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Hunting antiques

Eight Top Tips for Buying Antiques

12th September 2019

1. Buy What You Love

Whilst it is important to find a piece that will fit within you home, or the space it is intended for. If you fall in love with a piece, why not try another approach?  – to design the theme of a room around it! Or one or two signature pieces.

If you do, you will never be disappointed.  As if it appreciates or depreciates in value, we always want to hold onto something we love, regardless of fashion.

You are also likely to take better care of a treasured piece of Antique furniture. It sounds obvious, but a number of people buy because they perceive needing an item, or as an investment. If you haven’t found something that you absolutely love, perhaps hold off and wait for the right thing.

When you know you know.

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2. Always Take Measurements

Adversely, while it is important to buy what you love, it is equally important to make sure that it will fit through the door. It is quite important to get carried away, and at the same time not!

But if you know you are in the market for a new piece of antique furniture, take some basic household measurements, and have an idea of how such items might enter your property before buying or bidding.

Even better, come armed with measurements AND photographs of the space, or spaces, that pieces are intended for.

3. Always Buy The Best That You Can Afford

Although fashions come and go, as a general rule, if you are buying from a reputable outfit, the more you spend, the more the item will hold its value, if properly cared for.

This is for a number of reasons, the simplest being that as time goes on, rarity and historical value only increases.

Im not suggesting that you spend beyond you means.

But if you are weighing up two similar items, one in slightly better condition than the other,  the one in better condition will appreciate in value with great rapidity, relative to the poorer quality item.

It always pays to spend that little bit more on quality if you can.

However this should not be at the cost of tip no1, ie, buying what you love. If you actually prefer the cheaper item that is a little rougher around the edges, then let love dictate. You will always do well with antique furniture that you love as a primary force.

Antique Wardrobe

4. When You Get to The Showroom

Don’t be afraid to ask questions and to engage with the sales team. Remember antique dealers work in the field because they are passionate about antiques, and about their history. Mostly they are great people.

Some good general questions to ask are: whether anything new has arrived? Or about their specialities. On that topic, it is good to build a rapport with a dealership that reflects your personal taste and home.

On visiting the showroom be sure to allocate plenty of time, so that you can really explore. You might find that gem hidden away in the corner.

If it is hidden away, or the price tag is a little faded, then it may have been there for a while. So the dealership may be happy to knock a little off of the price, say 10%. They may be quite glad to make the room for a new arrival.

However do not start making outrageous offers, or you wont be taken seriously. Remember the dealership also need to make a living.

And its important to build a rapport with a dealership who stock the kind of furniture that you like, so that when something comes in that is perfect for your requirements, then you will be the first to hear about it.

5. Check Authenticity

Some antiques will be labelled, hallmarked, or bear some other form of authentication. Perhaps they have accompanying paperwork. Not all do, and it will reflect in the price, something worth bearing in mind.

Be sure to ask the dealer about this, and about the provenance of a piece in general. You should also check antique furniture over carefully before buying. We have a number of handy guides that can help with how to spot authentic antiques:  handy guides.

It helps to read around the subject generally to get a feel for the different periods and design trends.

6. Find an Entry Point Purchase

The idea of going straight in with a highly valued item can be a little daunting, and perhaps out of reach just now. The world of high quality antique furniture can still be for you, even on a budget.  Simply start with something small.

A single antique chair can be an excellent starting point. Sometimes dealers find it a little tougher to sell a single chair that was once part of a set. Especially if they specialise in sets of dining room furniture.

And a single chair can make a stunning and elegant edition to say a small room.

Or something like an umbrella rack, or coat stand can become such a wonderful feature, and is less daunting than diving straight into purchasing a full set of bedroom furniture.

Smaller additions to your home or workspace can also work well in small spaces. They can also fit perfectly within an eclectic design scheme.

7. Get Away From The City

This applies as a general rule. Often dealerships in small country towns will be a little better value like for like, as they don’t have the same kind of overheads as those in the bigger cities, where there also tends to be a little more wealth.

However the effect is tempered by the fact that dealerships in the large cities will also expect greater footfall, and will need to price competitively, meeting a wider range of niche needs.

This said, dealerships in more rural areas, especially the further North you get in the UK, are a little better value. And visiting such places can make a wonderful day trip, or the perfect excuse for a holiday.

8. Follow Your Interests

This can be a fantastic entry point into the world of antique furniture, and is the entry point for many. That way you will really enjoy reading around the subject; and becoming an antiques expert, before you even make a purchase.

For example if you are a bridge enthusiast, who is also thinking of learning about the exciting world of antique furniture, why not learn about antique card tables as an entry point?

Find out who deals in them, pardon the pun. And why not find out if there is a particular antique fair where a number of relevant dealers will be attendance?

That way you can compare and contrast the relative quality and condition of a number of items, all at one event.

Remember most of all to enjoy the process. If you take your time learning a little here and there, you will most likely develop a life long passion for antique furniture.

The world of antique furniture is about history, but most of all, it’s about people. Enjoy!

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