Here’s What Everyone Should Know About Collecting Antiques

Whether you're an antiquing pro or just getting started, there are some important dos and don'ts to follow.

Antique-collecting is a fun and worthwhile hobby—not only is it exciting to collect relics from the past, but it can also be a great way to decorate your home with gorgeous, well-made items. Do it right, and you’ll be taking home classic items that will serve you for years to come—and even make you some money if you end up selling them. Do it wrong, and you’ll spend a fortune on items that won’t retain much value in the future (and may only serve to clutter up your space).

If you’re just getting started antiquing and you’re not sure where to begin, it can be overwhelming trying to learn the ins and outs of the industry. Luckily, you don’t have to go at it alone. Jacquie Denny, one of the co-founders of EBTH (Everything But The House), the leading online estate sale website, has come up with her top tips for antique collecting, so you can get the most bang for your buck.

When it comes to collecting items, many people seek out big-ticket items that will eventually turn them a profit. If this is your goal, it’s important to know what items retain value well. Here are the items that are the strongest bet to hold or increase in value, according to Denny:

Artwork By Listed Artists

“These are artists that have talent and popularity that make them a universally desired piece to hang on any wall,” Denny says. EBTH has sold artwork from such well-known artists as Andy Warhol and Alberto Giacometti to glassblower extraordinaire Dale Chihuly.


Fine Jewelry And Coins

Antique jewelry is more valuable when it’s one-of-a-kind, and it should have distinct markers that it came from a specific time period, as in the case of this Art Deco diamond ring:


When it comes to coins, the rarer, the better, as in the case of this $5 gold coin from 1905 that sold for $750 on EBTH.

Signed Sports Memorabilia

“The more well-known the player, the stronger the value, unless they have flooded the market with selling their autograph on everything,” Denny advises.


First-Edition Books Signed By The Author

Early editions of books tend to be more rare, and they’re most valuable when they have been signed by their author.


How To Spot A Fake

Another major factor to pay attention to once you begin thrifting is how to avoid scams or fakes.

“Anytime there is money to be made, there will be scams and fakes,” Denny says. “Educate yourself, thoroughly.” Here are a few ways you can avoid purchasing something that’s a counterfeit:

  • Handle the item in-person: “If possible, go to antique shops and shows to handle the real thing, as opposed to what you can absorb through a picture,” Denny says, noting that the benefit of EBTH is that its trained staff vets each item it sells, so you don’t have to.
  • Question the seller: Selling a fake antique isn’t illegal on its own, but it’s an offense if the seller claims that it’s genuine. This means you should always ask the seller if a piece is genuine, and if you receive an uncertain response such as “I don’t know,” or “It could be,” don’t buy it.
  • Do your research: “Read current articles and alerts on the internet regarding fakes in the market,” Denny says. This way, you’ll know what to look out for.

If you’re feeling lost as to what the price of an item should be selling for, you’ll want to check some resources to give you a better idea of pricing. Many antique value guides become quickly outdated, says Denny, so she suggests using websites that stay current with “fair market” values.

And as for her ultimate piece of advice to newbies, Denny recommends investing in items you love rather than buying only for resale value.

“Look for unique items in that category—not what everyone else owns,” she says. “Then, if the market goes soft for those items, you can still enjoy owning the piece.”

Photo by Emily Carlin