Buy antiques without getting conned

You shouldn’t buy antiques purely for monetary gain. It should also be done for the enjoyment factor, says Giselle Wason, interior designer and co-owner of Dominico House.

An antique is a piece of furniture or a work of art that has a high value because of its age. It takes an expert to identify the age and period of such items. It would also take an expert to distinguish between legitimate pieces and replicas.

Popular TV programme ‘Antiques Roadshow’ gives plenty of examples of what individuals considered an inherited object or artwork to be of high value, when in fact it is a rip-off of the original valuable item. Or, alternatively, something they considered worthless turns out to be quite priceless.

However, the show highlights it’s not an easy task for the average person to decipher the value and origin of antiques. It’s not that I believe that you shouldn’t buy antiques without a trusted expert present; I just think that it should not be done for monetary gain. Unless you are incredibly knowledgeable about antiques you have no real certainty of the authenticity. Also, as with most things, fashions change. So what is hugely popular and high in demand today, might be hard to sell in a few years, when it is out of favour.

Enjoy the experience
Antiques have cycles of popularity so the number one golden rule when it comes to buying art and antiques is that you, above anything else, must like the piece! At the end of the day you do not want to be stuck with something that you do not like. This is your starting block, and you can go from here.

Once you get the hang of buying antiques and artwork you will become more confident and educated with time. At first it will be unbelievably daunting and you may not know where to start. However, you will very quickly be able to distinguish your own taste and preferences. You might learn that your preference is towards Art Nouveau style furniture with its intricately detailed pattern and curving lines and that you dislike Victorian furniture with its dark wood and gothic form influence.

It does not take long to work out which design period you are more interested in. Once your preferred style is evident you can stick to establishments that are to your tastes. You should also work on getting to know the gallery owners and auctioneers of these establishments. They will understand what it is you are looking for and will help you to source something or notify you when desired pieces become available.

However, make sure the information you receive is from a trusted source! Remember, these people are selling you something for a living and once again ensuring authenticity and avoiding rip off pricing is essential.

Take your time when buying artwork and antiques. You should first become familiar with market related prices and perhaps attend a few auctions before you try your hand at it.

Auctions are a great way to be introduced to the world of buying antiques. Not only is it an education but a fun way of shopping too. You will also be exposed to a broad variety of items, from jewellery to silver to art and antiques.

Search for auction houses in your area online. You may find that you prefer one more than others. Over time you will build up trust and confidence with one seller as opposed to stretching yourself too thin and making mistakes by trying to comb through every auction house.

Buying online
You could also buy antiques from classified websites such as Gumtree. But here anyone is a seller and the danger is that you do not have a guarantee or reference on the seller. Be careful here as such websites are a perfect platform for counterfeits.

I am not against buying online. In fact I’ve bought many items this way. However, I have purchased pieces purely because I liked the design; I did not purchase them for their claim to be priceless antiques. These websites are also an easy way to view many different items from small collectibles to larger furniture pieces. It is fun and also one can often find pieces that are hard to come by and there are some great buys.

Try and view any items before purchasing them. Most people will allow a viewing. This way you will be sure that the photograph isn’t misleading. I would not spend a fortune on antiques from these websites unless it was from a very reliable and reputable source.

My top tips for buying antiques:

  1. Buy art and antiques for yourself. Selling an item for a profit at a later stage should not be your goal. Hopefully, it might turn out to be a good investment at the end of the day, but you can never be sure and therefore it is a risk.
  2. Do not follow trends as trends come and go!
  3. Go slowly. You will only improve over time as you streamline your taste and preferences. There is no greater satisfaction in unearthing a hidden gem or finding something that has long been desired and hard to come by.
  4. Build relationships with reputable establishments that you can trust. You hopefully will find a patient and honest antiques expert or dealer that can help you build up your knowledge and collection.
  5. You might make mistakes, but that is part of it. You will quickly learn from your mistakes. Do not give up.
  6. Have fun with it! Exploring and participating is part of it.