Old and Gold? Don’t Be Fooled

Posted On January 12, 2016 at 6:01 am by / No Comments

If you’ve read William Shakespeare’s ‘The Merchant of Venice,’ you probably have come across the casket scene when one of Portia’s suitors choose the golden one. It contains a note that says, ‘All that glitters is not gold.’ How apt is that line when it comes to determining the value of an antique object? Not everything that looks old is actually of antique value. Not everything that the antique seller says is to be taken for granted. If you are a prospective buyer, here are some points you might want to consider before pinning the value of an object.

How RARE is it?


While negotiating the value of an antique, the first factor to be taken into consideration is its rarity. There are some vital checkpoints that a person must go through before pinning the value of an antique.

  • Is there more than one piece available in the market? There are certain commodities that could only be afforded by rich and royal. Therefore, one is likely to find a single piece of that particular commodity. This makes it rare and valuable. Some other items are unique due to their short period or very special purpose of use, or simply because they were considered disposable.


  • How many of the original pieces are still available? Certain valuable commodities were manufactured in large quantities. However, with time, certain commodities like porcelain and crystal ware were likely to suffer damage. These damaged pieces probably would have been discarded. Only a few remain, if you happen to come across one, it is definitely of great value.


  • Unusual shapes and sizes – Certain objects manufactured are distinct in terms of its size and shape. This makes the item rare and adds to its value. It is self-understanding that in a kind of trend the one ordered by the old loony count triple the size will worth more.


  • It is important to understand the subject matter and style of the artist, painter or company that produced the antique object. The more uncommon the subject matter and style, the rarer it is adding to the value of the object. What the tricky part is, that sometimes top-notch quality items originate from less- or unknown manufacturers – that is the same trend what separates industrial products from handwork today. The drawback of such small workshops is their scarce historical evidence, but of course, due to this, their products are very unique.


  • Another point to look at here is the reproducibility of the object. Is the object easy to duplicate or is it not? The more difficult it is means that fewer have attempted to do so. This makes the antique rare and valuable. On the other hand, the original of a relatively easy-to-duplicate item always signifies a value that was or is worth copying. That was always throughout history – people were always jealous of their neighbors and the grass was always greener there.


Historical worth


There are many items you might come across that had been valuable back in their times, and some gained value only after its heydays faded. For example, Thomas Chippendale’s furniture is widely regarded as the best of 18th century English mastery, but it was less luxurious in the beginning. Among the first sales of Chippendale, a large mahogany library table richly ornamented and covered in leather worth ‘only’ 13,000 Pound sterling in today’s value, while today its price may reach up to 200,000 GBP!

Of course, the absolute value of an item anno does not necessarily define the actual worth, but it is a great indicator on how prestigious an item was. Needless to say, rarity, difficulty of manufacture, obtaining something, etc. were the main price defining factors. However, we might not forget that some everyday items were immensely expensive a few hundred years ago. For example, in the 13th century BCE, the Hittite Great King, Hattusili sent several pieces of iron jewelry to Ramses II, which was considered an incredibly generous gift. That’s why we have to get familiar with the historic circumstances of an item before evaluating it.

AUTHENTIC or another duplicate?

Is the antique ‘the one’ or another replica? Does it actually belong to the 17th century like the seller claims? Is it made by that particular artist, painter or company as claimed? Is it of the same type that makes it real? There are many such questions that one should ask before coming to a conclusion about the value of an antique.

  • How does one judge the time period of the object? Well, simply put, never judge a book by its cover. If a seller claims that the painting dates back to the 15th century and yet one finds traces of runny paint, chances are that the object is a replica or that it is had been ‘doctored’ by the seller to hide imperfections in the original.


  • If an antique/object carries the signature of the maker/company, it is of far more worth than one without any signature. However, when it comes to authentication, a signature is not the only rule of thumb here. One has to do a little background study on the object, its artist, the kind of work that particular artist focused upon and match that with the object in question and whether the composition of the object matches that which artist/company would usually use.


  • It is also important for one to check the material used to make the object. Spelter (a combination of metals) can be passed off as Bronze. So how does one check this? By knowing more about the type of material used! Spelter is far lighter in weight than bronze and doesn’t wear well. These details will help one authenticate the claim of the antique and thus its value.


Is the CONDITION worth the amount?

When it comes to alteration, addition and deletion in terms of an antique, the less done is better and makes it more valuable.  Damage affects the value of an object significantly as some objects can be restored while others cannot (glassware for instance).

Antique dealers use certain terms to denote the condition of an object.

  • Mint – this expresses that the object is in perfect condition.
  • Excellent – denotes that there are minor flaws in the piece.
  • Good – indicates that the object has suffered a bit.

One should look for cracks, scratch marks, line breaks, indications of usage of glue, fresh paint, repairs or if the screws on the object don’t match and other such preconditions before valuing an object.


One must study the market and keep up with what is ‘in’ before valuing an object.  The market value helps one determine the commercial value of an object.



While some say this depends on one’s personal view some objects carry universal aesthetic appeal. The aesthetic value of an object depends on the prospective buyer looking at the piece without wishing for certain improvements.

The Old Glory

Sometimes antiques are sold in a condition that allows a degree of custom restoration by the new owner. Although one might shun how an antique foteuil is covered in simple canvas, this is one of the best opportunities for the owner. In their age, these were finished by the customer’s upholsterer and were always furbished in accordance to their desired emplacement, matching the style of the room. That is where the importance of research comes into the picture, as background knowledge can help you and the restorer to choose what and how needs to be done.

Antique as Investment

Antique items are not only beautiful artifacts of passed ages, but can be considered as investments as well. Although prices are fluctuating as in every other market, one thing is sure, antique items become only rarer as time progresses, and are among the very few things that not only keep, but increase their value as they age. Antiques are also less affected by federal laws, unlike precious metals. Remember, how Roosevelt with the New Deal obliged the compulsory delivery of gold coins? The same could happen to the ever-popular Loius d’Or-s or ingot gold. But as antique items gain obtain their worth primarily from aesthetic and historical value, they can stay safe.

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