Learning how to collect antiques is a hobby that opens the door to the past. One of the first questions you may find yourself asking is what exactly counts as an antique? Technically, an antique is an item that is at least 100 years old. Historical documents, century old furniture, decor, and other artifacts are some of the more popular antiques being collected today. Antique collecting is an appealing hobby because it offers the antique enthusiast the fun and excitement of hunting for rare and valuable treasures.
A variation of learning how to collect antiques is the collectibles hobby. Collectibles are sought-after items that are less than 100 years old. Collectibles may be as new as Beanie Babies or older but not quite in the antique realm. Collectibles such as Depression glass and World War II memorabilia are some of the more popular types of collectibles.
The History Of Collecting Antiques
As long as there has been a written history, there have been those who collected artifacts. Religious artifacts were probably the first category of sought after antiques during the 16th century. Personal antique collecting, however, began to flourish in Europe and the United States in the 18th century, where archaeological finds and pieces of art were the main focus. Manuscripts, old books, and the possessions of the famous were also highly prized.
During the 20th century, new categories of antique collecting sprang up. These included collecting stamps, china, silver, jewelry, clocks, cars, political memorabilia, teddy bears, and bottles. Nearly anything that is old or rare is considered worthy of collecting by someone. Today, millions who love history and strive to keep the past alive engage in antique collecting.
Did You Know?
- The word Disneyana is the term used to describe the collecting of Disney memorabilia.
- The term philately means stamp collecting.
- Many antique collectors use a black light to determine if a piece has been repaired, to spot imperfections, and more clearly see any damage that might exist.
- The process of antiquing, also called distressing, is a procedure used to make newly made furniture and other items look older than they are.
How to Start Collecting Antiques
If you are learning how to collect antiques, start with a narrow focus. Choose one or two categories that interest you. Learn everything you can about the items, the time period, and current auction prices. Whether you choose to collect antique toys or firearms, furniture or china, start small. You learn about the market more effectively and avoid the risk of buying too much if you know what you are looking for and have researched prices.
Research in your chosen avocation is necessary. Fortunately, there are numerous books, magazines, and web sites about collecting antiques and collectibles. Learn the value of different items, how to spot a reproduction, and other vital information that applies to your particular pursuit.
Set aside a place in your home for the storage of your antiques and collectible items. The space should be climate controlled and dry. You may wish to invest in additional security measures, particularly if your collection is of significant value.
When learning how to collect antiques, you can start with as little or as much money as you wish. How much you spend depends on the type of antique or collectible you purchase and the condition of each item. The better the condition, the higher the price.
How To Collect Antiques
After you have chosen your subject and done your research, it’s time to go shopping. Great places to start are garage sales and flea markets. Estate sales can be wonderful sources of antiques. If you are collecting rare or old items, however, you will likely have more success at an antique or collector show. Either way, be prepared with cash. Many sellers do not accept credit cards or checks.
Visit the local antique stores in your area. Get to know the dealers and talk to them about your collection. Antique dealers are typically part of a small, closely-knit community. Once you get to know them, they will be happy to assist you in finding the items you are searching for.
When you buy an item, it may be necessary to clean or repair it. Learn how to safely clean your collectible without causing further damage. Some types of antiques should not be cleaned at all. Coins should not be cleaned because cleaning lowers the value. Other items may call for special handling or professional restorers. Antique furniture may require special conditioners to restore the wood’s beauty, as is often the case if the piece has been stored improperly. When in doubt, consult your collector’s books, research online, or talk to someone in your antiques community.
Properly store or display your item. If you will be taking your antiques to shows, invest in sufficient packing material and packaging to transport them safely.
Tips And Tricks For Antique Collecting
- Spend as much time as possible researching and defining your collection rather than making impulse purchases. You will often regret these impulse buys. Buying and selling in too many different categories, particularly in the beginning, is confusing and often a waste of money. As you learn more about how to collect antiques, you will discover the system that works best for you.
- Adjust your hobby to fit your interests. As you grow in experience your interests may change. That item you loved so much in the beginning may seem boring after you’ve seen it for sale everywhere and realized that it is not as rare as you thought.
- Learn from your mistakes. Everyone overpays for an item or buys something that wasn’t what they thought. It’s just part of the learning curve. Move on and learn how to avoid that mistake next time.
- Most of all, have fun with your collection. Enjoy the hunt, enjoy the bargaining negotiations, and enjoy the item in your display.
Making the Most of Collecting Antiques
As you learn how to collect antiques and become more experienced, widening your interests and exploring new opportunities will keep your antique collecting hobby from becoming stale. Some ways to keep the excitement include:
- Add to or change your antique categories. You may have become so knowledgeable about your genre that it is no longer challenging. Make your hobby more interesting by narrowing your focus even more. For example, instead of collecting antique toys, you may choose to collect the narrower category of painted tin toys. If, on the other hand, your category is too difficult and you are unable to find items, adding a second category or expanding your focus may be the answer.
- Display your antiques. The same collection will look much more impressive if displayed properly. Just owning the items and having them stored in a box will not bring nearly as much enjoyment as displaying the collection. Consider shadow boxes for small items. Larger pieces may look striking when displayed on a special shelf circling the room. Combine collections for unique looks. For example, use an antique china cabinet to display other antiques.
- Rent a booth at local antique and collectible shows. In addition to finding and selling pieces, you can learn about the current market and meet with other collectors.
- If your collection is of historical importance or local interest, contact local businesses, libraries, or museums to find out about displaying your collection to a wider audience.
- Expand your antique search online by using an electronic marketplace such as eBay. You may even try your hand at making a little (or a lot) money by selling your antiques online.
Antique and Collectible Resources
The following online resources can help you out as you learn how to collect antiques…
Antique Collecting Magazine: An excellent magazine that provides facts, pricing guides, and tips for antique collectors.
Antiques and Collectibles National Association: Trade association for private collectors and antique dealers.
Prices for Antiques: A search-able database of past prices for sold fine art, antiques, and collectibles.
Go Antiques: Purchase antiques, take part in antique auctions, and find details about upcoming antique shows.
Related YouTube Videos
Check out the following videos to learn even more about starting this hobby.