What is an antique?

An antique is defined as an old object collected and prized for its age, rarity, condition, utility or unique features. Usually representing a much earlier period than the present, antiques exhibit a degree of craftsmanship or a certain attention to design.

In the United States, customs laws have specified that in order for an object to be considered an antique, it has to be at least 100 years old.

The most popular antique items that homeowners typically buy include:

• furniture

• glassware

• porcelain

• jewelry

• lamps

Dealing with an antiques dealer

An antique dealer is knowledgeable about antiquities and makes a living buying and selling these unique items. Because dealers are expected to appraise or gauge the value of items, they have to keep abreast of business trends and be aware of the current market value of antiquated products.

Many types of antiques for sale on the market require specific appraisal knowledge, so you'll find that antique dealers specialize in certain items. For example, some deal mainly in jewelry and others in furniture or porcelain. Despite this, antique dealers are expected to know a bit about other areas of antiques as well.

The antiques trade is divided into several levels, based on selling price. Low-level antiques are sold in flea markets and yard sales. Mid- and high-level antiques are sold in individually owned shops and at antique shows.

A professional mid- or high-level antique dealer should have a trade membership in organizations such as The National Antique & Art Dealers Association of America (NAADAA). The association assures buyers that the dealers safeguard the interests of those who buy, sell or collect antiques through just, honorable and ethical trade practices.

A trusted dealer should also possess a license from a local authority in the state where the trade is practiced.

How to be an antique buyer

Do adequate research. By researching the desired antique item, you'll gain more knowledge of the item and confidence in purchasing it. You should equip youself with historical knowledge of the item such as where it was produced and its current worth.

Shop with a reputable buyer.Ensure that your dealer possesses a local trade membership and a license to practice his or her trade. Be discerning when buying antiques at flea markets or yard sales because the sellers won't likely to belong to any trade associations that assure buyers of sellers' adherence to a set code of conduct. Check websites like List for a record of complaints on antique dealers who own retail stores.

Ask for a discount. Many dealers are willing to bring their prices a little lower. Some dealers are willing to give a little discount if you pay cash upfront in place of a credit card.

Inquire about previous damage and/or restoration. It's worth inquiring about any previous damage on the item and how the flaw has been restored. Sellers usually don't inform when not asked.

Inspect the item carefully. As a potential buyer, feel free to pick the item that takes your fancy and examine it carefully and thoroughly for flaws.

Ask for a receipt. Ensure that the dealer provides you with a receipt stating all the information you need about the item purchased, such as the age and the material, previous damage or restoration and its value.

Beware of reproductions, fakes and forgeries. Always look for seals or stamps at the bottom of the item. Original paintings will come with a signature. Beware of antique items that look totally flawless and polished. Look for designs, emblems or motifs associated with the previous era.

Certificate of authenticity

Avoid buying reproductions. Buy only from reputable dealers or auction houses. One way to determine the reputability is to ensure that they possess trade memberships and a license. Independently verify and appraise costly items and avoid purchasing antiques online without having seen or examining them.

Beware of forged autographs and Certificates of Authenticity. Carefully examine the wording of sales descriptions and the ink used in the signature. Dark, bold ink is a telltale sign of a recent signature. Be very careful about accepting Certificates of Authenticity without proof of the item's history.

Beware of stolen goods. Beware of bargain prices as the goods may be stolen. You can't rule out this possibility in dealings with antique paintings and art pieces that attract international thief syndicates to operate professionally. If you suspect the item is stolen, ask for proof of ownership.

How to sell antiques

Stock your inventory. An economical place to stock your inventory is your home, especially if you are just starting out on the business. To source your items, thrift stores or yard sales are ideal places to visit as the prices of the items are affordable.

Do research. Thoroughly examine your items and look out for dates, names of manufacturers, location of where the items were made and signatures. Perform an online and offline research on the items for further details that can shed light on the history of the items and their value.

Hire an appraiser. Hire an appraiser with expertise in the area you need to ensure that items are not undervalued. It's worth your while to hire one although the fee may be costly, ranging from $75 to $350 an hour. Get the quotes of at least three appraisers before you finalize on hiring one. Once appraised, you can list your prices and sell with confidence.

Antique repair

You may find that your antique has suffered from the likes of water damage, ripped upholstery, chips, scratches or broken elements. Taking your piece to any old repair shop may not be the best bet. 

Before you decide to refurbish any antique you should always make sure that the piece wasn't made by a notable craftsman. Your attempts to fix it can diminish its actual value. Look for any markings that may tip you off to who made the piece. If the design is hand-carved and very ornate then you'll want to enlist the help of a professional antique furniture refinisher or you risk damaging the item and hurting its resale value.

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