American Antiques Age Faster

From Horton Brasses’ blog

Antique looking furniture has become rather popular, unfortunately there are not enough antique items to accommodate the demand. What has resulted because of this? Cheap, unauthentic, antique knock-offs that look authentic but are really twenty-first century born. So, with so many antique look a-likes how can you be sure if a piece really is, well, antique? Here are some ways to develop an antique eye.

Definition – First of all you need to understand what an antique is. Contrary to popular belief, an antique is not classified by anything “old.” In order for a piece to be authentically antique it must be at least 100 years old. Many people stretch this rule to include items that are only 50 years old; however, the century rule still stands. If you know a piece does not date back at least one century, it’s not antique.

Construction – If the date of your piece is illusive there are other ways to determine its authenticity. Take a look at the construction. Pieces made at least 100 years ago were built better than they are today. Since antique pieces were hand crafted with care most will still be strong, sturdy and stable. If you find an old, antique-looking piece that is wobbly and poorly built chances are it’s not authentic. Another way to tell if your piece is antique is to be aware of the details, patterns and hardware. Iron and brass hardware is common on antiques where as plastic and aluminum are sure signs that the piece was built in the twenty-first century.

Location – A major factor you must take into consideration when comparing antiques is the location of origin. If a supposed antique is American made it has a better chance of actually being authentic than if it came from Europe. The reason is because America has a much shorter history making it easier for pieces to become antiques. In Europe it takes much longer for a piece to be considered an antique.

When deciding if that “antique” piece you stumbled across at the flea market really is authentic, keep the previous in mind. If you know how to recognize an authentic piece you are less likely to pay a high price for a knock off and you have a better chance of finding the value in an old piece of furniture at a yard sale.

Over to you!

Jack Plane


About Jack Plane

Formerly from the UK, Jack is a retired antiques dealer and self-taught woodworker, now living in Australia.
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7 Responses to American Antiques Age Faster

  1. Nick B says:

    I see that you’ve not mentioned a piece’s provenance in your post.

    Can you make a comment about your experiences and opinion about its importance in assessing a prospective ‘antique’?



    • Jack Plane says:

      Nick, the post above was not written by me. However, to answer your question in brief; provenance can be hugely important both in terms of historical attribution and value, and should certainly be considered (when available) when buying an antique.



  2. Tico Vogt says:

    I was very fortunate to grow up in a home with verifiable “antiques’, pieces mostly built in th early eighteenth century in New England. I wrote about how my grandfather restored them (actually, prevented them from the landfill) in my first blog post;
    There was a feeling of reverance passed down in the family about these pieces, some of which I inherited after my parents’ deaths. I tried to instill the same feelings to my children; a much tougher task in today’s world… kids rollerbladingand playing hockey through the house… Credit to my son as a youngster for doing his best, though, as he would attempt to reign in his hotshot buddies when they came inside. They had no idea what he was telling them. Finally, one asked him “Henry, what’s a “unique”?


  3. walkerg says:

    Interesting, so American antiques age in dog years?


  4. burbidge says:

    “The reason is because America has a much shorter history making it easier for pieces to become antiques. In Europe it takes much longer for a piece to be considered an antique.”

    Gold, illusive gold!


  5. walkerg says:

    I guess this chest of drawers is not an antique according to Horton’s guidelines. It’s pretty rickety with missing and loose parts, hardware not being brass or iron. I bet it originally had aluminum casters that were removed so as to deceive. Can’t trust those shifty yanks!



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