How to Identify Real Vintage Furniture: Tips and Tricks

How to Identify Real Antique Wooden Furniture

Every antique has a story to tell, and if one is willing to look close enough, they will find it. The worn off paint, tiny dents and scratches, and obvious imperfections all contribute to its beauty, but they are also signs of an antique’s authenticity. Unfortunately there are many reproductions for sale, which cost less but are passed off as “real” to trusting buyers who are none the wiser. For this reason, it is important to know how to spot a true valuable antique, so you don’t get scammed.

Joint Connections

It has only been in recent modern times that the mass production of furniture has occurred through the use of machines. Many years ago, every piece was cut and carved with hand tools. And, though the craftsmen building the furniture took pride in their work, the sizes and shapes of the dove-tail joints that held them together were not perfect. Each one was slightly different. A true antique will feature much less joints than a reproduction too. There will also be tiny nicks and scratches in the wood where the hand tools were used. If the marks seem to look like swirls instead, this means the wood was cut with a circular saw, and it is a fake.

Finish Quality

An antique expert can tell a reproduction from an authentic antique just by glancing at the finish. Colored varnishes that are used so commonly today, did not exist many years before. It was more common to see clear shellacs, milk paints, or wax finishes instead. Because reproductions often attempt to copy shellac, the best way to determine its authenticity is by testing it with alcohol in an inconspicuous spot. If it is real, it will come off easily. The finish should also have natural signs of wear and tear that show it was truly used. Fakes have these places sanded, so look for signs of sanding or intentional aging of the furniture piece too.

Glue and Fillers

There should be no signs of glue or wood fillers on an antique that you intend to spend a considerable amount of money on. This shows that either it is a fake, or there have been modifications to the piece that have lowered its value. Occasionally, a leg or joint breaks on an antique, and someone has simply attempted to repair it though. In cases such as this, inspect the piece for authenticity, and if it is a true antique that has been repaired, be sure to point this out to the seller. Often, the price will be dropped down considerably for you.