Here Are Some Tricks and Tips, on Collecting That I've Learned Along the Way.
If you are new to collecting antiques and have had the misfortune to have already purchased a "fake" or reproduction that you were led to believe was the "real thing", don't despair. Even the most experienced dealers have, at one time or another, been taken in by good fakes... you're in good company!
Train your eye to look for quality. Quality and craftsmanship are the main reasons that Carnival glass values will never equal or exceed that which it tried to copy...Tiffany's Favrile glass! The same holds true with furniture, and this is why some antique pieces of furniture are more highly-priced than others.
Original artwork is usually better than copies or reproductions (i.e. prints), but if your budget disallows an original Old Masters, you can still have "original" art....antique engravings, and other works on paper can easily be found at very affordable prices! Also look for "outsider art" (learn more about what outsider art is here) which, in general, is very affordable.
Always remember, your hands can feel what your eyes do not necessarily see! Run your hands over an item of silver, glass or ceramics to check for minor damage that can be hard to see!
Provenance is important, keep a file on whatever you collect and have the seller write down any information they have about the item. Your receipt would be a handy place; this way in 20 years you will know what you paid for it as well as some history!
It is a good idea to label the antiques in your collection. Use mailing labels, placed inside a drawer or on the back of a piece, with information such as date and place of purchase: i.e. "18th c. Pembroke table purchased at Joe Blow's auction, Anywhere, the USA, on 1-1-03" or "inherited from Aunt Betsy Smith (Ms J. B. Smith) estate, Anywhere, the USA, on 1-1-02". Years later these facts can be substantiated through written records and become part of the provenance (history) of the furniture.
And while on the subject of "provenance"; I offer a word of caution. "Family" stories are notoriously unreliable; memories fade and true facts all too often get stretched into fiction. It is dangerous to rely on word of mouth stories even from your grandmother. It is only provable (i.e. written) documentation that defines provenance in antiques. The antique world is full of "George Washington slept in this bed" stories... without documented proof of when and if Washington ever actually visited a home (i.e. a signed & dated "thank you for the hospitality" note written to the family by Washington would be nice!) the "family story" is only that...an amusing "story".
One of my favourite quotes is "Luck favours the prepared mind". In the field of antiques, this rings incredibly true! There is no substitute for knowledge when hunting for antiques. And in the search for this knowledge, it's had to beat a good book...unless it's the first-hand experience!
Buy yourself a good magnifying glass (a jeweller's loop is my preference) that will fit easily into your purse or pocket, and to quote a famous advertising line, "never leave home without it", as you never know when you will wish you had it with you!
This suggestion may be redundant, but when you're out "antique' ing", lock your purse in the trunk of your car, that way both hands are free to examine items that catch your eye! Additionally, you will be doing the mall or shop owner a favour, as an ever-increasing number of stores ask that you not bring large purses or bags into the shop.
If your purse will not allow you to purchase period 18th century furniture, such as Queen Anne, Chippendale, Hepplewhite and Sheraton (examples can sell for $100,000+!), try finding good quality revival pieces. Although these are "reproductions", the quality is often as good or better than the period pieces. Just remember to look for pieces that are "exact replicas" of their period counterparts. You will not go wrong, as such pieces will increase in value. And, many of these revival pieces (usually made of solid woods and not particle board/plywoods) are now themselves "antiques", having been made in the latter part of the 19th century and the first quarter of the 20th century. If you would like to learn how to "spot" the good revival pieces, get a copy of the following book. It will help "train" your eye to pick the good from the bad in period design: FINE POINTS OF FURNITURE: EARLY AMERICAN by Albert Sack / Crown Publishing
One last bit of advice, (and I speak from experience) if you find that "special" piece you've been searching for, do not leave it or lay it down to "think about it". Keep your "hands-on it" (in the case of furniture, stand by it or ask the sales clerk to hold it for you!), as more times than not, when you return to purchase it, it will be gone! Trust me on this one!!!!!