5 Rookie Mistakes to Avoid When Buying Antique Furniture

I love the feeling of finding a good buy at a flea market or resale shop.  That perfect antique piece to go in that spot that you’ve been looking to fill – my heart almost skips a beat when I see it sitting there across the store.  Sometimes in the excitement, I admit that I have made some pretty big judgement fails in the past – which is what made this guest post a perfect fit for my blog.  Today we welcome Hannah Hutchison from Westland London with her piece on how to avoid making those rookie mistakes.


It goes without saying that antiques are not only hard to find but also cost more than a pretty penny. You want to get the highest quality and authentic item while getting a good bargain in the process. Too many novice collectors, unfortunately, make preventable mistakes in the buying process. As a consequence, they end up paying far more than necessary or end up buying a second-grade antique piece.



Below are some common mistakes that would absolutely horrify a seasoned antique collector and buyer.


  1. Overlooking Damage

Some collectors get overzealous in the idea of acquiring a new antique piece that they fail to carefully visually examine the piece. Imperfections like scratches, dents, or scuffs should be taken into account. After all, those blemishes can cost hundreds of dollars to restore. The same goes for missing pieces. Is a vintage vanity really worth the seller’s asking price if an entire drawer is missing?


You can also get a second opinion. When examining the piece, take closeup pictures from different angles and send them to a trusted evaluator. Wait until the evaluator gets back to you before agreeing to any final offers with the seller.


  1. Expecting Perfection

Just as you shouldn’t overlook damage, you shouldn’t expect the piece to be in pristine condition either. The antique is decades or even centuries old; there is bound to be visible signs of aging. If you’re expecting perfection, then aim for a reproduction rather than an actual antique.


This doesn’t mean you should be okay with extensive damage, but you should be fine with expected wear and tear. You should expect the finish in the arms of a chair, for example, to be mostly worn. Likewise, if the antique involves metal pieces, expect signs of patina. Damage that you should not find acceptable includes water damage, parts chewed by pets, or rickety pieces.


  1. Insisting on Proof of Authenticity

It can be difficult to verify whether an antique piece is real or a knockoff. Certain brands and styles are known to have a lot of imitations. Bakelite jewelry, for example, is a famous early-1900s, fire-resistant plastic used in various rings, bracelets, and bangles. After its inception, various brands released their own inferior-grade jewelry that looked indistinguishable from actual Bakelite jewelry.


To be sure you’re buying the real thing, see if you can spot the antique piece’s official stamp, which is located in an inconspicuous part of the item. However, we want to point out that it shouldn’t be a deal breaker if you don’t see any stamps. Imitation pieces made from the same time period are still antiques in their own right. If you like the piece, then it’s not absolutely necessary to insist on authenticity.


  1. Offend the Seller

Be careful during negotiations as you may end up offending the seller without even realizing it. This is especially the case if the seller is himself a collector as opposed to, say, a flea market vendor. For one, don’t talk about how you plan on renovating or repainting the piece. The collector may find the item to be a masterpiece as is and may be horrified that you plan on turning the item into something its original maker never intended for. The seller may genuinely want the piece to go to someone who will really take care of it. This may mean more to him than making a good sale. For this reason, don’t divulge too much information on what you plan on doing with it once you bring the item home.


  1. Not Getting a Second Opinion

We mentioned this briefly in the first point but it bears going into more detail. Always get a second opinion even if you’re an experienced antique dealer yourself. If possible, look for an expert in the specific type of antique you’re considering. For example, if you’re considering a vintage French armoire from the King Louie XIV era, then see if you can find an expert on French antiques from that time period. A second opinion from a specialist can lend expertise that you would never have considered on your own.


Buying antiques is not unlike buying a car. With experience, you will develop your own style of negotiating and examining antique pieces. If you’re a new collector, then we recommend checking out some antique fairs.  Even if you don’t plan on buying anything, talk to the dealers there to gain valuable negotiating experience.


About the Author:

Hannah Hutchinson is an interior designer based in London, currently blogging for Westland London. She’s always chasing new ideas and likes thinking outside the box when it comes to incorporating fresh ideas to her clients’ new homes.