Have you ever encountered a stellar piece of old furniture at a flea market and wondered about its worth? It happens to all of us from time to time. Flea markets and antique stores are excellent places to find some vintage valuables, but the question is, are these old furniture pieces precious?
You can call a piece of furniture an antique if it is at least 100 years old, and furniture made between 30-100 years is considered vintage. Honestly, only age cannot determine the value of old furniture. Several factors, like dovetail details, wood material, and hardware quality, are a perfect way to know the worth of a piece. Furthermore, the feet and leg styles are also good ways to determine the exact era of your furniture.
An article by the Washington post suggested that there has been a huge hike in the sale of antique furniture in recent years. Some sellers have earned five times more revenue in the year 2021 than in 2019
Read further, as this article will share a few helpful ways to guess the value of your vintage furniture. Furthermore, we will also discuss some online and print guides to help you know more about your piece’s worth.
Tips to Know the Value of Your Furniture
The general rule of thumb is the older your furniture is, the more valuable it is, but that is not the case every time.
Several other factors also help in knowing the actual value of pieces; for instance, an old chair with a stamp from a renowned designer will be more valuable than other similar pieces without a label. Here are a few other tips to help you out.
Examine the Wood Material
Oak, Mahogany, and walnut were the most preferred materials for furniture in the older times. Firstly these wood materials were readily available. Secondly, they were durable enough for bearing intricate carvings and molding.
But these wooden materials are relatively cheap and more common in antique furniture than other high-end wooden materials.
Calamander and Amboyna are the most sought-after and expensive types of wood in antique furniture. Collectors and vintage furniture enthusiasts would spend millions to get pieces made in these precious wooden materials.
Picture Courtesy woodenrings.com/antiquebox.org
Fun fact: Badminton Cabinet is the most expensive antique furniture, sold for $36.7 million.
Do Thorough Research on Stamps and Labels
Stamps and labels are other critical factors in knowing the correct value of your vintage furniture. Due to wear and tear and age, you might not be able to find a label on your antique furniture, but if you do, that’s excellent news.
The graphics and information on the label can tell a lot about its value and age. If your furniture has a stamp or maker mark from renowned designers like Gillows Lancaster, Ramsey & co, and John Gibson will soar the value of your item way up high.
|Gillows Stamp||Ramsey & Co stamp|
Picture Courtesy jacquelinestallone.com
If you find a makers mark or stamp on your antique furniture, refer to the dictionary of furniture makers in England to get to know the value of your vintage furniture.
Trace the Original Owner
Tracing the original owner of antique furniture is relatively easy for inherited heirlooms. On the contrary, thrift stores or vintage furniture shops do not always have adequate information. That is good enough if you can research and find a trail to the actual owner.
It can tell you a lot about the importance of your piece of old furniture. If it was under the ownership of a renowned personality or a famous figure, you could get more value for the article.
People love to keep things owned or used by famous people; after all, there is a reason why Marilyn Monroe’s ‘Happy Birthday Dress was sold for $4.8 Million.
Research the Rarity of Your Furniture
Vintage furniture is valuable because it is old, with high-quality craftsmanship and handmade furniture carvings. Furthermore, it is a rare object that is not readily available at every other store. If you have an antique piece of furniture, try to look for its demand.
The more rare and demanded your piece, the higher its value will be. Furniture made of rare wood and adorned with valuable gems will be more precious and worthy than antique pieces made from everyday materials.
|A Rare Antique Chinese Davenport Desk Hand Carved Hardwood 1860|
Picture Courtesy canonburyantiques.com
Hardware Quality, Material, and Diversity
Closely examining the hardware can also tell a lot about the age and value of an item. In older times, furniture used by royals or high officials had gold hardware adorned with precious gems. Furthermore, their polish and quality had a class of their own.
So, If you ever lay your hands on such a marvelous piece, rest assured you have dug out a gold mine because such pieces can sell for a fortune.
But be careful; hardware is one of the easiest things to replace. Furniture restorer often replaces the hardware with a new similar style. Honestly, if your antique furniture doesn’t have authentic hardware, it can devalue it.
Picture Courtesy antiques.lovetoknow.com
Dovetailing is the joint that keeps the drawers together. It was one of the most used and preferred joints for cabinet making in older times. Dovetailing uses pins and tails to join two boards, creating a sturdy and robust joint.
Machine-cut dovetails have even spaces and have fine work. However, dovetailing in older times was uneven and asymmetrical.
Due to manual labor, the dovetailing had differences in measurements and spacing. In conclusion, the broader and more irregular dovetailing is, the more valuable your old furniture is, as it shows the furniture’s age and the maker’s authentic craftsmanship.
|Handmade dovetailing||Machine-made dovetailing|
Picture Courtesy pegsandtails.wordpress.com/ antiquesworld.co.uk
Observe the Furniture Style
The furniture industry has evolved through several centuries. Moreover, with every passing decade, the style and functionality of the furniture have also changed.
From the 16th century’s heavy-looking renaissance style to the delicate 18th-century Queen Anne style, each piece depicts a different vibe.
But not every furniture style has the same value. Louis XVI’s style is more valuable than others because it is known for being famous among royals and high officials of its time. If your furniture is in Louis XVI style and has a crown maker’s mark, it can have much more value than a piece made in Chippendale or Sheraton.
|Louis XVI room in the Louvre|
Picture Courtesy wikipedia.org
Visit Vintage Furniture Shops
If you are an aspiring vintage furniture collector or somebody who loves to collect old-age furniture, a keen eye for authentic pieces is the way to success.
Honestly, there are several frauds in the market selling fake products with the value of real original furniture. Still, your observant eye can instantly differentiate and save you from scams.
The best practice to develop these skills is visiting vintage furniture shops and getting the feel of antique furniture. The more you visit such shops, the more familiar you will get with the furniture’s polish, wood quality, and intricate details. It will help you get an idea about the value of a piece instantly by looking at it.
Observe the Wood Quality and Condition
As mentioned earlier, the older your antique piece is, the more value it has. There are several ways to tell the exact age of your furniture, but the best way is to examine the wood quality and condition of the piece.
You must explore all furniture sides, especially the back and underside. These are the places that show the nicks and cracks in the furniture that can only happen with time. Moreover, reproductions and restored furniture have old worn-out pieces on the outer side but new pieces on such hidden places.
Another way to know the authenticity of a piece is by examining the scratched or worn-out places. Vintage furniture was made using solid wood with grain; the wood should look the same from scratched areas, only in a lighter tone. Furniture made with pressboard or MDF material will have a textureless surface.
Check the Wood Colour
The color of the wood can also tell you a lot about antique furniture values. The older the wood is, the better value it will give. With time as the wooden material ages, its color changes, and it gets darker.
Furthermore, it loses its luster and fine shine from the polish. If your furniture has a rich hue and you cannot see any reflection, it is probably an item of antique furniture.
Another way to spot the age of your furniture is by looking at the cuts on the wood. Straight saw cuts are a sign of old or vintage furniture. If it has circular or arc-shaped marks, it means the wood is cut using a circular saw, an invention of the 19th century.
Picture Courtesy hullworks.com
Check If the Pieces Match
Antique furniture had a collection of different materials. The artisans used oak and walnut to create the furniture’s outer sides, while the inner sides of drawers and hidden areas had relatively low-cost material. Furthermore, flexible and easy-to-cut wood was used for drawers to make things easier for the furniture makers.
Contemporary machine-made furniture has a uniform material. Due to mass production, different materials are not feasible, making them look uniform and common.
Observe the Screws
Screws are an excellent way to know the actual age of your antique furniture and assess its value accordingly. The 16th century or earlier furniture had basic nuts and bolts with blunt ends as they were cut off without forming a pointed shape. You can take the screws out of your furniture and scrutinize them to get a better idea about their age.
Here are a few things to keep in mind while examining the furniture.
- The old hardware was put together using a hammer or glue instead of nuts or screws.
- Hexagonal nuts and bolts are a 19th-century invention, and if you find them in your furniture, it is either restored or not even antique pieces after all.
- Square-headed bolts are older than hexagonal nuts, dating back to the 18th century.
|The image shows the hardware attached to the wood without nuts and screws.|
Picture Courtesy quora.com
Venner quality is another way to identify antique furniture. Veneering is the process of covering cheap wood with strips of an expensive one. It was invented in 1600 as a cost-effective solution to furniture making.
Most commonly, oak and Mahogany were used for veneering, but exotic materials like wood burls and pearwood were more expensive. If your old furniture has exotic wood veneering, it is definitely more valuable.
Picture Courtesy harpgallery.com
Here is a video that can also help you evaluate the value of your furniture.
Other Ways to Tell the Value of Your Furniture
If you are unsure of your skills and want to get others’ opinions about your antique furniture values, here are a few helpful ways to go.
Read Printed Furniture Value Guides
You can find several printed furniture value guides at your local bookstore. Carefully look at all the products in the manual and compare your furniture pieces with the closest ones. It can help you judge your piece’s value. Furthermore, it will also help you to know the key characteristics of your antique furniture that can help you sell it at a better price.
Opt for Online Antique Furniture Seller or antique dealer
Several websites offer price guides and professional opinions regarding antique furniture. There are fine antique dealers also where you can find old furniture which dates back 100 years.
You can register online and look for different antique pieces matching your requirements. Kovels, Invaluable and worth point are a few popular places for antique furniture price evaluation. Vintage pieces can also be furniture appraised by experts.
Visit an Auction House and Antique Site
The auction house and antique sites are also a great way to assess the value of your item. They do not provide price guides, but you can check out the old sale listings and articles available for sale.
If you find a similar piece to your furniture at the auction house, look for its characteristics and how much people have or are willing to pay for it. eBay, GoAntiques, and Rubylane are a few helpful antique sites to visit.