A Beginner's Guide To Buying Antiques
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Antique Roadshow1 of 9
The world of antiques has a lot to offer, and it is more accessible than you might think. If you've been considering adding a piece or two to your home but aren't sure where to begin, this guide covers the basics—everything from what makes it an antique to the importance of provenance and more.
Value & Appraise2 of 9
One or two antiques can infuse a home with warmth and personal style. Unlike most new furniture, which decreases in value over time, your antique purchases will hold their value and may even increase in value over the years. Antique furniture was built to last; expect to find better materials and higher-quality construction than in new mass-produced furniture.
Antiques Defined3 of 9
An item must be at least 100 years old to be officially called an antique. Vintage goods are younger, usually at least 20 years old. Collectibles can be any popular item, no matter the age—they can also be vintage or antique.
Get Educated4 of 9
To get hands-on knowledge about antiques, simply visit antiques shops, auctions, and fairs. Many dealers will be happy to share their knowledge—just ask your questions during a slow time in the shop—not when it's swamped with visitors.
On the Hunt5 of 9
Hunting for antiques in person will give you the most accurate information and teach you what to look for—especially important when you are just beginning your education. You may even have luck at local garage sales—once you have your eyes trained for good antiques, you will be amazed at the pieces you'll find all around you.
Shopping Online6 of 9
Many online shops offer the convenience of antiquing from the comfort of your favorite chair—1stdibs.com and eBay are two of the most popular websites for antiques. If you want to try antiquing online, a few things to keep in mind: Large furniture can come with hefty shipping charges. Don't be afraid to ask for additional information, photos from different angles and exact measurements. Always inquire about the seller's return policy.
Finding "The One"7 of 9
Ultimately, when you find a piece, think of your needs and style preferences—consider any investment value a bonus. Take a close look at the piece: Is it well constructed? Does it look like it's been well cared for? Note any wobbly legs, broken pieces, cracks and stains. And be sure to ask the seller about the history of the piece, if known.
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Proof of Purchase8 of 9
Provenance is proof of where a particular piece originally came from. Proof could include purchase receipts, documents from auction houses, professional appraisals, photographs and historical records. Generally, provenance is provided only for higher-value or rare antiques. Having documentation is important for insurance reasons or if you plan to sell the item at some point in the future.
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Reconsider Updates9 of 9
It can be wonderful to refresh an antique; just be aware that reupholstering, in general, can be quite costly. Additionally, really high-quality antiques might lose value if you replace the original fabrics or finishes—even if they are in bad shape. That said, if your budget allows and the piece warrants it, re-covering an antique chair or sofa with a beautiful new fabric can be rewarding—further making the piece your own and blending it into your home.
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