Antique furniture holds its value
A piece of furniture must be more than 100 years old to be considered an antique, while vintage is the term used to describe a piece of furniture from another era. In other words, all antiques are vintage, but not all vintage items are antiques.
by Jackie Norris
When it comes to furnishing your home, antique and vintage pieces can add romance and taste without breaking the bank. "In a lot of cases, antique furniture can be purchased for less than a brand new piece," says Brian Smith, co-owner of Eastwood Gallery in St. Paul.
Antique and vintage furniture even tend to hold their value better than newer pieces. "The quality of work and products used 100 years ago were far superior than today," Smith says.
"You will get a fair price if you decide to sell your antiques," adds Mike Kranz, owner of Midtown Antiques in Stillwater. "New furniture has very little value once it's used. You can buy a solid oak kitchen table - either antique or new - for $600 to $1,200, but when you get rid of the new one you'll be lucky to get $150 for it."
If you're interested in antiques as an investment, you'll want to pay careful attention to condition and craftsmanship. Serious collectors highly value pieces that have retained their original finish or patina - the beautiful natural sheen that comes with age or use. "A fine piece of antique furniture is a work of art," says Kathy Bronner, owner of K.E. Bronner Antiques in Minneapolis. "And if the piece is in excellent condition, its desirability and price will be affected accordingly."
A documented history of who created or has owned the piece - known as provenance - can also significantly increase value, particularly if that person was famous. "Signed items by famous names such as Stickley make great investments," Smith says. "You'll never regret buying quality, even if it stretches your budget."
But regardless of provenance, buying what you like is probably the most important factor in choosing your antiques because trends change rapidly and can drive costs up or down. Kranz also suggests taking the style or period of your home, condo or apartment into consideration. Educate yourself by researching books and talking to dealers and collectors. "Good buys come to those who really know what they're looking for," Smith says.
For growing numbers of homeowners seeking a greener lifestyle, rest assured that purchasing antiques and vintage pieces is a step in the right direction. As Kranz says, "You're helping the green movement by recycling the old and not wasting our present natural resources."