Trash or Treasure? A Guide to Your Old Furniture, Décor and Art

When it comes to valuing antiques, you most certainly cannot judge a book by its cover. To the average untrained eye, many of the most valuable antique objects could quite easily be mistaken for worthless castoffs.

Distinguishing trash from treasure is a complicated game. If you’ve ever watched the British TV program Antiques Roadshow, you’ll know the look of surprise that lights up a person’s face when they learn that the random object they nabbed in a garage sale for a few quid is actually worth thousands. Then there’s the look of abject disappointment worn by those who proudly present their most coveted heirlooms, only to learn that they are mere replicas.

Sentimental Value vs Market Value

When asked about the ROI of an art purchase, an art world insider once told me: If you plan on selling it for a profit, spend with caution. If you plan on drinking in its beauty till the end of time, price is inconsequential. This is a very important distinction for antique collectors too. Your prerogatives should be clear from the start – are you collecting with a view to ‘collecting’ a juicy dividend in the future? Or are you collecting because you cherish the objects, either for their physical beauty or their rich histories. Once you know which is most important to you – sentiment or market value – your trash versus treasure parameters can be defined accordingly.

Research and Comparison

You don’t have to be an antiques expert to do some preliminary research about your old furniture, décor and art to get some sense of its market value. A basic Google search is a good starting point. How much are other people selling similar items for? If you think your belongings might have significant antique value, you can check an online database like Worthopedia for detailed descriptions, images and realised prices for millions of unique items. Make your search as wide as possible, to see how much people are willing to pay on different platforms.

The Question of Authenticity

Authenticity is the name of the game. When valuing your vintage possessions, you always need to be wary of the imposters; fake replicas dressed up like the real thing. To the chagrin of collectors, plenty of cunning manufacturers have replicated the classics over the years. Sometimes the reproductions are incredibly similar to the original. If you suspect that your beloved Eames chair might be an imitation, it’s best to hand it over to an expert evaluator for assessment. Taking into account the materials, the finish and craftsmanship, the experts know exactly where to look to establish an object’s authenticity and market value.

For specific enquiries about the value of your precious old belongings, get in touch with the team of highly experienced experts at Harrington & Co.