Everything You Need to Know Before Buying Antique Furniture – LIFESTYLE BY PS icon

Everything You Need to Know Before Buying Antique Furniture


Antiques bring a touch of style and profundity to a space that contemporary furniture can’t afford. You get to celebrate the old ways of craftsmanship when nails and wood glue were not the only go-to options in joinery. However, getting a good deal on a piece of old furniture is not merely walking into an antique furniture store and having a shopping spree. You need to know how to spot an antique gem first.     

Antique Furniture

Check the Joinery Work

Most antiques have a mortise and tenon joint somewhere in their construction. This was one of the most popular ways to make furniture back then, and it was preferred for its effectiveness and simplicity. The carpenter chiseled a protruding end on one side and the same hole size on the other piece to make this joint. Ideally, it was supposed to be a tight fit, and they often used nails to add rigidity.

Dovetail joints are also another common joint found in antiques. And it involves cutting teeth on one piece of lumber then making sockets in another. This joining technique was commonly used to make drawers.

As a general rule, check for these two joints in every antique piece you are about to purchase. They should look uniformly aged and sturdy.

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Check for Damage

So you just found a genuinely old piece of furniture that you really like. And the price is reasonable. However, there are chances that the seller is trying to move the piece because it’s damaged. That’s why you need to bring your magnifying glass every time you go thrift shopping.

Essentially, you want to make sure the antique looks complete and is well functioning. Check for missing drawers or open spaces that look odd. Also, you might want to check for woodworms before making the purchase. These tiny insects make holes in timber, and they can spread to the rest of your furniture. So, make sure every piece you buy is disinfected and properly inspected.

Check for Replacements

Unfortunately, most people don’t know the value of an antique until someone makes them an offer. Commonly, most pieces go through a rough patch as they moved from place to place or from one customer to another. For example, a heavy piece of furniture can get damaged from being dragged constantly. Other times, furniture is stored in a basement for too long, thus destroying its structures. If that happens, the owner might try to salvage the pieces by replacing the worn-out parts and hope someone will fall for their trap.

Spotting replacements is not always easy because some people are good at recreating antiques. They look for aged wood, create a matching piece, then make it blend in. However, they often use a machine to cut timber, resulting in straight edges and general perfection. That is not a common trait with antiques, which could be one way of noting such tricks.

Look for a Signature

People started labeling furniture in the 19th century, and they usually chiseled a signature on the back or underside of drawers. These stamps show who made the piece and the year it was manufactured. This information can dramatically add value to antiques.

However, many people have tried to fake these signatures to swindle money for their unlabelled antiques. So you might want to compare the label and the surrounding parts for similarities to avoid the fake signature trap.

Watch Out for Reproductions

As more interior designers push the idea of including antiques into modern design, the demand for old furniture has never been higher. So, people have found ways to age wood then pass those items as genuine antiques. An experienced collector can sniff out a knockoff from a mile away, but an inexperienced buyer can easily fall for the trick and pay a hefty amount a duplicate. This is often experienced by customers who shop online.

To be safe, you want to shop from a reputable seller with lots of positive reviews. And it wouldn’t hurt to bring an experienced antique collector to scrutinize it. This person should help you identify the damages and potential fixes. They can also be able to tell if you are looking at a knockoff or the real deal.

Of course, there are situations where you are willing to accept an equivalent piece of antique for a reasonable price. Maybe you are an interior designer, and the aim is to reach a particular styling goal on a budget. In that case, getting a knockoff for the right price can be a good thing.