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How to spot a real antique

antique chairWe all like to think that we cold work out what was a real antique and what was an obvious fake. But forgeries and reproductions are so common nowadays that anyone would be forgiven for making a mistake. Even dealers and so-called experts can get it wrong.

When buying antiques from car boot sales, stalls and auction rooms, it can be hard to make a quick decision on what might be real or not. But there are a few way to give the item the once over and satisfy yourself that it is the real thing.

Do your research

Before you head out on your shopping trip, try to read as many books and magazines on the subject of antiques as possible. Television programs can even be helpful. Also have a good idea of the type of item you might want to buy and research the prices you might expect.

Is it too good to be true?

If something is particularly cheap then chances are the dealer knows something you don't. Unless you are absolutely certain they have got it wrong, it is best to avoid under priced items.

Have you seen it before?

If there are plenty of examples of one item at an antique fair, it is likely to have been mass produced and not worth very much.

Take a good look

When buying furniture look at the piece as a whole. Does the top match the bottom, are the legs in keeping with the body? Could it have been shortened or be two different pieces of furniture put together? These things will all affect its value.

Antique wood will always have a certain amount of shrinkage. This will mean that a table may not be perfectly square or round. Anything too perfect is likely to be fairly modern.

Some items may be classed as antique, but are simply reproductions made from antique wood from another source – such as floorboards.

Wear and tear

Antique furniture will have wear marks in obvious places like around handles and on corners. If the wear marks are in places you wouldn't expect, it may have been artificially worn down by the dealer.

Old fashioned techniques

Look for signs of old fashioned building methods and materials. Old nails with beaten heads and a misshapen appearance are a good sign. Dovetail joints which are hand crafted will be uneven and different sizes. Antique veneers will be thicker than machine cut ones and old types of glue will leave a crystallised appearance.

It does sound a bit scary, but generally reputable dealers are not going to ruin their reputations by selling fakes. But having a bit of knowledge is going to help in negotiating a better price. Make sure you get a receipt and if in doubt get a second opinion.