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How to Spot the Difference Between Real Antiques and Reproductions

When youíre combing through flea markets, estate sales, garage sales, auctions, and the like, itís important to know how to separate real from reproduction. What looks like something right out of the ë20s mightíve been made just a few years ago.

Weíve got a few tips for quickly spotting the difference between the two, which will help you when browsing for authentic antiques.

how to spot fake antiques

  • Look for Imperfections

    An antiqueís personality comes from its imperfections ñ a finish thathasworn off, a knick here or there, tarnish that changes the color. Check to see whether items show signs of aging like these, or look like theyíre in a little too perfect of condition.

    Reproductions take steps to sometimes look worn or aged, but you canít fake how materials like wood age over time ñ splits and cracks, darkening, and shrinkage, according to HowStuffWorks.

    The Bama Flea Market & Antique Center offers a great tip for sifting out reproductions with intentional ìwearî on them ñ does the wear make sense? Think of how the item wouldíve been used, where it wouldíve been placed in a house, and which parts people would touch more than others. If thereís distress everywhere, start getting suspicious.

  • Look for Differences

    Part of the charm of antiques is how each one tells a story ñ two of the same item could look slightly different 50 years later, depending on where each has been, with different imperfections. If you find someone selling severalof the same thing and they all look eerily the same, but probably should have some wear, then DIY Network warns that theyíre probably reproductions. And About.com adds that having a lot of one item is a bit unusual for antiques, too.

  • Look at the Construction

    You can tell a lot about a piece by checking out the construction ñ both whatís holding the item together and how it looks like it was made. Some materials ñ such as synthetic stuffing, Phillips screws ñ werenít around in the early 20th century, so seeing them used in ìantiqueî furniture or pieces is definitely a red flag.

    As one eBay user notes, things like slotted screw heads and matte paint are good indications of legit antiques. Upholstery pre-ë20s wouldnít have used synthetic stuffing. Handmade items shouldnít be perfect ñ if someone is carving something by hand, expect the edges to be a little rough or uneven.

    Manufacturerís marks or patent dates on the inside are also good signs.

  • Study Reference Books or Collectorís Guides

    These types of resources can be very helpful, letting you know exactly what details to look for. Perhaps youíll notice that something is made with wood uncommon in the time that the alleged antique was made, or youíll notice that the item seems smaller than described in the guide.

    About.com suggests comparing antiques with items that are definitely reproductions so that you can study the differences and get better at spotting them right away.

  • Go With Your Gut

    If you get a sense that something isnít right, then follow your gut ñ whether itís a like-new smell or super shiny finish. As someone who loves antiques and probably owns quite a few, you know what an authentic piece looks like ñ if something about an item doesnít seem quite right, then trust your intuition.

Reproductions arenít inherently bad, as many people like the antique look and the smaller price tag. But when theyíre being sold as antiques ñ or sold at places like estate sales, where the seller might not know an item’sauthenticity ñ itís good to know how to spot the reproductions.

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