How To Spot a Bargain Antique

26 May 2011

A question we’re often asked is ‘how can I spot a bargain antique? We always say that while bargain antiques are certainly there to be had, one does not need always to be an expert in order to buy them.

If you like antiques and vintage items but you do not know where and how to start buying them, we have listed here a few tips and useful tools that might be helpful in starting your own collection, expanding it or just adding to your household decorations. Before we can answer the question of how to spot a bargain antique, we need to do some quick preparatory work.

It is vital to remember that buying antiques, selling antiques, collecting antiques and enjoying antiques is not and should not be restricted to the limited public of dealers and traders, serious and seasoned collectors, auction houses etc. Anyone can and in fact should try it, and there are a few good reasons for that.

1.  You can buy good and functional antique items instead of buying their modern counterparts. For example, Georgian or Victorian furniture will serve you better and longer than most contemporary furnishings. An 18th century solid mahogany table will usually have a lot of character and will command an impressive presence in your dining room, far more grander and better than a modern one.

2.  If you are buying antiques in this way, they will save you money in the short and long term. Many antiques, such as decorations, furnishings, ceramics, cutlery, clocks, watches, jewellery and more, will cost you less than the same modern items. But even if you pay more, you will end up with items that keep their value and if you want to sell antiques, they can be later resold and, with a bit of luck, will earn you interest.

3. Quality and uniqueness. Most items up until the 1930’s  were built with a view to last. A set of Victorian Aesthetic Movement dining chairs built in the 1870’s will only require upholstery changing per your taste and the fashion of the day and will serve your family literally for hundreds of years – you just can count on it.

4. Diversity and education. A house with antiques in it is like a house with books. They will give you pleasure in expanding your family’s knowledge and will provide your children with visual development, because they will live around and use items that are different from the generic uniform furnishings and utensils that they see elsewhere. Friends and visitors will be enchanted too.

What to Buy?

Start with functional items. If you are on a limited budget and want to think of how to spot a bargain antique, you should first buy items that you can use – furniture such as a table, a set of chairs, a chest of drawers, a wardrobe or a cupboard; and kitchenware such as plates, glasses and cutlery. This way you do not have to compromise and in case you find yourself with items you do not like or if they do not fit your interior, you can sell your antiques – and if you do it cleverly, you can even earn additional income.

Where to Buy a Bargain Antique?

Start online – this way you will be able to see a wide range of items on offer and form an opinion of what you like and need. You will also get an idea about the price range and where to spot a bargain antique. Online should not only be confined to the biggest peer-to-peer trading sites. Browse through art, antiques and collectables categories, look at individual and specialist dealers websites (these will display the highest prices), and most importantly – look at the sale catalogues of small and medium auction houses who all sell antiques.

Major international auctioneers will only carry a choice top range of goods that cater to serious collectors, and as a rule their estimates mostly start at a few thousand pounds and steep up. However, it is absolutely vital that you do look at their catalogues in order to get familiar with the high quality of items on offer – it is only this way that you will be able to spot a bargain later.

Once you have formed an opinion of what is it that you are after – go out onto the street. Visit antiques markets and car boot sales during the summer season – this is where people sell antiques and where most bargains are to be had and is a good option for finding a bargain antique. Then go to a few local auctions – they are good places too.

On your trips, pass through the antiques centres and private shops – although there you sometimes may pay more than at an auction, but dealers usually sell their antiques already cleaned, restored and ready to use. They will often also provide you with the researched history and provenance of the items, saving you a lot of work.

How to Spot a Bargain Antique

The straightforward answer is that this is not easy, otherwise everyone would be doing it. However, it is certainly possible to spot a bargain antique and this article will help you to form your own way of operating.

You do not have to know exactly what is it that you are buying at that moment – often you do not have the time to research while you browse through antiques fairs. But if the person selling antiques has a fully researched label and pours on you a wealth of information about the item, then the chances are that this is not a bargain – a well-researched item attracts a well-researched price tag.

The absolute key in choosing an item is its quality. Therefore, when thinking of how to spot a bargain antique, first and foremost train yourself in matching price to quality and type of an item, and only when you have time concern yourself with researching the style and history, which may or may not add to the value of the item.

This, in our eyes, is the most valuable advice that should be followed when considering how to spot a bargain antique. And the more antiques you see, the longer you look at them, the more you buy – the more experience you will get.

All other antiques bargain hunt tricks are based on an academic knowledge that is gained from books, museum and experience, and, sadly, there are no easy shortcuts in this industry.

Here at, we offer you a safe, secure and quick way to sell antiques, sell jewellery, sell art, sell gold, sell watches and sell silver. Follow the steps at and get the process started today!