If you’re newer to the estate sale world and are struggling to determine which finds are actually worth the hype—and will stand the test of time—and which pieces you’re better off leaving behind, the pros are here to help. Below, you’ll find three expert-approved tips for spotting antiques that will hold their worth and deserve a spot in your home.
Furniture pieces that are heavier are likely a better option to bring home than those that are less weighty. “Solid wood antiques tend to hold their value longer because of the craftsmanship involved,” explains Sarah Ramberg, the founder of the blog Sadie Seasongoods, which focuses on repurposing and upcycling secondhand finds. The moral of the story? Don’t be afraid to do some hands-on research—literally—while you’re out shopping. By touching a piece and giving it a close up examination, you’ll right away be able to determine whether it’s made out of actual wood or another material, such as laminate or particle board.
To determine whether a certain furniture find is the real deal or a replica, you’ll want to search for a maker’s mark on the piece. “A stamp inside a drawer or under a table or chair is a green flag, especially if you recognize it as a respected furniture manufacturer,” Ramberg explains. A few furniture makers whose pieces are known for being especially timeless include Thomasville, American of Martinsville, Baker, Kartell, and Hickory, just to name a few!
Maker’s marks are also useful to look for when sourcing smaller pieces, too. One of vintage enthusiast Rachel Granholm’s favorite items to collect is milk glass, and she shares some insights for determining whether finds are indeed authentic. “As you are perusing milk glass or come across it in a store and want to know if it’s a genuine piece—meaning 1960’s and prior—hold it up to the light and look for the ‘ring of fire” imprint,” shares the founder of the blog The Antiqued Journey. “It is characterized by iridescent reds, blues, and greens. If you see that characteristic present, it’s a real piece and worth purchasing!”
Ramberg shares one key difference when it comes to shopping for decor as opposed to furniture. “Valuable antique decor is sometimes more subjective and may fluctuate with current trends,” she comments. If you’re purchasing pieces for immediate resale, you’ll want to keep current trends top of mind. If you’re shopping for yourself, note that what’s popular right now may or may not be having a major moment when you eventually downsize and sell some of your items in 30 years. Right now, Ramberg says, mid-century modern pieces dating back to the 1960s are especially en vogue. “This means that decor pieces—swung vases, mid-mod lamps, starburst clocks—are highly sought after right now and fetch higher prices than less trendy pieces,” she explains.
Keeping these three factors top of mind as you shop will ensure that you’re only bringing home the good stuff and aren’t investing in pieces that aren’t extra special or durable—you deserve only the best!
District of Columbia