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Buying & selling

5 Mistakes To Avoid When Buying Antique Furniture

5 Mistakes To Avoid When Buying Antique Furniture

In this blog, you’ll learn the 5 mistakes to avoid when buying antique furniture. Antique furniture has traditionally been synonymous with stately homes and high price tags, but that image is changing. More and more people are now choosing to punctuate modern furniture with a carefully chosen antique to bring a rich and eclectic sense of style to their home.

Whether that comes in the form of a walnut dining table or a Victorian mahogany bookcase, interspersing your flat packs with a smattering of fine antiques brings new depth and personality to your surroundings.

Antiques are not always prohibitively expensive, but you might choose to invest that little bit more when you find that perfect piece to form a focal point.

Whatever you are spending on an antique, you want to know that you are making a wise choice. Yes, you want a bargain, but you also want to make sure you are buying a quality item. So, what are the pitfalls of buying antique furniture that you can avoid?

antique chair and table

Not checking for damage

Sure, antiques are old but don’t make the mistake of overlooking damage because you have fallen in love with a piece. While you can expect the odd scratch and dent, you need to make sure that these are taken into account when you negotiate a price.

Antique restoration can be costly, and you might want to do a bit of research into this before you hand over your hard‐earned cash. If you arrive armed with knowledge about the average costs of restoration, you’ll seem like you know what you’re talking about which gives you more bargaining power with a seller.

buying antique furniture

Not checking the item over

Sellers of antiques know that prospective buyers will want to have a close look at the item before they agree to a purchase. Be wary of anyone who is reluctant to let you see a piece. Keep an eye on any parts that have been replaced or altered. For example, if you notice any plywood or chipboard or if it has Phillips screws or staples ‐ this indicates it has been constructed more recently.

There’s no harm either in getting a second opinion. Even experienced antique dealers do this, so don’t be afraid to contact an expert in the type of antique you have your eye on. Second opinions are common practice in antique dealing, so a legitimate seller would not be perturbed by this.

collectors pieces - chair and table

Buying for the wrong reasons

Unless you’re planning to sell the item on, make sure you actually like the piece that you are buying. This seems like an obvious point to make, but people can often get carried away by perceived investment opportunities or the prestige of a particular name.

You never know what’s going to happen in the future with regards to the market, value, and demand. Buying a piece purely for potential future return could be a costly mistake. Unless you are a dealer, the potential return on investment should be a secondary consideration.

buying antique furniture - set of drawers

Not doing your research

You will struggle to haggle effectively if you haven’t done your homework. You’re more likely to have a successful buy when armed with knowledge about the different features used across time periods and if you can tell your dovetail joints from your dowels.

It’s also important to know when certain materials came into usage. For example, screws were not used before 1675, and plywood was not used in furniture making until the 1930s. Look at price guides for similar pieces as a starting point. Have a price in mind that you are not willing to go above and stick to it.

antique furniture dealership

Offending the seller

Try not to inadvertently offend the seller. For example, it might not be a great idea to talk about how you intend to renovate the piece. The seller might consider the piece perfect and a masterpiece of the time period. They could be horrified to hear of any changes you intend to make.

Additionally, if you wax lyrical about how you are going to paint the piece or remove part of it before you’ve made the deal, they might be unlikely to negotiate with you; they could even flat‐out refuse to sell it to you at all.

There is a lot to think about when buying an antique and even experienced dealers sometimes get it wrong, but these tips are a good starting point to help you select a piece that will bring you joy and transform your home.

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Anthony Bridgman

Anthony Bridgman

Community User

Anthony is a talented cabinet maker whose love for working with his hands came from his Grandfather, who taught him the cabinetmaking trade from a very young age. He still learns a great deal from 19th and 20th-century manuals, whether it be the history of specific items or how best to repair them.