How to Spot Fake Antiques and Collectibles

When you’re shopping at a garage sale and looking for antiques or collectibles, you need to be extremely careful. Sometimes, what seems like a good deal is too good to be true, and you end up buying a fake antique. Use these strategies to help avoid buying a fake antique.

Identifying Antique Furniture

Unfortunately, identifying the style of a piece of furniture won’t help you determine if it’s an antique. Manufacturers often reproduce pieces from other eras, and some styles, like Shaker wood furniture, never really go out of fashion.

  • Examine all sides of the piece. If it’s a table, turn it over and look for marks or labels. If it’s a sofa, remove the cushions to look for a tag or label. Most factory-made items will include some sort of identifier.
  • Check the surface of the piece. Do you see saw marks? What about underneath or on the back panel of a drawer? If the saw marks appear to be semi-circular, the piece was probably made using a circular saw after about 1880. If the saw marks appear to be straight lines, the piece was likely made before 1910 using a straight saw.
  • Look at the joinery. Are drawers dove-tailed? How many dove-tails are used to join the panels? Are they all the same, or do they appear to be cut by hand? If the dove-tails are uneven, few in number, and appear handmade, your piece of furniture likely predates the Civil War.
  • Check the finish of the piece. If possible, find a hidden spot on the bottom or back of the furniture to test the finish. Dip a cotton swab in rubbing alcohol, and rub it gently on an inconspicuous surface. Does it dissolve the finish? If it does, the piece may be finished in shellac, a popular option before 1860.

How to Identify Antique Silver

Before the invention of stainless steel, sterling silver and silver-plated items were found in every home. Even today, silver-plated picture frames and other decorative items are popular gifts. There are several steps involved in identifying an antique.

  • First, examine the silver for marks. If it’s sterling silver, it will be marked with the word “sterling” or “925.” You’ll also see a symbol that represents the manufacturer of the pattern.
  • Use a silver hallmark guide like the ones on Antique Cupboard or the Online Encyclopedia of Silver Marks to identify the manufacturer.
  • From there, examine all the patterns made by this manufacturer, and match one to yours. Most silver websites, such as Antique Cupboard, will tell you when your pattern was made. If it’s more than 50 years old, you have an antique.

How to Identify Antique China and Glassware

Wondering if your grandmother’s china is antique or something she picked up a few years ago? The process for identifying china and glassware is similar to identifying antique silver.

  • Start by looking for any markings. On many pieces, you’ll find a maker’s mark stamped on the bottom of the dish or plate.
  • Use a site like How to Identify Antique Ceramics to match the mark to the maker.
  • Browse a service like Replacements, Ltd to identify and date the pattern.
  • For glassware, which often does not have marks, visit the Glass Encyclopedia from 20th Century Glass to find the type, age, and pattern of your piece.

With a little attention to detail and patience, you can put these tricks to work and identify fake antiques from real antiques.