Determining the Value of Antique Furniture

Do you collect antique furniture but are unsure how to identify valuable pieces? Are you reading this while sitting on a sofa inherited from your grandmother and wondering, “How much could this be worth?”

It is a given that antique furniture consists of old or outdated fixtures. Let’s learn more about antique furniture and their value!

How to determine the value of antique furniture

With these tips, you’ll be able to identify vintage furniture easily. You’ll be surprised to learn that some of them are not made with the most expensive wood. Do you want to know how much your furniture is worth? Check out the following suggestions:

Observe Whether It Is Hand-cut or Machine-cut

Dovetailing is a term used in woodworking that denotes fine craftsmanship and is used to hold parts of a piece of furniture together. These dovetails have long been used in furniture and can be found on the sides of drawers and cabinets.

To identify a valuable antique, you should be cautious of any dovetail joint that appears to have been machine-cut and instead look for ones that appear to have been done by hand. Take your time and pay close attention to how the front and back of the drawers are attached to the sides.

The practice of dovetailing became obsolete in 1860, when simpler machine-made joints became available.

If the dovetail joints on the furniture appear machine-cut, the pieces are likely not antique and may not be as valuable.

A hand-cut dovetail joint
A hand-cut dovetail joint

Look out for Rare Pieces

When it comes to antique furniture, the older it is, the more likely it is to be rare, and rare equals value. However, a piece is not rare simply because it is not available in the market. So, how do you determine if it’s exceptionally rare?

Charles Honoré Lannuier (1779-1819). Gaming or Tric-trac Table, 1805-1815. Museum of the City of New York, 34.400.1A-C.
Charles Honoré Lannuier (1779-1819). Gaming or Tric-trac Table, 1805-1815. Museum of the City of New York, 34.400.1A-C. (Image Source: mcny.org)

You’ll need to find out if there weren’t many of the pieces made to begin with, if there aren’t many original pieces left, if the piece has an unusual color or design for a certain vintage make,  or if new ones are not or are difficult to reproduce.

Check the Manufacturers Mark/Signature

Another thing to look for when identifying valuable vintage furniture is the furniture maker’s signature id label. For this, you would need to conduct a thorough search for any identifying marks, stamps, or labels.

Look for letters and numbers (these are reliable when it comes to fittings) as well as manufacturing tags. Furniture makers typically leave their names, location, and year of production on the interior of drawers.

Fake labels do exist, so keep an eye out for any signs of aging on the labels.

John Taylor & Son
John Taylor & Son. One of the most prestigious cabinet makers of Victorian times, established in 1825, they became ‘cabinet makers to the Queen’.

Is the Hardware Painted?

Painting over the hardware on furniture, no matter how old it appears, is a bad sign. Be wary of hardware that has been painted over as this usually indicates that it has been refurbished recently, which will make the piece worth much less.

If you intend to sell a piece of furniture and are unsure of its value, you should avoid any form of refurbishment until you are certain of its worth, as your attempt to “make it look better” may be the end of that piece.

Back Camera
Two pieces of hardware; one is painted while the other is not   Source: The Craftsman Blog

Antique Furniture Trends: The Rise and Fall of Antique Furniture Values 

Family ties and history are one way to determine the value of furniture, but they are not the only way. The antique furniture prices at an auction reveal a lot, if not everything, about the value placed on that piece of furniture.

These pieces were compiled by Money Inc. to demonstrate how highly antique furniture can be valued. In 2010, the Harrington Commode was sold for 3,793,250 Euros (approximately $5 million at the time).

Harrington Commode
Harrington Commode Source: Metro

However, the value of some antiques, particularly English furniture, has fallen in recent years. This is usually due to its current usefulness (or lack thereof) or how well it blends with the furniture style of the time.

For this reason, some furniture is refurbished and repainted.  While others are stored in the hopes that their prices will rise.

Take a look at this set of eight carved mahogany chairs in the style of George III. They sold for $8000 in 2002, but a similar one sold for $350 in 2016.

A set of 8 George III-style mahogany chairs
A set of 8 George III-style mahogany chairs Source: Tooveys

Antique Furniture Values

The value of antique furniture varies, as a piece of furniture can be sold at different prices in different settings.

Reasons why the wholesale, retail, and auction prices of a piece of furniture might vary include the following:

➢ Retail Value Or Fair Market Value

This is the average selling price of furniture in an antique or collectible store. This is a more reasonable and genuine price.

Insurance appraisals typically use the retail value, also known as the fair market value, because it is the most profitable estimate.

Even for antiques or old furniture that aren’t the most sought after. You’ll be able to get a good deal.

➢ The Auction Value

The auction value is the price at which an item should sell at auction.  It is determined by the antique furniture values of those at the auction house.

That is, more authentic antique furniture will always be more expensive than a common piece of furniture.

However, the value of the piece ultimately depends on the audience. This value system is somewhat skewed because it does not reflect the true cost.

Unless your furniture is extremely rare, popular, and in demand, it is unlikely that you will get a good deal on it at an auction.

➢ The Wholesale Value

The wholesale value of an antique is obtained when it is sold for 30% to 50% less than the retail price.

When it comes to the wholesale value of old furniture, it falls in the middle, neither too high nor too low. You may receive less than the retail price, but more than the auction price.

Do Damages Cause Antiques to Lose Their Value?

Most of the time, wear increases the value of an old fitting over time. Cracks, discoloration, grease and scratches in the wood are all part of the character and add to the piece’s vintage appeal.

However, some damages are too severe to be overlooked. Damage from fire, water, a flood, or even pets destroying the upholstery reduces the antique’s value.

A great way to refurbish a piece of old furniture is if a master craftsman can get it back to near-original without changing the original details.

Montalbano Inc. and others are examples of modern artisans that can do this.

However, in order to determine what should and should not be refurbished, a professional appraiser’s approval is required. If it is badly refurbished, the value will decrease rather than increase.

Tips for Buying Antique Furniture

Here are some tips to keep in mind on your journey into this exciting new world of collecting antiques.

● Buy According to your Interests:

The main issue with new buyers is that they are eager to purchase old pieces for investment purposes rather than because they like them.

In the grand scheme of things, this will not always work because bets placed on that piece may fall flat, and then what? You have a piece of wood furniture that is worthless and that you don’t even like to begin with. You take a risk by purchasing vintage furniture.

It is more profitable for you to buy old pieces based on your preferences and budget. Look into antique pieces, which period designs you like, whether they’re well-made, and then consider colors and how they match the rooms you want them in.

With these criteria in mind, you will be able to make better decisions, and fortunately, they may also prove to be long-term assets.

● Build Relationships:

As a first-time buyer, now is the time to be cordial. While you’re looking for that one piece of furniture that just speaks to you, try to find at least two or three dealers who you think are honest and build a relationship with them.

This is because you truly need all the help you can get on this journey. Some dealers might take advantage of you if you are a novice, so knowing dealers who can give you accurate information on antique furniture values is exactly what you need.

Even if you are confused about your likes, they will help you. Make sure you get to know a trustworthy antique dealer.

● Examine Pieces Thoroughly to Avoid Collecting Fakes:

Easy ways to spot fakes include: Make sure there are no Plywoods, chipboards, Phillipp screws, or staples, as these are far too modern for antiques; check underneath tables for a clean finish, as this is a red flag.

The rims of old pieces should be rough from use, as should the table top; the veneers should also be thicker. Thinner veneers are more modern. Finally, before the 1900s, nails were square-cut, so round-shaped nails means they are not antique.

Any dealer who prevents you from conducting a background check is likely dishonest, and you should avoid doing business with them.

Where to Buy Antique Furniture

Antique furniture are available for physical purchase at local auction houses, bookstores, flea markets, antique shops, swap meets, garage sales, and estate sales.

However, for those who prefer to shop online, there are numerous websites that sell beautiful antique furniture as well as old American furniture. These are some of the best places online to get those Queen Anne’s and Chippendales antiques you most desire.

Etsy

This is a good place to find antiques, with 44,778 listings under the category “Antique Furniture.” Etsy describes itself as an American e-commerce company that specializes in handmade or vintage furniture and craft supplies.

Their website allows you to browse vintage furniture based on the room in which it will be placed, such as bedroom furniture, living room furniture, dining room antiques.

eBay

eBay is a good auction site to buy rare antiques. But, as with any online store, you need to know what you want and have some knowledge of antiques before you go in.

This is because there are so many good options that you could easily become overwhelmed. So, have a pattern, a manufacturer, a style, and even, if you prefer, a specific period in mind for your vintage furniture.

Once you’ve decided, eBay will be like La-La Land for any antique enthusiast.

1stdibs

If you’ve been looking for the perfect antique furniture for your home, this is another great option. The “furniture” category alone contains more than 700,000 listings. You’ll find the perfect furniture to match your taste if you search with specifics in mind.

There are plenty of other places to go online to find high-quality antiques at reasonable prices. But these are some great alternatives that you shouldn’t overlook!

How To Successfully Sell Antique Furniture

Just like with new furniture, we all have to do something with our old furniture at some point. Whether they are being sold to make money or because the owner is moving and doesn’t have a place to store them.

● Determine Antique Furniture Prices

When trying to sell your old pieces, you should consider the piece’s actual value as well as how much time you are willing to spend trying to sell it. The prices of antique furniture vary for various reasons, so you cannot consider only one of these options.

A William and Mary-style table with drawers
A William and Mary-style table with drawers (Image Source: Wikimedia)

● Decide On the Value

Assume you want to sell a valuable piece for $25,000 and all of the prospective buyers you meet are unwilling to pay that price, so you keep going until you find a buyer who agrees. In reality, you sold it for less than its original value.

This is because you worked very hard on that sale. The question is, how valuable is your time? In addition to the monetary value of the item, how much of it are you willing to invest?

Trying to sell it on your own presents a number of challenges, like you may receive less than $25,000 if you sell to a consignment shop or auction house. It will also take you longer to sell to individuals.

As stated previously, you are not getting the value of the furniture in the long run, considering all the hours of work you put into making the sale.

● Engage the Services Of a Professional Vintage Furniture Appraiser:

The need for this is to objectively determine the worth of your antique. They can be found at appraiser organizations such as the American Society of Appraisers.

One thing to keep in mind is that getting a professional appraisal is expensive, so make sure you have a very valuable item.

When you get your furniture appraised, if you’re willing to pay the fee, you’ll receive a report detailing the antique’s description, the appraiser’s estimated value, and the basis for that estimate.

If your appraiser tells you that your furniture isn’t valuable enough for an appraisal, don’t take it personally; as much as you adore that gorgeous antique desk in your living room, this is their job.

Accept their opinion. However, the sentimental value of your furniture is not determined by what a professional says, especially if it is a family heirloom.

If the appraiser is interested, they’ll probably ask for pictures of your antique, so clean them up and photograph them in good lighting.

● Reach Out to An Auction House:

The best locations to sell your items would be auction houses and consignment shops. In such circumstances, certain knowledge is required.

Ensure that the organization you’re considering has a large number of buyers, a variety of marketing strategies, and positive reviews to back them up.

This is because you require a company that understands where and how to sell your antique pieces, as well as your furniture values and styles, and has the connections to do so.

Do your research and make sure the auction houses and dealers you deal with are legitimate.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Trends Influence Antique Furniture Values?

Yes, people’s tastes and trends influence the price of antique furniture. These price changes could be positive or negative.

What Makes My Furniture Antique?

An antique piece of furniture is one that is 100 years old or older, whereas a vintage piece is one that is less than 100 years old.

How Can I Take Care Of My Antique Furniture?

To dust your antique furniture, use a dry cloth. Avoid using a wet cloth. If the stain requires water, use distilled water and a mild soap, then pat it dry when finished.

Conclusion

If you’re an old hand in the collectibles business, you’ve probably noticed that it operates according to cycles. Collectors of antiques are aware that certain pieces of furniture have a higher value at certain times of the year than others do. If you have any inquiries, please let us know by leaving a comment below.

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