7 questions I get asked about vintage and antiques

7 questions I get asked about vintage and antiques

As a Vintage shop owner I get asked many questions from people wanting to know about their vintage and antique pieces and their values.

Here are 7 of the most commonly asked questions.

  1. How old does an item have to be to be vintage or antique?

There is a great debate about how old an item has to be to be considered an antique. The standard is 100 or more years. There are some antique dealers out there that like to say 50 years, or things made before 1930. I say 100 years, so anything 1920 or older is now an antique.

Vintage is anything 20 years old or older, so 1950s laminate furniture and 1990s toys are now vintage. Retro on the other hand can mean vintage in common vocabulary, but also refers to newer items that remind us of past eras, like modern curvy fridges and round televisions, and things of a certain color or pattern. I find colors like lime green, brown and orange and large floral designs that remind people of the 70s are referred to as retro (like this orange coffee pot).

Vintage enamel coffee pot, also called retro due to its being orange

2. Is my item valuable because it is an antique?

Just because the item is an antique does not mean it has a high value. Age is one of the many factors in determining an antique value, as is who made it. The rarity and the condition can be more important, and of course the market  demand for the antique will determine if it sells or not. Something is worth what someone else is willing to pay. A Chippendale piece will be worth a lot, even in not great condition, because of the maker, and because it’s old and rare. A wardrobe or double bed will not be worth much never mind the maker or condition or timber because not many people have a use for them (which is why I double beds and wardrobes for my kids rooms),

3. How can I tell if my piece is really an antique?

Trying to determine the authenticity of an antique can be very difficult.

Most popular antiques went into reproduction as soon as they become valuable, like carnival and depression glass. The glass may be vintage, but a 70s reproduction of a 1930’s pattern. The chair above is an authentic Chippendale, but their are many reproductions about, even antique ones.

Another common question concerns ivory.   I do not deal in ivory. Lots of items bought from Asia on the 70s or 80s look like ivory, but aren’t.  They are often resin or ceramic. If it’s a large piece, chances are it won’t be ivory either.

Research is one of the best tools you can use to determine the authenticity of an antique. If you have any uncertainty about the authenticity of an antique I would suggest finding a specialist in that field to help.  If in doubt of the age or authenticity, I call a piece vintage, rather than antique or describing its era.

4. How does the condition of an item affect its value?

Damage can have a dramatic effect on the value of an antique. If an antique is very rare, minor damage is going to have less of an effect on the value than if the same damage was on a mass produced antique that can be found rather easily. With common antiques minor damage usually has about a 25-50% effect on the value. If I have a chipped piece of China, for example, it will be heavily discounted or used for a planter or mosaic.

The piece below is in good vintage condition and has Provence with a stamp in the drawer that read ‘European labour’ so we can date it to pre 1960s, with original handles, the mirror is near perfect and the marquetry is intact. It should fetch a good price.

5. Where do appraisers get their information for an appraisal?

We get our information from many sources. eBay is great for a quick guide, but past sales, not what’s currently for sale. Personally I keep an eye on what other dealers are charging, and keep a track of my comparable sales over the past three years. I also use Worthpoint and Carters online, and have a range of specialists I can call on.

6. Should I clean my antiques

Usually not too much. Just dust it, or for China and glass use soap and water. With timber pieces I will wax them with beeswax,

Cleaning an antique can cause damage, so make sure you research the best method you should use to clean your antique. I will be going through some cleaning methods in subsequent posts.

7. What is the best way to sell my antique collection?

We offer sale by consignment, which means we try and get you the best price for your item and take a percentage for storing, displaying, photos and putting on social media.

You can also advertise yourself on Facebook, gumtree, the local paper and eBay. If you have a lot of pieces you could use an auction house, but most are located in major cities.  For regional areas we use local auctioneers, who may also be involved In the sale of you home if you are selling it at the same time.

When buying, collecting or selling vintage and antiques your best tool is knowledge. Doing some research can save you time and money.

I hope this has answered some of the questions you may have about vintage and antiques. If you have further questions feel free to leave them in the comments.



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