Are you interested in antiques? When you first start it can be so confusing. Here are 20 antiques basics which I hope will help

Antiques Basics

Antiques are 100 years old

The legal definition is that a piece needs to be 100 years old to be called an antique. Less than that it is vintage, collectable, pre-loved, second hand or even new. You often see things younger than 100 years at an antique fair but that does not mean they are antique.


Not all antiques are valuable

A 100-year-old white dinner plate, cup or saucer will often have little or no value. This applies to lots of other items as well, a piece of broken costume jewellery for example.

Vintage can be more expensive

Have you seen the price of some vintage items? It is fashion and taste that dictates what an item is worth not its age. There are antiques to suit all tastes and decors.

antiques basicsNot all antiques are big and ugly and brown

Think of jewellery, glass, pottery and silver. Not everything antique is an ugly old brown wardrobe or sideboard. Some pieces are bright and colourful or small and intricate.

It is still possible to find a bargain

Bargains can still found on a regular basis. Sometimes known as sleepers, you just need a little knowledge to find them. It’s not particularly difficult to buy something for half of what you sell it for once you know the what and where.

The value can go up and down again

Like other investments, older items can go up and down. Keeping pieces long term can make you or lose you quite a bit of cash.

Its very difficult to know all about antiques

Ive been interested in antiques most of my life and even know there are huge areas I know little or nothing about. There is just too much to learn to know it all. Sometimes I liken it to learning every language and dialect in the world.

Its easy to learn a very specific type of antiques

Start with one very specialist area, buy a book about it. Look on the internet. Befriend the specialist dealers. Which are the most valuable pieces, the best names to look out for? Buy a piece or 5 and try selling your least favourite. You will soon learn. Once that is under your belt then learn about another area if you wish.

There are courses you can do

Learn more about the antiques basics. Do a search on the internet, there are lots of ways to learn and courses to do. The theory is no substitute for practical experience but it’s a great help to know the background.

There is more than one type of value

What’s its value? Well, do you mean sale value, purchase price, auction value, insurance value or value for probate? These are all different amounts.

Values differ from place to place

The value of a piece can often vary depending on where you are selling it. You need to be close to the collectors. A piece named for a town will have more value in that town than elsewhere.

There is a chain of value for an item

Let’s say someone buys a piece at a car boot sale for £5, They sell it to a dealer for £10 and the dealer puts it out in an antique fair and sells for £15. It now gets put into an auction where it realises £25. What is the value? Similarly,  it could have been passed from dealer to dealer. Each takes a small amount of profit and it ends up in a posh London store for £200. This is one of the antique basics you need to know – the higher up the chain you can sell the more you get for it. One of the antiques basics it’s important to know.

Rare does not alway mean valuable

There has to be a demand for an item for it to have value. If no one wants to buy it then it is worthless. There may only one or two in the world of a widget. If no one knows what it is or wants it then it worthless.

There are antiques all around us.

Next time you go out perhaps into a town take a look around at the buildings. You will see old architecture everywhere. In a city look above shop level and the beauty of the old buildings can be surprising. Out in the countryside, take a look at the canals. Most are 200 years old and we still use them.

Auctions  can be great places to learn

Go to an auction viewing, get the catalogue. Select your favourite items are read the description and estimate. Pick it up and look carefully at it from all angles. Talk to the auction staff about it. Then go home and read about it on the internet.

Not all dealers are crooks

Dealers want to make a profit but most want that to be an honest profit. Like all walks of life, there is the occasional bad boy but I would say no more than in any other area where you buy things

You can become a dealer

If antiques are your passion then it is entirely possibly to turn yourself into a dealer. This could be part-time, just buying or selling one or two items. Alternatively, you could end up with a full-time business. You just need to learn the antiques basics, learn and learn more.


Some antiques are dangerous or poisonous.

Safety laws have changed over the years. In the past lead and mercury have been used which we would never include in today’s items due to their toxic nature. Take care when opening bottles and jars as residue can still remain in these. An antiques basics we should all remember.

Books can be your best friend.

There is lots of information on the internet about antiques. You can even find chat groups on Facebook where you can talk with others about them. Despite this much of the real detail you need to know remains tucked away in books.

You will need to learn about style and materials before you can value an item

Thre are way too many items around for us just to be able to value them. A value is built up in a dealer’s mind from knowing its background. What style is it, original or repro? What’s it made of and who made it. When we know these things a value can be decided.

Antiques are fun and addictive.

Take care or you will become an addict too. They get into your mind, take over your house, all your spare time and cash. On the other hand, you can make lots of new friends, have a life long new hobby and maybe if you are lucky a good profit on the side.

Have you enjoyed my tour of antiques basic? Pop back soon as I will be blogging much more.