You can read about the stories from time to time in the news: a person found a historical document at a tag sale for fifty cents that ends up being worth tens of thousands of dollars. Or the individual who finally treks up into the attic to find an old chair that appears to need some work, brings it down to a friend’s shop only to learn that it’s a valuable antique.
There’s something to be said about the craftsmanship of an older generation when it comes to furniture, automobiles, and just about anything else that would be considered antique. Antiques at dimension to the design of a room, it adds character, and while many modern manufacturers are stepping into the world of antique recreation, they aren’t true antiques; they don’t have any real history.
Antiques attract millions of people because of the history that they carry. Other people once used these antiques, from furniture to sit in, desks to write on, and chests to lug their belongings around in when they emigrated from their homeland to another nation that offered promise and hope.
An antique is generally defined as something that is more than seventy-five years old. Automobiles from the fifties and sixties are often mistaken for antiques, but they are only classics. In order to be successful at antique collecting, you need a general knowledge base of time periods, items that were made, sometimes even manufacturers.
There are far too many unscrupulous businesses out there that will try to pass off a modern recreation of an antique as an antique and most individuals won’t know about their mistake, or the expense that they incurred unnecessarily paying more for an item they believe was a true antique.
By knowing what to look for in an antique, and by knowing the right people to ask, since it is almost impossible to know everything about every antique ever made, you put yourself in a position that will protect you from making a poor purchase choice.
There are many people who don’t understand the appeal of antique collecting and drive past the rows and rows of antique shops in certain towns and never take a moment to step inside and feel the history that surrounds them. Most of the true antiques that one will find in shops, online, or by luck while passing through a tag sale, were once used by people who have long since passed from this mortal coil.
Antiques help to keep history alive and in some small way, they help to carry on the memories of those who have gone before us. If you have never stepped into the world of antique collecting, and you’re ready to begin, then you’ve come to the right place.
First Steps in Antique Collecting
The first steps in any new venture can sometimes be the most nervous and troubling. In antique collecting, the first steps, if not taken with care, can cost money. When you’re ready to begin collecting antiques, it’s a good idea to align yourself with people who share that same interest.
Look in the local newspaper or go online and try to find groups of antique collectors who share stories, refer others to special deals, and basically look out for the interests of their members and keep an eye out for the things that the members might be looking for.
You can learn a great deal from local antique shop owners. Weekends are not the best time to approach them as a beginner, since this is generally their busiest time of the week when their customers are off from work and cruising around looking for the best deals. Instead, call ahead and let them know that you’re new to antique collecting and would like to ask some questions. They will likely be more than willing to walk you through a few steps first and will most likely ask you to come over during the mid-week period, when business is at its slowest.
The next thing to do is purchase some books on antique collecting and read. Read, read, read. The more you read, the more you will learn about manufacturers, styles, woods (for furniture), metals and craftsmanship used to forge certain items, and just about anything else under the sun that you could want to know about antiques.
There are hundreds of books on antique collecting, and while you don’t need to read them all, you should focus on what most other antique collectors consider to be the most important and more well written. Ask the groups that you find as well as the shop owners for some advice.
The more you read, the more comfortable you will be with the terms used, the periods mentioned, as well as what makes one antique more valuable than another. Sometimes the natural wear of an item is what gives it more value than something that looks as though it just came out of the wood shop. Other items will only be considered truly valuable if they look pristine.
Then there’s the manner of the reconditioning of the item, if any work has been done to it. Modern varnishes and lacquers can actually diminish the value of an antique if not applied properly, or if the wrong finish is used. Some items will be missing important features that make the antique valuable. If you don’t know about the things to look for, you could end up on the losing end of a deal you thought was great.
Placing Personal Value on Antiques
Not every antique that you come across will necessarily have to have some serious monetary value to be worth something. People find antiques every day that speak to them on a personal level. It could be something as simple as a jewelry case that reminds them of their grandmother, or their mother. They could find a pocket watch that is identical to a photograph of their great grandfather when he first arrived in his new country.
When you start shopping around for antiques, you will undoubtedly find numerous items that remind you of something or someone you once knew. Even smells can inspire the desire to want to own an item. The smell of mothballs in the attic can make millions of people think about visits to their grandparents’ home and produce a longing, a nostalgic yearning for those days that are long gone.
Don’t begin an antique collection solely based on the merits of financial gain or aesthetic appearance. Whether you’re looking for furniture or small jewelry items, or quills for writing, there should be some items that you find that aren’t necessarily valuable financially, but that touch you in some deep and personal way.
When you begin your journey into antique collection, look for the small items, appreciate the history that they offer. It may not have anything to do with your direct personal history or even that of your family’s history, but when you browse through all of these incredible items, you are browsing through someone’s history.
The First Trip
When you’re ready to take your first trip out antiquing, as it is commonly called, there are some things to keep in mind. The first is that, if you’re serious about antique collecting as a long-term hobby, then you should consider leaving your wallet, or your purse, home. It wouldn’t hurt, either to abandoned the pickup truck or the SUV that would make purchasing an item easier to get home.
The reason for this is that when you begin any adventure that you have never done before, it can be exciting and exhilarating and you could be tempted to do things you might not otherwise have done.
Think about this for a moment, if you would. When was the last time you were excited about an activity, you couldn’t wait to begin it, and your exuberance was so strong that you went out there and suddenly realized that you were in over your head or that you simply didn’t make the right decisions. When you are trying something new, or when you’re heading out with a full bank account and looking to start your collection post haste, you can make mistakes, poor choices, and these can hurt your chances of having a truly rewarding and lasting hobby, or passion, for years to come.
Yes, beginning something new can be quite a feeling and something that you just want to dive into, but without some level of rational thought throughout the process, you will find that you will make mistakes.
Make your first trip out to antique stores, especially on the weekend, about soaking in the atmosphere. You should step back and watch how other people act and react to certain specials or particular items. Allow their frenzy to consume them. If you do this long enough on your first trip, especially when you do so during the busiest times, you will see a lot of people act quite foolish and impulsive.
You will see poor decisions being made and people paying far more for an item than they should. Remember, this could be you, if you’re not careful, if you don’t use a little common sense and an ounce of restraint.
When you step back at first, you will have a better grasp of what you want and a better poise to be ready to negotiate the price.
Antique collecting is about finding the best items and getting them for the best price. Antique dealers know what the value of their items are and they also understand that many of their customers are also frugal and understand the value of the items. There is generally some leeway in the price and you shouldn’t consider paying full price for the item.
Remember one thing about antiques –they were not built recently. These items were made many years ago, and price and value are somewhat subjective. The antique dealers want to make the most profit for their items, but that doesn’t mean that they are going to turn down a reasonable offer.
Reasonable can mean many things to many people. If you walk into an antique store, find something you want, and offer half price for it, you’re not being reasonable. If you took off ten or fifteen percent and made that offer, you’re being reasonable. An antique dealer can either say yes, no, or counter with another offer.
Remember, you’re the customer. You don’t have to purchase anything you don’t want to. Discuss the price and if the dealer isn’t willing to negotiate, you can either pay the asking price or move on. It doesn’t hurt to ask.
Frequently Asked Questions
I have no clue whether an item is antique or not. What do I do?
If you own an item that may be an antique, bring it to an antique store near you. If you found an item that you like and want to verify that it’s an antique, bring along someone who knows and have them evaluate it.
Do antiques appreciate in value over time?
That all depends on the item, how many were made, the condition, and a number of other factors.
Can antiques be items other than furniture?
Most laypersons think of antiques as being furniture only. This is far from the truth. Antiques can be anything that was created, made, or built more than seventy-five years ago.
There’s an item that I really like, but I just don’t know if it’s an antique. How can I tell?
There are many items out there that are being passed off as antiques, when they are anything but. The only true way to protect yourself from being misled is to educate yourself on antiques. It’s also a great idea to befriend antiquing groups in your area and ask questions.
Never hesitate to ask questions. Most collectors who have a passion for antiques will be more than happy to answer them.
Antique collecting isn’t for everyone. It is an acquired passion that can lead someone to stumble across a treasure, whether that value is measured in dollars and cents or simply and aesthetic or personal one. It can be difficult to convince others who don’t know anything about antique collecting just what the attraction is all about, but if you’ve caught the bug, make sure that you surround yourself with people who share that passion for antiques that you’re beginning to develop.
The quickest way to destroy a fledgling passion is to be surrounded by people who simply don’t understand it.