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How to Start Collecting Antiques

collecting antiques

It can be a lot of fun to collect antiques, but how do you get started? There’s several things you need to think about before you get started collecting antiques. Here’s a small guide to help you begin.

Collect Something That Interests You

Before you begin to collect antiques, you need to have an interest. For example, it might be old china, furniture, salt and pepper shakers, and so on. You won’t be able to collect everything as antiques can be very expensive. If you have one or two focus areas, it makes it a lot easier to find pieces that you like and ones you’ll enjoy. Think about what you would like to collect and then you’ll have a focal point in which to start.

Profit or Just to Collect?

Many people collect simply because they like certain items, but others collect to sell a collection later. If you’re selling, then you need to collect items that you’ll be able to turn over for a profit. If you’re just collecting for the sake of having a collection, then the value of the item isn’t much of a concern for you. Spend some time and decide if you just want to collect or want to sell. Some people might want to have a combination of the two.

Research

There’s plenty of fakes out there in the market and they can look like the real thing. You need to do a lot of research before you buy anything, especially if you’re buying online. It’s often a good idea to visit antique shops to buy items in person as you’ll be able to heck them over and look for specific marking such as the artists name or other features that make the item authentic. You must conduct research if you plan on buying antiques because you don’t want to be scammed or buy something that’s not authentic because it’s going to be worthless to you and you’ll be out the money. You should learn all you can about the pieces that interest you. It’s a good idea to get a solid education about the antiques you plan to buy because it will make you a better shopper and you’ll be able to spot the fakes easier before you buy. Keep records of everything that you buy so you can refer to it if needed later as you collect. You don’t want to buy two of the same thing, unless this is what you want.

Start Small

Start your collection by just picking up a few pieces. Once you have a few pieces you can then decide on how to expand upon your collection, For example, you may like a certain pattern on plate or a certain art style. Pick up a few pieces of things you like and then decide how to branch out and grow your collection. Your tastes may chance as you collect so don’t be afraid to change gears if you decide to later. Collecting can be an enjoyable experience. Use this guide to get started on your collecting adventures.

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Antique Conservation

Antique restauration

Your antiques have taken you a lifetime to collect, and if proper steps of conservation are applied, can last for generations. The beauty of most antiques is that they were built to last. Great time and care went in to their creation, and they are often built to exact tolerances with superior materials. Even delicate antiques are usually stable if care is taken. Still other pieces may be particularly delicate as technologies used to create them were in their infancy or not completely understood and this made them inherently unstable. We will offer some helpful hints and basic rules of conservation that will preserve the life of your prized possessions and insure that they will be passed to our children’s children.

Knowing the materials that make up your antique and an understanding of the environment in which they will be stored and displayed in is paramount and this knowledge can help owners make informed decision that will protect their valuables. Presented are some of the common dangers to antiques and ways to prevent damage and deterioration to some common materials. The governing rule of conservation should be to do no harm to your antique. Overhandling, light, dust, environmental extremes involving moisture or heat, unseen environmental elements, animals & pests and improper cleaning or repairs are all able to impact the stability of an antique.

Over-handling is the number one danger to antiques. Every time an antique is handled, it comes into contact with dirt, oils, salts and moisture from our hands. Handling also increases the risk that parts will be loosened or in the case of delicate antiques broken. There is also the ever present danger of dropping a piece. Owners handling pieces should take a few preventative measures to protect pieces when they are being handled. Pieces should be handled carefully and supported with two hands on the strongest portion of the object to prevent dropping. Pieces made of metais or other materials that react with moisture should be handled using cotton conservator’s gloves. Particularly sensitive materials include, ferrous metals, brass, copper, ivory, leathers, paper, etc.

When showing pieces, special cautions should be taken. Place a jewelers pad underneath or place the piece on the pad so that it can be admired and will not be be scratched on hard surfaces. The piece should be supported on a non-reactive stand especially if it is uneven or unwieldy. Custom cases or stands can be made that will properly balance and support pieces. Stands and boxes will allow a piece to be moved with the minimum of handling and offer protection to a piece. Glass or plastic cases that allow a 360 degree view are ideal as they allow a piece to be seen from all sides without handling.
An archival soft plastic case that allows this bronze medallion to be picked up and viewed from any side without damaging the piece.

Pieces with working mechanisms such as clocks, watches, firearms, automatons, music boxes, etc. are tempting to use and when showing are often run or worked. Prior to showing or using a piece with a mechanism, the piece should be carefully inspected. If there is any sign of damage it should not be used and a professional should be sought out to make repairs. If the piece is run, it should be monitored so that if there is any trouble it can be stopped before major damage is done. Firearms should not be “dry fired”, as this can crack or loosen mechanisms. Automatons or pieces using a mainspring for power that are operated should have be run until all tension is released from the mainspring.

The environment in which antiques are displayed and stored is another important consideration. Fortunately, there is a greater understanding of the environment and the chemistry that can effect our prized possessions. Owners should consider where a piece will be placed and stored and weigh the pros and cons. We want to see and have our antiques be seen but many times this can effect stability. Many antiques originally came in custom crafted boxes that were padded and came with a lock and key. Searching out original boxes or having one made can increase the value of a piece and help showcase it’s beauty. Modern pressboards, glues, wood pulp paper used in bookcases, jewelry boxes, storage boxes can react with antique materials.

A French First Empire General’s uniform button in an archival plastic case with inert foam bedding.
When choosing storage or display units, seek solid woods, archival boxes that are acid and lignin free, uv protectant glass and archival plastic sleeves that do not contain PVC. Many companies now offer these products and will advertise as archival.

Strong light should generally be avoided for many pieces. Ultra violet rays can fade or discolor leather book bindings, paper, paintings, woods and textiles. Owners can combat the effects of strong sunlight by darkening rooms with dark thick shades during periods of intense sunlight. Pieces can be displayed in shadow boxes or cases with UV filtering glass. Owners should rotate pieces from their collections to minimize light exposure and this will have the added benefit of constantly showcasing various portions of your collection. Textiles should be stored when not in use or covered with a non-reactive covers. Delicate silks are particularly susceptible to light. Documents and maps can be faded to the point that any text may be unreadable.

An example of a glass enclosed display table that allows pieces to be viewed without handling. This case is in a brightly lit room, where light is controlled by heavy shades.

Environmental extremes involving moisture and intense heat should be avoided. Moisture is a common hazard to many types of materials found in antiques. Moisture can cause mold damage and discoloration, especially to documents. Wood is also greatly effected by moisture and heat. High humidity can cause a piece to enlarge and crack.

Pieces with inlay are a greater danger as the various types of wood will expand and contract at different rates and inlays are generally tightly fit and do not allow room for “give.”
A Victorian coal scuttle with inlaid woods showing some buckling due to expansion and contraction of the veneers.

Ferrous metals will quickly oxidize in the presence of moisture and develop a layer of rust. Overly dry, hot conditions can cause wood to shrink and pull away from fittings. Textiles can also be damaged by moisture, which will create a perfect environment for molds and mildew. Humid basements or dry attics will quickly deteriorate an antique. The best rule to follow for antique pieces is to place in rooms where you would want to live. Desicant packs that absorb moisture can be purchased to protect cased antiques. These packs offer a low cost preventative measure that far outweigh costs associated with cleaning and repair.

Unseen environmental elements can alter an antique piece. Airborne elements like sulfurs and dust collect on pieces and can react with certain materials. The most common example would be tarnish on silver. Silver in its purist form is a noble element that is non-reactive but silver used in silverware or other objects d’arte is not pure. Other metals added to give stability react with the atmosphere to cause tarnish. Silver should be protected using silversmith bags, which are chemically impregnated with anti-tarnish chemicals and kept in a case. Materials such as wool, felt and velvet release sulfur that will hasten tarnishing In some cases this “patina” is sought and it shows the age of a piece. Brass and copper develop this rich patina that develops over time. Dust can be kept from gathering on a piece by placing it in a case and by regular cleaning of the surrounding environment using a filtered vacumn and duster that will collect rather than move around dust particles.

Animals and pests have long been the companions of man. Domestic animals although like family members have no regard for the age or value of your antiques. Animals should generally be kept away from rooms housing high value antiques. Dogs and cats love to chew, scratch or lay on antique carpets, textiles, or furniture. Pests like mice, moths, silverfish, woodworm, etc. have always been the bane of mankind.
A Silverfish illustrated below is a common insect that feeds on starches. During feeding, it can damage bookbindings, papers and pictures.

These pests will seek out your antiques to make their homes and for sustenance. Again the best rule becomes to keep antiques where you reside. Pests tend to gather in attics and basements where they are free to roam at will. Textiles, woods and paper are most at danger from pests. At the first sign of pests action should be taken. Pests must be eliminated quickly or they will multiply. Seek professional help for removing pests such as woodworm from antique pieces. Be very aware of pieces coming from outside sources and what they may be carrying into your home. As always professional pest services can be consulted when problems arise.

Improper cleaning and amateur repair has caused many good intentioned owners to alter or damage their antiques. Generally the best rule for cleaning antiques is that less is more. The current movement today is to appreciate antiques in their original “old” condition. That means keeping patinas on metals, not refinishing furniture, having some age cracks, etc.

This 200 year old brass drum body has mellowed to a rich green patina. The paint on the top bands which was once dark blue has faded to a blue green.

There are differing schools of though but unless the aging process is endangering the stability of a piece, your antique should be allowed to grow old gracefully.

Cleaning should be limited to removing surface dust and dirt. Avoid replacing “dirty,” damaged or old parts of an antique. Collectors generally want to see antiques intact. Original broken pieces that can be expertly repaired are better than new replacements. Small parts that may be broken or detached should be recovered and saved so that a professional can reattach them. If replacements are made to keep a piece working, the replacement part should be marked and dated and the original part should be retained. This will assist with any later sale and can deflect any accusations of antique fraud or dating mistakes. Save all documentation of repairs made. Professionals should be sought for any repairs or major cleanings and they can be consulted in areas where cleaning and repair may improve or detract from the value of a piece. Specific materials making up an antique may require differing types of care that a professional will take into account.

The final topic of conservation that we will discuss is the preservation of the provenance of an antique piece. Provenance is the story behind a piece. These stories place a piece into historic context and can greatly increase the value. If an owner can show that a piece belonged to a famous (or infamous) personage or was used at some point in history, collectors may clamour to add such a piece to their collections. Provenance is preserved by gathering and retaining documentation. Owners who acquire pieces should record when and where they got a piece and how much they paid. Pieces passed down through families should have accompanying stories written down. Persons supplying the history should be documented and ideally they should sign their names. Pieces being sold or passed outside a family should have documentation notarized Any sales information should be kept and old pictures showing a piece, articles about a piece, or auction information should be kept with an antique. The detective work you apply and evidence you gather can mean the difference between a common piece and an extraordinary find.

We are the guardians of our antiques, and they are a part of our heritage. Mechanization and modern industry have all but eliminated the master craftsman from our everyday lives. Following these few rules of conservation and understanding your antique pieces will allow them to survive to be passed on to further generations. So surround yourself with beautiful things that bring you pleasure and remember that you hold a little piece history in your hands.

Related books:
Caring for Antiques: A Guide to Handling, Cleaning, Display and Restoration
Southebys. Conran Octopus Limited 1996.
ISBN 185029 867
Housekeeping with Antiques
McGrath, Lee Parr
Dodd, Mead & Co., New York. 1971
ISBN 0-396-06432-9

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Investing in antiques and collectibles

Antiques and collectibles

Antiques are among the most tangible alternative assets, they are collected for their aesthetic appeal as much as their use and value. Items should always be examples of fine craftsmanship and be in good condition. Investing in antiques is a medium-to-long term venture however unlike investing in the volatile world of stocks & shares you will be able to enjoy your investment while it appreciates in value.

By purchasing from a recognised dealer each antique will come with a guarantee of authenticity which is extremely important as fakes & reproductions are plentiful! They may seem like a bargain at the time but they will never be a true investment.

Don’t be afraid to ask your local antique dealer lots of questions they are the experts in this field and are there to help you make an informed decision.

Most importantly buy only what you like from a period and style that suits you. If you don’t like a piece do not buy it simply for investment purposes as you will soon tire of it.

Antiques are an investment therefore do not be put of by price, quiet often they will cost less than you might expect and can be less than the cost of a weekend short break!

Antiques need not be all or nothing, they come in a variety of shapes and sizes which will suit the most contemporary of apartments, to the semi-detached/townhouses through to the period county homes. Furnish your space in the predominant style you want adding a statement piece in contrast to achieve an uncompromising style that suits you and your home.

When you see an item that you love and know will suit you do not hesitate to buy it. The joy of antiques is that they are one-off items and you will never come across another piece exactly the same, so don’t take a chance that the piece will be available for long.

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Antique Furniture – Beds, Chests, Tables, Chairs

Antique furniture

Dining Tables & Chairs

An Antique Dining Table regardless of size can look great when put together with modern chairs or vice versa. This can create an informal feel to a dining room whilst creating a unique concept. Also an antique or contemporary dining table combined with single antique chairs, whether traditionally upholstered or with a modern fabric can once again create a new classy look yet retaining the functionability of a dining room.

Mirrors

A Modern Fireplace can be complimented with an Antique Overmantle Mirror adding character and light to a room. Alternatively a large upright mirror propped or hung on a wall can offer the same effect. Dressing Mirrors are available in a variety of shapes, sizes and styles are can be place in numerous places throughout the home for example, on chests, windows, tables etc

Card Tables & Tea Table & Console Tables

These are the most multi-purpose tables to buy. They have numerous uses and are perfect size for modern homes and apartments. They can be sold single or in pairs and are on legs or pods therefore perfect for creating floor space. They can be highlighted by positioning them on quality rugs.

Places they can be used as any and all of the following:

Sofa Tables taking a bare look of the back of a sofa whilst not taking up too much space or to the side/end of a sofa as a lamp table.
Hall Tables or Landing Tables, due to their size they are narrow so fit most modern built homes, accessorised with a lamp, bowl or picture frame, blending well with contemporary are or mirror above.
Bathroom or Dressing Room with vase of flowers.
Against any wall in any room.

Chest of Drawers, Linen Press, Commodes

Chests are another extremely versatile item of furniture. The come in various sizes and shapes from a low boy to a tall boy, from a single chest to a chest on chest. They no longer need to be confined to the bedroom, but can be used in almost any area in the home from dining room to bathroom. Not only are they decorative but offer much discrete storage, in the many drawers but also a solid top provides ample space to hold a TV for example.

Bookcase, Bureaus, Library Tables, Desks

Contrary to common opinion a house does not need to have a separate library/office area to enjoy the aesthetic and functional properties of these typically office furniture. Antique bookcase come in all different styles and can greatly enhance a room. Smaller open bookcase can be place in alcoves, against a wall or back of a sofa, they are deep enough to hold magazines. Bookcases can also double as display cabinets. Bureaus host similar functions and with a drop down lid the can accommodate a lap top and offer the combination of decoration, investment, storage and an all in one office which can be closed and locked away easily. Traditional library tables can offer storage, and can be used as dining tables if required. Desks can free stand in a room or double as a console against a wall, they can also work beautifully as a ladies dressing table.

Occasional Tables & Chairs

Every room needs tables and chairs, they are the best way to achieve ‘just the right look and feel’. You can never go over board with either so mix and match these as much as you like, use fabrics that suit you whether it be traditional or contemporary, both look great on antique chairs and add character to a piece, highlight them with cushions or throws. Tables work in much the same way whilst offering a multitude of purposes. As little as adding an antique table or chair to a room can be enough to complete a room.

Sideboards, Serving Tables & Wash Stands

Where ever there is a wall space sideboards and serving tables can be used regardless of the room. They function well as hall tables, in the living room in an alcove or flat wall, in the dining room as original designed for. Pedestal sideboards provide plenty of lower storage, drawer space is usual and the large tops allow a host of smaller items/collectible to be suitable displayed.

Chiffoniers

Chiffoniers placed in an alcove or against a flat wall in either living room or bedroom act as great TV cabinets. Whether the TV is wall mounted or flat screen chiffoniers can be placed underneath. The offer attractiveness, lots of storage for Ski Boxes, DVD’s Games Consoles etc. In a children’s bedroom, play room or nursery they offer a host of uses from storing toys to books to bed linen.

Cabinets & Single Pedestals

Neat Cabinet or pedestals/Lockers need not necessarily be restricted to bedrooms. Instead they can function as drinks cabinets with shelving to accommodate bottles & glasses etc, with drawers for coasters & corkscrews. They can hold towels, soaps etc in bathrooms with room on top for a toilet mirror or perhaps a vase. They can be used in a home office to house folders.

Your Style

It is important to buy only quality items, as these will be most likely to hold their value and really stand out in your home. Remember antiques are as much about investment as they are about filling a room. Buy items that you personally like not just because it will suit a room. Don’t be afraid to experiment with antiques, use them how and where you like and what best suits you but do use them. Remember no home is too small to have at least one quality piece of antique furniture.

An Antique Dining Table with Set of Modern Chairs
A Modern Dining Table with Antique Chairs
An Antique or Modern Dining Table with Single Antique Chairs upholstered in Traditional Fabrics
An Antique or Modern Dining Table with Single Antique Chairs Upholstered in Contemporary Fabrics.
A Modern Fireplace with an Antique Overmantle
A built in Contemporary Fireplace with Overmantle Mirror.

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Looking for valuable antiques

Antique Shop

There is a lot of money to be made in antiques. You need excellent information when it comes to buying or selling in antiques. When you are buying antiques where are the bargains and when you are selling antiques how to maximize on the sale.

The places to buy antiques are generally in auctions, fairs and car boot sales.

Auctions is the most exhilarating places to purchase antiques. What do you need to do before going to an auction looking for antiques. First thing to do is buy an auction catalogue listing the antique items. Get knowledgeable with the antique items and the prices. This lists and numbers all the antique items in the order in which they will be sold. This is a term known as ‘lot’numbers. Pay careful attention to the exact wording of each antique item. Make sure you read the details at the beginning of the antique catalogue, which tell you the importance of words such as ‘attributed to’ and ‘style of’. This vocabulary tells you the valuer’s opinion of the date and authenticity of an antique item and this effects its perceived value. Every antique item in the catalogue displays the price the auction house valuer expects the antique to sell for. If for some reason there is no estimate in the catalogue it may be displayed in the sales room. Always attend the sales room preview. These previews usually take place a few days before the actual antique sale.It is well worth going to this as it is often difficult to view antique items properly on the day of the sale. Every antique should have been marked with its lot number Always ask the auctioneer for a condition report on the antique you are interested in.

A fair is a great place to get a bargain antiques. You need to arrive early to find the best antique items otherwise they will be purchased quickly. For specialist antique items visit the respective specialist dealers. They often retail from large antiques markets. Going to such markets can be a good way of locating dealers who specialise in specific types of collectibles. The antique items on offer will usually be reasonably priced as an antique specialist will know how much it is worth and will be reasonably priced with other local traders. Specialist fairs are great places to meet leading authorities in the antiques trade. Specialist antiques fairs can offer a great chance to meet prominent authorities in their antiques field some of them may have traveled great distances to attend. At reputable antiques markets you are safe in the knowledge of getting the genuine antiques. At other antique fairs, many of the antiques items for sale may be described as second-hand rather than antique. It is very important that you get a written receipt of any antique items that you purchase with the vendors name and address.