Can you relate to this moment, when, while scavenging a Thrift Store or Flea Market, your heart jumps and anticipation breeds sweaty palms as your eyes examine a unique piece of old furniture? Perhaps you instantly recognized the style as William and Mary or just something about the unique piece baits further investigation. However, excitement turns sour as you stand in the moment of indecision. How do you tell if this old furniture is valuable?
Collecting “antique” furniture has the potential to become just as expensive as a lottery ticket obsession. Your goal is to make money, not waste money. Fear birthed from inadequate knowledge leaves you stuck in the aisle with the distasteful weight of uncertainty.
Do not worry, you are not alone, almost every ambitious old furniture collector, shares moments like these.
How would you like to make your indecision as archaic as the old furniture you are hoping to find? If so, this blog will equip you with some helpful tips on how to tell if old furniture is valuable. Enjoy investing in only the old furniture that will love you back! Or ensure that you won’t walk away from an extremely valuable antique.
Basically, our aim is to make old furniture hunting as leisure and fun as widow shopping!
Ways to Decipher Whether Old Furniture is Valuable
Old Furniture Styles Offer Clues
Knowing the styles can help you identify old and valuable furniture faster, however, take note of the following tip.
Style Does not Guarantee its Valuable
It is helpful to identify the style of old furniture. However, the style of the old piece of furniture does not necessarily mean that it coincides with its original era. In other words, the discovery of a Queen Anne Armchair in GOODWILL does not mean its creation falls anywhere between 1720 – 1760. Recent reproductions of the styles may resell at a great price, but do not hold the same value as a true antique. Basically, the style offers a clue and potential for being valuable and the following section of the blog will give you tips for determining whether it is an antique.
Here are some of the oldest styles along with their eras to keep an eye out for:
William and Mary: 1690-1730
Queen Anne: 1720-1760
Familiarize yourself with all the styles and their eras by checking out a Primer for Furniture Styles.
8 Great Tips on Identifying Whether Furniture is Old & Valuable
Whether you bought the old looking piece of furniture or you are still standing in the store, these following tips are for you!
1. Find Out What it is Worth
This tip applies if you have already bought the piece of old furniture. If you are suspicious of a valuable find, do not refurbish it, paint it, or do anything to it! Get it appraised first. If you alter it from its original condition, its value is diminished. It is the ideal to get it appraised, and especially if the following tips for identifying how to tell if old furniture is valuable applies to your piece.
2. Examine the Dovetails
The dovetails are the joints that hold together the furniture. They offer a clue because if the furniture is old it will have hand-cut dovetails instead of machine generated dovetails. Basically, look for irregular shaped joints. If the joints are perfect, then the piece is not truly old. If they are irregular, there is a greater chance that the furniture is old and potentially valuable.
3. Do the Pieces Match?
If all the pieces of wood and hardware match, then the piece of furniture is more likely to be a recent factory reproduction. However, take note of the wood used to create the piece of furniture. Is it different types? For example, if walnut and maple wood adorn the outside of an old piece of furniture and southern pine is used behind the scenes, that sounds a bell for a genuinely old furniture piece. If the whole furniture piece is of uniform wood, it is less likely to be an antique.
4. Search for Dates, Labels, or Stamps
Do a thorough search over the entire piece for any clues to its age. Look for inscribed dates, labels, or even stamps. This would be amazing discovery! Although, it is more unlikely for really old pieces to have such ideal giveaways, don’t let that deter you. Take a moment and go over the old piece with a fine comb.
5. Does it Have the Original Finish?
If the finish has drips or runs when you inspect the bottom of the old piece of furniture (just turn it upside down), then that could indicate that it is refurbished. This may not matter if the furniture underneath the paint or stain is indeed old (and the color coincides with the current color trends). However, it will detract from its value if the piece is a rare find or depending on your marketing audience. For example, if a wooden chest is dated over 100 years old and is never restored (left in its original condition) the value skyrockets.
6. Keep an Eye Out for Single Slot Screws
This clue is often overlooked in identifying old and valuable furniture. However, handmade single slot screws hint to the age of your furniture. No two handmade single slot screws will be identical. “The edges are often flat, since they were filed into shape, and the tip is invariably blunt since the smith just cut it off. And the overall shape of the entire screw is cylindrical rather tapered as is the case in modern screws.” This is a quote from Worth Point on how to tell if old furniture is valuable by the clue of old screws.
7. Hardware Should Differ
Those fancy drawer knobs may look stunning, but if all the hardware such as locks, additional doorknobs, etc. are all the same, factory alert. Diverse hardware on old furniture increases the piece’s likelihood for being older and more valuable.
8. Avoid Painted (or Painting) Hardware
If a piece of furniture is old-looking, but you notice that the hardware is painted over, be wary. One, the furniture has been refurbished, which may or may not decrease value. Two, take note and never paint over hardware in the future until you are positive of old furniture’s value. Some good intentioned refurbishing can end is a permanent decrease of value.
Hear it From a Professional!
Check out this word from Dr. Lori, PhD, and professional appraiser of antiques. In this short episode she shares some of the above tips on how to tell if old furniture is valuable.
There You Have It Folks!
Hopefully these 8 great tips equip you to fearlessly and successfully purchase old furniture that will give you a return on your money investment! Or these 8 great tips can help you find a valuable piece of old furniture that can be passed down through your familial generations to come.
Start a Family Antique for the Future!
Just as William and Mary became a sought-after piece of furniture after centuries gone by, why not start your own family antique for the future!
Thoughtfully purchase a piece of furniture that will continually increase in value as time passes.
- Choose handcrafted
- High quality wood
- Exclusive craftmanship
- Unique beauty
Rare Wooden Chests Fit the Above Criteria
While many different types of specialty furniture could fit the above criteria, nothing fits quite as perfectly as an intricate wooden chest! Why not create your own antique chest for the future with a Amish Handcrafted chest? These handcrafted chests offer you the quality, intricacy, and exclusivity needed for starting a truly valuable antique. As mentioned earlier, once chests pass the 100-year mark and if never restored, it is considered a genuine antique. Talk about knowing how to tell if old furniture is valuable!
Discover which gorgeous wooden chest appeals to your tasteful eye and start enjoying a piece of furniture that is valuable now and ever more in the future!
This is the end of our blog. Hope you enjoyed it!
Header Photo Credit: AD
I have in my possession a China Closet that belonged to my parents.
I have had it for over 20 years now.
My parents bought it when they were married over 70 years ago.
How long it was in existence then,I do not know.
I would like to get the price of it if possible.
My phone number is:484-908-5026.
My name and address:Felicia Vallese
Jefferson Apartment,1514 W.Marshall Street,Norristown,Pa 19403-3280
Unfortunately I have not worked with China Closets very much so it’s hard for me to say how much it would be worth. Do you know if it is made from solid wood or veneer? Is it in good condition? Also, does it have a stamp underneath that would indicate who it was made by?
The answers to those questions could make a big difference.
Have a Makers Mark on a piece of furniture would like to have sent you a picture but unable to. How would you go about looking up makers marks.( I live in South Carolina upstate
I have a table I got in Germany made by Lubke Tische Stuhle. It is adjustable with a metal crank on the bottom that allows it to expand by approximately 3-4 feet in length. I’ve never seen anything like it and was wondering if it might have some value??
Without seeing the piece in person it is hard to say. However, you may find it helpful to look for a local auction house who has experience selling old furniture pieces. A place like that may be helpful with giving you a idea for how much it is worth.
Sorry I couldn’t be of more help.
Hi, I have a English Regency Mahogany Secretaire chest approx 1830 in good condition, I purchased it in the uk for £50,would it be worth more in the USA?
Thanks for your comment! It is hard to tell what the value of your chest would be without seeing it in person. I would suggest taking it to a local auction house to see if they could give you any idea of it’s value.
Sorry I couldn’t be of more help! – Josh
I have a large Antique Armiore/ wardrobe that is stamped made in Mexico. It is very ornate and an absolute gorgeous piece. it stands up on a pedestal. making it approximately 10 feet tall. I need to find the value to this piece.
I would suggest checking with an auction house. Maybe they would have a good handle on the value of a piece of furniture like that? It is very hard for me to give an idea of it’s worth without actually seeing it in person.
I hope this helps, feel free to ask if you have any further questions.
Hi I collected some drawers to help storage as I can’t afford new ones. However even the ones given me I was told are other a hundred years old and I’ve bought some and when pondering paying delivery was told the same. I’ve got pictures but have I been had or have u been lucky. The first set have vertical Han do Les and there wood that look like they are part of the drawer but on the inside there’s like a smooth metal rivet or stud fixing it. Lovelyy shaped too. I need an antique auctioneer to value as I’ve got lots of bits of the momen to needing gone
Ruth A Donaldson
I have 2 woden chairs that fold up from the back of the seat. Stamped on the back it says Seven Holy Founders. Could they be valuable? if posible could you let me know at my email
Unfortunately, I am not familiar with this company. I don’t have a great answer for you about the value of those chairs. My suggestion would be to check with a local auction house who may be more familiar with the value of old furniture of this type.
Sorry I couldn’t be of more help.
Mel Lee Presswood
I’ve a labeled 300+ year old Coxed and Woster desk and cabinet. Good condition and possibly for sale. Photos available. Ballpark value =?
Mel, It is really hard to say what the value might be without seeing the chest in person. I would suggest talking to someone at a local auction house or antique shop, they may be able to provide more insight than I can. Sorry I couldn’t be of more help! Thanks, Josh
I have a Vaughan Rassett dresser, is it worth anything?
Unfortunately it is hard for me to give you a good answer without seeing the dresser in person. I would suggest checking with a local auction house to see if they can help with this. Sorry I couldn’t be of more help! – Josh