MY ANTIQUE FURNITURE VALUABLE?
EVERYBODY asks this question at one time or another!
have some great guidelines, but the REAL answer has to be
found from a qualified appraiser. Most of the information
below was garnered from the Antiques Roadshow Primer,
but it is not complete. If you want more of the same type of
information, we highly recommend you purchase the book at pbs.org.
Determine if the "Antique Furniture" is Old
If it's not old, it
can't be antique or valuable! FURTHERMORE, Old Furniture is not automatically antique.
your fingers underneath or over the back of the piece: very
sharp edges and corners can indicate recent manufacture.
the upholstery is not original, lift one edge: the antique chair rail
to check for the innumerable nail holes which, to a trained
eye, are the reassuring sign of many re-upholsterings over the
course of a long life.
for the distinctive curved pattern left in sawn wood by the
teeth of a circular saw. It is one important sign of
manufacture after 1840.
one screw in some inconspicuous spot. An old antique, handmade
screw will have irregular widths between the spirals, running
the whole length of the shaft. The slot in the head may be
off-center. (New screws have sharp points and regular, evenly
veneers on antique furniture are of thick and somewhat
irregular widths, rather like home-sliced bread. (You can
judge this by noting the veneer edges on the backs of chest
tops, for instance, or wherever bits of veneer have broken
away.) Modern veneers are thin, with every slice exactly the
Old and antique tables don't have metal or plastic taps on the bottoms of
their feet. (Sometimes these have been recently added to an
old piece. Visually -- they haven't.)
table pedestals are often reinforced with a hand-hammered
metal disk or a tri-part metal strap where the legs join.
Twentieth-century tables may be reinforced with large, crimped
staples. A one-board top, made from a single piece of wood, is
a good indication of age.
1800, all the antique mirror glass in America was imported. Antique
glass is thin (less than 1/8 inch thick), variably wavy, and
somewhat gray in color. To determine if a piece of mirror is
old, hold the tip of a key to the glass. The closer the tip of
the reflected Image IS to the tip of the actual key, the more
likely it is that the glass is old.
is the "Antique Furniture" Valuable?
Value, in furniture,
depends chiefly on four criteria -- rarity, provenance,
quality, and condition. Of these, only condition and
provenance are fairly simple to establish. The other two
usually require time, research, and experience -- and probably
the help of an expert-to apply accurately -- Three other
elements -- patina, finish, and color-are also important in
considering furniture's value.
addition to the aforementioned characteristic (which you
should have an expert involved with), there are a few specific
details to watch out for when evaluating antique furniture:
mirror glass devalues the antique mirror, even more than the
flaking of its silvered back or (inconspicuous) cracks.
bonnet-top highboy is usually the most valuable type.
vigorous carving on a piece of American Chippendale antique furniture
generally increases its value.
more ornate design requires more handwork. Thus a wing chair
with cabriole legs (curved legs ending in an ornamental foot)
is more valuable than a block-leg chair, for instance.
large pieces of furniture-pieces that are too big for modern
homes and apartments-are always less desirable than smaller,
more versatile pieces.
chairs" - delicate side and arm chairs decorated with
gilt and paint - lose most of their resale value -- if
they have been repainted. (Scratch through in an inconspicuous
area to check for layers of paint.)
upholstery lends value to antique seat furniture, especially
when it is in good condition.
chairs of the Classical period are more valuable than
straight or turned-leg chairs, particularly if the feet
end in carved or brass paws.