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Tips for Recognizing Genuine Antiques

Follow this advice to learn how to distinguish between true antiques and reproductions.

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distinguish between antiques and reproductions

The best way to learn about the look of genuine antiques is to study them carefully in an antiques shop, at an auction or at a collector's home. Look closely at different styles and pieces, observing their construction, details and finishes. A number of characteristics give good indications of a piece's age.

Most antiques aren't completely uniform in color. The top is often lighter than the rest of the piece because of fading due to sun exposure. Conversely, recesses and other hidden parts may be darker.

The top of a piece of antique furniture should show signs of normal wear such as water marks, rings, stains or cigarette burns. Rounded or softened edges are another key indicator. You may also notice some separation between joined boards.
The feet should not be perfect. A piece that is several decades old generally shows some softening or staining from exposure to water or dents, dings and chips -- the result of bumps from brooms, sweepers or vacuum cleaners.

The hardware and the wood immediately around it should show more wear than other parts of the wood. Screws should be single-slotted, not Phillips head. Metal hardware may show signs of having been hand-tooled.

Pull out drawers and inspect the underside for signs of wear on the runners. Pay close attention to unstained areas of the wood, which should have turned slightly brown with age.

Most reproductions aren't made with the intention of fooling anyone into believing they're antiques. Manufacturers may duplicate an antique's style or look, but with modern methods that are easy to detect.

If there's any question of a piece's authenticity, be suspicious if the wood is flawless, the corners sharp and the edges crisp. Modern reproductions generally have an inexpensive plywood back attached with staples or finishing nails. Phillips head screws and hardware that looks lightweight or machine-stamped are also indicators that the piece is a reproduction.

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