Antique Furniture Inspection Points

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Are you interesting in purchasing some fine cabinets, armoires, wardrobes, or other furniture made out of wood? Old carving and setting techniques have a sort of charm and class about them, but you need to know how to confirm a good buy. Before snagging every set of antiques for sale at auctions and flea markets across the country, here are a few inspection points to make your purchase more informed.

What Is Considered An Antique?

The term antique is one of many words thrown around to mean "old," but it has a specific age in many collector's circles. According to the US Customs and Border Protection office (currently restructured under the Department of Homeland Security), an object must be over 100 years of age to be considered antique.

This number comes from polling multiple dealers and has been reconsidered throughout history--earlier than the 1930s, according to the Antiques Roadshow program. To verify age for wooden furniture, you can use a number of methods, such as checking for the product details on an attached seal or plate or having the piece tested in a lab.

Verifying the piece by its label can be tricky, and verifying properly mostly relies on appraisers proving that the object is real. This can be difficult, as there's always a rare tale of a fake object "fooling" multiple appraisers except for the one person with seemingly greater insight.

If possible, you need to verify the piece against existing databases of such furniture, hopefully with the manufacturer's modern headquarters. If no such headquarters exists, your best bet is to request lab testing via timber age verification/timber dating.

Look For Signs Of Rot

Be sure to check multiple surface of the furniture, not just its general sturdiness. Areas of rot, previous termite infestation, or the eventual wear and tear over time can be hard to see, especially in a showroom where the goal is to cover up some blemishes for appeal.

Don't bash the furniture, but gently knock on multiple surfaces to find any flat, solid surfaces that sound different as you move along the surface. Use your hand to feel for changes in texture, and take a splinter as a sign of failed finishing that should be addressed.

Although some furniture styles lack finishing as an artistic statement, the furniture won't last unless injected with some sort of stiffening or preservative agent. Noticing new finishing materials is either a sign of great preparation or being newer than an antique.

Contact an antiques and collectibles professional, such as Harlan J. Berk, LTD, to discuss available furniture, and lay some ground rules for acceptable inspections.