiques

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  1. If you already buy antiques, you know how challenging it can be to find a desirable and authentic antique. The draw to antiques is undeniable. An antique can be a beautiful accessory for the home and a valuable investment. Whether you want to buy antiques purely for your appreciation of their beauty and mysterious past or as an investment, there are some important terms and tips to know.

    What Makes It an Antique?

    Knowing what classifies an item as an antique is important before starting your collection. In 1930 the United States government set the standard for classifying antiques. To be truly considered an antique the item must be a minimum of 100 years old. Items that are 75 to 99 years old are called “near antiques.” Generally items from the 40s, 50s and 60s (25 to 74 years old) are classified as “vintage” items.

    In the 1930s antiques were free from customs duties (tax on imported items) when brought in from another country. In an effort to save money, people began to claim anything that was not brand new was an antique. The U.S. government consulted experts and mandated that an object had to be more than 100 years old to be considered an antique. The new standard was widely adopted by the antiques industry. An exception to the rule is automobiles. With very few autos in existence that are more than 100 years old, the oldest automobiles (manufactured over 25 years ago) are called antiques.

    Where to Buy Antiques

    Where can you find antiques at affordable prices? Some of the best antiques are free. Search your own attic, basement or that box of Grandma’s old stuff you shoved into the hall closet 10 years ago. Look in the attics and basements of friends and family members, especially older family members. There are a number of other options for finding that timeless treasure at a reasonable price.

    • Yard sales
    • Estate sales
    • Flea markets
    • Antique shows
    • Local thrift shops
    • Online auctions
    • House auctions

    To successfully find bargain antiques you must invest a substantial amount of time and shop frequently. Plan to head out early on Saturday mornings to scour local yard sales. Map out your route the day before by highlighting yard sales in the classified section of your local newspaper. Hit estate sales early too, but be prepared to return late in the sale as well. Items that start off at a higher price in the morning may be marked down substantially at the end of the estate sale. The same strategy applies with flea markets and antique shows.

    Spotting a Fake or Reproduction Antique

    Many collectors choose a particular item to collect such as antique toy trains, or they may only collect items from a particular time period such as furniture from the late 18thcentury. However you decide to buy antiques, studying your specialty area will help you recognize a good deal or spot a fake.

    If you collect antique glassware learn to spot the different look and feel of fine valuable glass compared to pieces of lesser quality. If antique furniture will be your specialty area learn to recognize the quality craftsmanship of authentic pieces. When you find a potential gem, research the item for clues to help determine the item’s authenticity. Drawings, photographs and descriptions of an original can often be found in reference books and used to compare your particular item. There are a number of aspects of the piece that can be examined to establish authenticity.

    Maker’s Mark – Often artisans will apply a maker’s mark to their pieces, such as a logo or signature. An informative antique reference book or website that contains a directory or listing of various marks can help with authentication. Some antiques will have patent numbers or registry dates on them to help distinguish between an original and a reproduction. Patent numbers tell when a patent was issued and help with accurately dating an antique.

    Wear and Tear – An old item typically will have sustained wear patterns that are consistent with its function. For example, antique desks are likely to be worn on the corners and uneven in its proportions due to shrinkage of the wood over time. With antique furniture you can also make note of the color of the wood to authenticate the piece. A true antique will not be uniform in color due to a certain amount of discoloration with age, unless it has been refinished, in which case its value will be somewhat diminished.

    Construction Materials – Reproductions or fakes are not always made with the same materials as an authentic antique. For items like antique furniture examine the nails used on the piece. A sure sign of a fake is rust-free holes that contain old, rusty nails. The absence of machine marks on wood furniture is a strong indication of an original, since all furniture was hand-made prior to 1830. An original antique table will have a wavy top and any movable parts should be difficult to move due to shrinkage and irregularities in the wood.

    Price – Research the price of the item by checking to see how much the antique or similar pieces have sold for at stores and auction houses. If the marked price of your item is significantly below the current market value, it may only be a reproduction.

    Antique reproductions can be a satisfactory substitute for some collectors who simply enjoy the look of a beautiful antique without the huge price tag. On the other hand, if you see antiques as valuable financial investments then hold out for an original. Reproductions generally are not nearly as valuable as the real thing.

    How to Sell Antiques

    If you would rather sell antiques than buy them, it is vital to know what is in demand, what collectors and buyers are searching for and which items are the hottest sellers. With the growing popularity of online auctions, it is easier than ever to get this information and create a profitable home business.

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