Many people are interested in purchasing antiques for many different reasons. Some people like to invest in antiques with the goal of reselling at a high price later. Other people like the look of the piece and wish to add it as a decorator piece or see it as a personal investment. Then again some people like to collect antiques in order to bring them closer to their heritage and have a little piece of their history.
Whatever you reason is for collecting antiques, you must be careful to critically consider your purchase before investing. Antiques usually cost more than normal furniture due to the inherent value added by time. Of course anytime there is a pound to be made easily, there is someone looking to take advantage of it. The number of really good fake antiques is constantly increasing and if you are not careful you could find that you are paying a lot of your hard-earned money for something that isnít worth anything.
Generally speaking most people selling antiques are not out to defraud the buyer. However this doesn't mean that you or the seller do not actually know that the item is not as old or valuable as expected. When looking at antiques there are a few things that will help you identify fakes from the real thing but research is the ultimate answer. The first thing to watch is the price of the item. While an item may be on sale if it is substantially cheaper than expected then you need to assume it is not what it seems. Also you should be suspicious if you find every dealer and an antique fair selling the same type of items. Quality antiques are uncommon and thus an investment, but very common items may be copies.
When considering furniture you need to step back and take a hard look at the piece. Do the legs match the trim on the top of the piece? Are there signs of wear where you would expect to find it? Is the wear uniform? Is there dirt and dust in the cracks? For example a wooden chair should have wear at the points where your arms, legs and butt would contact the piece and should have a dust build-up between the braces on the legs and any spines of the chair. While some of the dust could have been wiped away the finish should still be in better condition than the seat of the chair.
The finish can give another clue to its authenticity. Has the underside of the piece been varnished or stained? Generally original pieces where not finished on the bottom as it served no purpose and was labor intensive to do. Another finishing detail is the presence of woodworm holes. Old wood almost always gets woodworms but their holes can be faked with a nail. When examined with a magnifying glass, a real woodworm hole will not have any cracks on the edges of it.
Another thing to consider is the wood. Real antique wood shrinks over timer along the grain. This means that a round table should no longer be perfectly round due to the shrinkage. Carefully consider the type of joints and veneer on the piece. Perfectly cut dovetails may have been machine made, as it is almost impossible to make perfect dovetails by hand. Veneers where cut by hand and thus are thinker than modern veneers, up to a 1/4" thick.
Paying attention to the construction details will help you avoid the mistake of purchasing a modern piece made from antique wood. Many fakes are made from antique wood, perhaps floorboards from and old building. This type of fake can be very hard to identify since the wood is authentic and only the construction details will give it away.
By carefully researching the antiques you are considering purchasing and knowing a reasonable amount about the construction of real antiques you will be able to avoid the pitfalls of fake antiques. Buying the best that you can afford from reputable vendors will also help you to avoid antiques. Regardless of if you are investing in antiques for fun or for profit be sure to only buy pieces that you can live with so that they can be displayed while the appreciate in value.