An antique is technically classified as a “collectible object such as a piece of furniture or work of art that has a high value because of its considerable age, yet it does in fact vary depending on the source, product and year.” The clarifying addendum exists because cars can be antique even if they are not the typical 100 years of age or more. Antiques should customarily be in their original, unaltered condition, however in certain scenarios can still maintain or increase their value if they have been restored or “cleaned” according to traditional methods.
One must develop a discerning eye if one is to establish themselves as a collector, or to know how to not get ripped off. There are certain guidelines to loosely follow. For one, it is vital to look at the finish on furniture. The presence of a finish typically would suggest that a piece is not as old as one may suspect, or alternately that it may have been refinished. A finished antique will not have as high of a value as an unfinished work. Additionally, if you take a closer look, you will be able to glimpse dust and debris in the crevices of wood, as well as be able to detect the presence of oil or wax. Secondly, evaluate the craftsmanship. With handmade pieces, you’ll notice quality materials. Asymmetrical cuts suggest that an item was not machine-made. Thirdly, do your research. The most highly evolved antiques and art dealers are continuously flipping through catalogue raisonnes, communicating with experts, consulting books and digging online to look for all information which is available to them. Additionally, evaluate a dealer. Find out whether or not they are reputable. It is not recommended to buy at large established antique shops as you will be paying a high premium. No matter where you purchase from, negotiate. Most dealers will accept less that full asking price and pay cash whenever possible. Rarity is a desirable quality in an heirloom which means that few of this piece were ever made, few of them remain, or its an uncommon subject matter or style for a particular artist or manufacturer. And finally, condition is important no matter what. Some pieces can be restored easily according to historical standards for that particular item, but mint or excellent condition is always paramount.
“I quite like antiques. I like things that are old and the history they bring with them. I would rather fly to Morocco on an $800 ticket and buy a chair for $300 than spend $1,100 on one at Pottery Barn.“