Tips for Collecting Antiques

Antique shop sign

Collecting antiques can be both an enjoyable hobby and a lucrative investment. Here are some tips for the beginning collector.

Not all objects from ancient cultures are necessarily out of your price range. You may be surprised to know that at auction some antiquities are sold for just a few hundred pounds.

However, there can be added complications due to export laws of countries where antiquities originate. Always make sure the piece is being sold legally.

Antique Furniture

A piece of furniture can be described as fake if it deliberately makes you think it’s older than it really is. If a fake is made from new wood it is usually relatively easy to spot because it will be lacking the patina of ageing, but if it is made from older wood it may be more difficult to detect.

If a piece is being sold as made earlier than 18th century and it has circular saw marks it is certainly a fake. The circular saw was not first used until after 1800.

Tea and Coffee Pots

If you’ re collecting coffee, tea or chocolate pots, check the point where the handle joins the body to make sure it’s secure, examine the hinge on the lid – make sure it’s not weak or restored, make sure the spout isn’t split and breathe on the finial and around the spout and hinges – this helps to show up repairs.

Treasured Clocks

Clocks have been treasured since the 17th century. The value of a clock depends on its maker, the movement, the case and its condition. Plain carriage clocks are available from about £200, and a late 19th-century long-case from around £800.

Art Deco Pieces

Many less valuable art deco figures were made from a bronze spelter (zinc alloy) base combined with ivorine, a simulated ivory usually made from plastic. To identify spelter scratch the metal underneath. A yellow colour means it’s made from bronze, while a silver tone shows it’s spelter and far less valuable.

Collecting Toys

If you’re thinking of beginning a collection of toys, there’s a huge variety to choose from. Prices depend upon the maker, the rarity of the toy and the condition. Repainting will always reduce the value of a toy, so consider it carefully, even if the toy is in poor condition.


Rugs and carpets fall into two main groups: serious collectors’ rugs, and decorative rugs. Older rugs (over 100 years old) are mainly of interest to the specialist collector. Recently made rugs and carpets are chiefly of interest to the decorative buyer.


If you’re just beginning a pottery collection, wares produced during the 19th century could be a good starting point. During this period the Staffordshire area produced vast numbers of inexpensive household and decorative objects, which at the time cost a few shillings or less.

These are still abundantly available and, although collectable, have remained relatively inexpensive.

Collecting Glassware

Colourful glass of the 19th century is also increasingly popular with collectors. Many new glass-making techniques were introduced during the 19th century and colours became increasingly varied. Cameo glass and overlay glass are two of the most attractive types to look out for.

See Also
Antique Bureau
The Rise and Fall of Antique Furniture
Second-hand furniture shop
Furnishing Our House With Second Hand Finds