When shopping at an estate sale, it can be difficult to identify antique items. However, there are certain clues that a savvy shopper can look for to help determine if they have stumbled across a genuine antique.
The first step is to examine the item carefully for signs of age. Look for watermarks, faded colors, discoloration, worn edges or any other indications that the item has been around for some time. Taking note of the construction and materials used in the object can also be helpful in determining its age. Antiques often feature more intricate craftsmanship than modern items, utilizing finer details such as hand-carved wood or superior metalwork. If possible it is also important to inspect the item inside and out to look for evidence of repairs or modifications that may suggest it’s an antique.
It’s also helpful to understand the style and period of furniture or artwork you are looking at; features like shapes, motifs, designs and materials all help date different pieces. For example, French furniture from the Rococo period (mid-1700s) will have curved lines and prominent carvings with gold accents while French furniture from the Louis XVI period (late 1700s) will have symmetrical lines and less ornamentation. Similarly you might look for hallmarks on silverware or stamps on pottery that indicate when it was made and where it was produced.
In addition to examining the piece itself, shoppers should take time to research its provenance — i.e., who owned it before them? Knowing past owners of an item can give added insight into its origin and age; historical documents such as family records or shipping manifests can also provide invaluable information about a particular object's place in history.
Finally, speak with knowledgeable sellers at estate sales who have experience recognizing authentic antiques; these professionals may be able to provide additional context about a given piece which could assist in making your decision whether something is worth buying or not.