If you have ever considered adding antiques to your home, but weren’t sure where to start, a little knowledge can go a long way. Antique collecting doesn’t have to be scary or costly.
The key to collecting is deciding what you love. There are so many choices from popular items like antique jewelry and furniture to order collectibles like vacuum cleaners! Depending on your preferences, you may want to consider vintage pieces as well. There may be a particular era you like or maybe, for example, items you prefer that are decorative or possibly functional. Once you’ve determined where your interests lie, decide what you plan to do with your collection. Some collectors prefer to display their antiques while others want useful pieces like Wedgwood tableware.
Where to Begin
Before you purchase anything, do some research and gather helpful information. Here are seven different activities that you can do to learn more about antiques and vintage items:
- Visit museums: One of the best ways to learn about antiques is to visit museums that feature collections of antiques. Many museums have exhibits that showcase the history and development of antiques, including furniture, paintings, ceramics, and textiles. Knowing an artisan and the timeline helps you to appreciate an item’s value.
- Attend antique shows and auctions: Antique shows and auctions are great places to see a wide variety of antiques and learn about their value. You can observe how auctions work, listen to expert appraisals, and ask questions of the dealers.
- Read books and magazines: There are many books and magazines that cover antiques, including price guides, identification guides, and historical overviews. Reading these materials will help you develop an understanding of different types of antiques and their value.
- Watch online videos: YouTube and other video-sharing platforms have a wealth of informative and entertaining videos about antiques, from interviews with collectors to instructional videos on how to restore antique items.
- Take a class: Many communities offer classes on antiques and collecting, taught by knowledgeable instructors who can provide hands-on instruction on how to identify and value antiques.
- Join an antique club or society: Joining an antique club or society is a great way to connect with other collectors and enthusiasts. These groups often host meetings, lectures, and field trips that can deepen your knowledge and appreciation of antiques.
- Start collecting: Finally, the best way to learn about antiques is to start collecting them yourself! Start small, and focus on a particular area that interests you. Learn as much as you can about the pieces you’re collecting, and enjoy the process of discovering new treasures.
Once you have done your research, you can start to shop! Here are some helpful hints for beginners:
- Starting with a local flea market which is less intimidating for a beginner collector. It will also be easier to make comparisons.
- Ask lots of questions. Most dealers are happy to answer any questions. They may also have a lot of knowledge about a particular piece or era you like.
- Start small. In other words, if you’re interested in Victorian furniture, for example, start with a vase from that period instead.
- Imperfection is ok. In most cases, an antique will not be in mint condition, but its imperfections should be somewhat reasonable.
- Consult a shopping guide. Read up on antiquing etiquette, preparation, and authenticity.
Learning About Antiques
The most important thing about learning and shopping for antiques and vintage collectibles is to enjoy yourself! Visiting shops and markets is an enjoyable experience even if you don’t purchase anything. Shops like the Old & New Shop are great places to start your antiquing!
Robert Schmidt is the longtime proprietor of the Old & New Shop in Queens, New York. His business is a second-generation family-owned and operated company with over 40 years of knowledge and experience in antiques.