Buying Antique Tables: What to Look For
Antiques stand as a stark contrast in a world where most furniture is sold by giant-box retailers. They represent furniture that has a sense of nobility and class while having a history that makes each piece a unique and irreplaceable furnishing.
Tables represent one of the most accessible types of American antiques. They’re functional, stylish and easy to acquire when you are a keen and informed buyer.
The problem is that not all antiques are created equally. Some may old aged, but they simply be the result of inexpensive materials or lackluster workmanship; others may be disguised as bargain buys that require a minor amount of restoration to become invaluable centerpieces and collector items.
Let’s take a look at some of the aspects that you should inspect when examining potential antique tables. This will help you ensure that your potential purchases have an incredible value behind them while having the durability to withstand the tests of time.
What Qualities Should a Good Antique Table Have?
1. A Good Wood Composition
Wood composition represents the most important building block of any potential antique table. The wood used to construct a table will determine everything from the general age to the ability for the wood to withstand the test of time.
By knowing how to differentiate the various wood types, you can quickly determine the general age of a potential antique.
For example, oak was one of the most popular types of wood to use during the early 16th century to the middle of the 17th century in the United States. Mahogany and satinwood became popular in the middle of the 18th century.
Another thing wood composition can tell is how long-lived a particular piece of furniture will be. Hard woods like cherry and mahogany will outlast softer woods like pine, fir and cedar. Solid wood will also outperform cheap construction methods like particle board in terms of beauty and durability.
As a general rule of thumb, the last thing you need to know about wood composition is that solid wood and thicker veneered wood construction represents the marks of antiques; particle board and thinner veneered wood represent cheaper modern-day reproductions and imitations of antiques.
2. Find Something Unique
A beautiful antique table often has a list of unique features that set it apart from every other table. This may include intricate patterns, a unique origin, unusual colors or shapes, and so on.
The more unique a table is, the more valuable it tends to be. A hand-crafted piece of furniture from the 16th century created by a skilled carpenter will be far more desirable than a piece from the 18th century that was produced in mass amounts.
3. Does It Function?
When inspecting potential antiques, there are a few things that you should check before purchasing one. These include:
- Checking the drawers to ensure that they function smoothly.
- Inspecting for dovetailed joints: handmade antiques will have uneven dovetailed joints, which typically increase their value, while machined pieces will have perfectly even joints.
- Noting circular saw marks, as this tool did not come into use until the mid 18th century. Antique tables will have small saw lines that are parallel.
- Checking for wood shrinkage: authentic antiques will typically have shrinkage that occurs in a direction opposite of the wood grain.
- Looking for modern construction qualities, which includes: screws, staples and glue. These are signs of recent repairs to antique furniture or the fact that the piece of a recent reproduction rather than an authentic antique.
How Can You Get the Best Antique Table?
While it can take a lifetime to acquire the skills and prowess required to get the best antique tables for your money, there are a number of simple things you can follow to begin cultivating those skills.
These tips include:
1. Less is More
It’s best to buy as few antique tables as possible. You want to focus on the value of the individual pieces rather than having dozens of mediocre “bargain” pieces.
One or two exquisite antique tables will outshine a room of lackluster antiques.
When you’re looking for an antique table, try to maximize what you can get from a single purchase rather than trying to monopolize upon lower-end tables.
2. Quality Matters
The craftsmanship that goes into an antique is one of the biggest influences on the overall value of the piece. This means a handcrafted piece of furniture from the 16th century will vastly outshine a mass-produced piece from the late 18th century.
Focus on purchasing quality antique tables to maximize the value of each piece.
3. Trade Up
When you begin investing in antique tables, you will likely make more conservative purchases to minimize your risk. This is an acceptable strategy, but realize that you do not have to become attached to any particular piece.
You can and should focus on trading up as you grow your collection. This will help you learn to make smarter purchases that bring even more stylish antiques into your collection.
4. Focus on Your Tastes
By focusing on what you like and adhering to the loose tips set forth here, you will begin to develop your tastes. This will allow you to create a unique collection of antiques that will ultimately profit you both monetarily and aesthetically.
Remember that you can and should focus on building upwards with your antique collection. This will help you make something that is all your own, which in turn will allow you to begin buying those amazing antique tables and creating entire antique sets.