A Shopper's Guide to Antique Chests
It’s one of the soundest furniture investments you can make. Become a smart investor by getting the know-how you need for finding your own treasured piece.
A Chest Is Best
If you think blue hair or blue blood are prerequisites for antique buying, you couldn’t be more wrong. An antique chest can be a great addition to any home. They can be used anywhere, get little wear and tear, and can last for generations. A reputable antiques dealer will be glad to help you select one―if you know how to speak the language. Here’s a crash course in antique speak.
What Is the Age?
Just because it’s old doesn’t mean it’s gold. A piece of furniture must be 100 years old to be considered a true antique. Ask the dealer for a general idea of the chest’s year of origin. The term “circa” may appear on price tags. This means “around.” So, “circa 1850” means the chest was made around then.
What Is the Provenance?
No, it’s not a region in France. Provenance is the piece’s history: who owned it and where it was made. Don’t ask the dealer specifically where he or she bought it. They probably won’t tell you. Just ask if there is any provenance. If one exists, ask if there is any documentation. If so, great, and the price will reflect this. If not, then you have a story to go along with your chest, but if you sell later you’ll want a buyer who will take your word.
What Is the Condition?
Ask if there have been any repairs. Check to see if the hardware, such as drawer pulls, shows any sign of having been replaced. You want as much of the chest as possible to be original. Make sure all drawers open and close easily and that the piece sits squarely on the floor without rocking.
Pay Attention to the Wood
The finish should never be black, and you should be able to discern some pattern of the wood grain underneath. If the finish shows alligatoring, a scaling effect that resembles an alligator’s hide, move on unless you know how to refinish. Refinishing can be great if done correctly, but it can also destroy a piece’s value if done improperly.
Not confident enough to go it alone? Take a friend who’s in the know. You’ll pick up a lot just by watching, but the more you do it, the more you’ll learn.