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Antiques or Collectibles: What You Need to Know

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This is a guide for amateurs who are interested in buying, selling or collecting antiques or collectibles. My first recommendation if you are seriously interested in becoming an antique furniture is to become as knowledgeable as possible.  The old adage "knowledge is power" is very true in this particular field. 

First, I would recommend that you focus on a specific time period and style. For example, American art deco furniture.  Until you become an expert think small.

Next, take a trip to the library and take out general guides including price guides, style guides and restoration guides.  You need to know know what you're looking at.  What the maker's marks look like? How the furniture was made? Is that slightly beat up piece of furniture worth buying and/or easily fixable?  Knowing these things you can determine the difference between whether the piece is an original or a fake.  This knowledge will also help you be able to determine if a piece is real whether or not it is a good buy.  If have to purchase a book and it's hideously expensive I recommend shopping through sites such as www.comparebooks.com, which shows you which sites have the cheapest prices.

After your research go and look at items in the flesh.  There is a big difference between looking at pictures of things and actually viewing them in real life.  Looking at the genuine article will also help you understand things that you've read.  Also, nce you've seen a number of originals it's much easier to spot fakes and knockoffs.

If the aforementioned step doesn't daunt you and you think you're seriously going to get into buying and selling antiques, I recommend a subscription to adatabase such as Artfact or ArtpriceArtfact and ArtPrice allow you search results of auction houses.  They are incredibly nifty tools which have really saved me from some bad investments in the past.  On this site you can look up comparable items of furniture (and some other antique objects as well) to see what their estimates are and to see whether or not they're a good investment.  Something might be estimated at $1,000-2,000, but did it sell?  A desk might really appeal to you but it might only be worth $100.  ArtPrice also shows you market graphs of market trends and has other goodies for researching.

Here is what you should consider when tying to put a price on something:

-What does it look like?  (Style, whether it is aesthetically pleasing, is the composition appealing?)
-What is it's age?
-What condition is it in? 
-How are you planning on buying or reselling the item? Auction, retail?  This will affect the price 
tremendously.  Sometimes you get a better price at auction and sometimes you will get a better price retail
-What are similar items selling for in the place the avenue (auction, retail) that you plan on buying and selling?/What did recent similar items sell for? (Try to look for 3comparable items) 
-Does the item have a story behind it? Is there anything connecting the piece to famous people or events? What is the item's provenance (i.e how did the object get into the present seller's hands?) If the item is connected to a famous person or event this generally raises the price.

Finally, if you are planning on selling on eBay I highly recommend you read Kenneth Walton's book "FakeForgery, Lies and eBay."  The book is about selling art on eBay, not antiques, but I think it is a good warning for people who want to purchase online.  It's a very quick read and it shows both positive and negative aspects of eBay.

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