Top 5 Questions to Ask When You’re Antiquing

Antiquing is a great way to find unique pieces but be wary of what is and isn’t an antique. Before you set foot inside an antique shop, keep in mind the following terms:

 Antique – An antique is any item that is at least 100 years old.

Collectable – A collectable is anything that people collect.

Reproduction – A reproduction is something that is made to look like an antique but isn’t actually.

 You’re on the hunt for real antiques not just things that look old. Okay, now that you know what you’re looking for, the trick is to learn how to ask the right questions in order to make sure you’re buying an authentic antique.

Antiquing is a lucrative business but for newcomers, it’s easy to get ripped off. The questions you ask an antiques dealer will be based on what you know; so do some research. Before you start researching, you should have an idea of what you want to buy. Once you’ve decided on what you’re looking for check out antique price guides and auction catalogues online. These will give you specific information about antique items like the average selling prices, history, and references.

If you have time, you can also browse several antique shops to get a feel of average selling prices for the item you want in your area – this will also help you develop an eye for quality.

Now that you’ve done your research, it’s time to go shopping. You know what you’re looking for and how to look for it, now you need to gauge if the dealer is trustworthy.

 Here are 5 questions you should ask an antique dealer (keep in mind all the research you’ve done):

 1) Do you just sell antiques or do you sell reproductions as well?

If the dealer sells both, items that are reproductions should be clearly labeled. If they aren’t clearly labeled, this could be a sign that the dealer is selling reproductions as antiques and your chances of getting swindled have now skyrocketed.

2) [After selecting your item]  How do you know this is a real antique?

The dealer’s answer should be aligned with the research you’ve done. Also keep in mind that genuine antiques are usually of very good quality material. If you can tell by looking that the quality is poor but the dealer says it’s authentic be wary.

3) How do you determine the price?

While pricing varies, there are several factors that influence price including designer marks, condition, rarity, and market demand. Pay attention to these factors and use them as bargaining chips. If there are no marks, the condition isn’t great, it’s not a rare item, and/or the demand isn’t great, request a lower price.

4) Will you guarantee the authenticity of this item?

If a dealer isn’t willing to guarantee authenticity this may mean that he’s not certain about whether or not it’s a true antique. Many dealers buy items without absolute certainty (with the hopes that the items are genuine) but if there’s no guarantee, the price should reflect that.

5) What’s your return policy?

Even if the dealer doesn’t guarantee an item, a reputable dealer should agree, in writing, to take back an item that you later find isn’t authentic.

 

Angie Picardo is a staff writer, financial analyst, and content manager at NerdWallet.com, a site dedicated to empowering consumers to save money and make smarter decisions about their personal finances, travel plans, or higher education.

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