How to Identify Antiques

Written by connie whiting
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How to Identify Antiques

Collecting antiques has been an enjoyable hobby, and for some , a business for decades. Even popular TV shows are thriving based on people wondering if something they own is an antique and therefore valuable. You've probably wondered yourself about an item you own. Is it worth anything? Is it an antique? How do you tell? Identifying antiques is somewhat dependent on what the item is, but some general tips can be applied in identifying almost any antique.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • The item in question
  • An appraiser
  • Books and magazines about antiques
  • A critical observing eye

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    Ask yourself where the item came from. Was it passed down in your family from generation to generation? Then it might be antique--although not always necessarily so. Maybe you found the item in a flea market or estate auction. Antiques are stumbled upon in all these situations but remember, just because an item is old does not mean it is always an antique

  2. 2

    Make a small investment in magazines and books about antiques. Publications about identifying antiques are very helpful. They offer advice and information on the latest "popular" fads in antiques and how to tell if something is real or a fake copy. If you'd rather not purchase your own copies, libraries and the Internet offer invaluable free tips and advice about antiques and authenticity of such items

  3. 3

    Look for the item's manufacturer. Some items will have an identifying mark used by a manufacturer somewhere on the item. Usually it is on the underside of the piece. If it was produced by a company--it may bear a stamp or indentation--pressed into the item by a piece of machinery or stamping equipment. If it is a handmade piece, for example, a piece of pottery, then it may be hand-signed or have identifying marks such as the creators name, year or sometimes a tiny copyrighting symbol or date.

  4. 4

    Research the general decade you think the item came from. For example, Roll top desks, often found to be antiques now, were made in general in the 1940s and 1950s. By researching that time frame you can discover information that could tell you if a particular desk you might own is a valuable original antique or a more recent copy of the real thing.

  5. 5

    Be aware that antiques are generally judged by two main criteria, the period of time when made and the materials it was made from. Certain kinds of cloth, wood or glazing techniques were only available in a limited time frame. If you have something that looks old, or even has marks identifying it as antique, it may still only be a copy if it is made out of the wrong material for the decade it is supposedly from. You might still have a collectable item, but it won't be considered an antique.

  6. 6

    Visit a reputable appraiser. You've done some research in identifying your item but are still not 100 per cent sure of the value and authenticity of your item. It is time to visit an appraiser. An experienced appraiser has a highly critical eye and is very experienced at weeding out "fake " antiques. They can tell you if you do indeed possess a valuable antique collectable or just an interesting worthless item. Never underestimate the importance of having your item appraised because some things that people mistake for junk sometimes have been discovered to be rare priceless antiques!

    How to Identify Antiques

Tips and warnings

  • Clubs exist for almost every type of antiques, from paper to furniture. Find one about your specific antique interests and items for valuable information on your chosen interest
  • When in doubt don't throw it out! That little hunk of junk passed down from grandma might make you rich! You owe it to yourself to find out.

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