Buyers Guide to Furniture

antique chair, desk and bench


Inside buying tips

Whether you are looking for several specific colonial pieces of furniture to complement your house or that perfect accent piece to fit into your modern apartment, below we have answered a few questions to help you find your perfect piece of furniture.

What is the furniture market?

As a collecting category, furniture has a track record of steady growth since 1968.  Antique furniture, generally considered to 100 years or older, has countless styles, genres and makes. Some of the most sought after pieces include Baroque, Rococo, Chippendale and Colonial furniture.  Other popular periods include Early American, Georgian and Pennsylvanian Dutch.

The desirability of a piece can often increase due to its rarity, condition, design, utility, provenance or other unique feature that differentiates it from the rest of the market. For instance, in 2010 the Harrington Commode, Sold for £3.8 million.  The quality of this piece and its rarity, having most likely been created by Thomas Chippendale himself, saw five bidders competing to buy it resulting in a hammer price or almost three times its original valuation.

Despite higher end and older items often achieving record prices, there are areas of the furniture market that are increasing in interest yet are still available to the novice or less experienced collector to invest in. Occasionally referred to as antiques (but more appropriately called mid century, 20th century design, modern or Retro), furniture from the 50’s and 60’s has been on the rise.  Those of particular note within this time frame include those of Scandinavian design and items by designers such as G-Plan. Some of the top department store fronts in London are beginning to resemble those from the 1951 Festival of Britain.

Is condition important?

Yes condition is important for antique furniture. That said, a real antique will undoubtedly show some wear and tear.  In fact understanding where the condition should be found can help ensure your piece is a genuine antique and not a fake.  For instance, in antique wooden chairs there will be more wear on the back legs instead of the front legs, due to users continually leaning back on their chairs.  There also might be wear on the top and end of a wooden arm as well as the inside of the arms, as these areas would have come into more regular contact with an individual than any other.


What to collect?

It is important to collect what you like, as you will to an extent actually be living with (and on) the furniture. Like any market driven by taste, the popular fashion can vary from region to region.  For instance oak and country furniture have had a stronger market than that of other genres of furniture in the most recent years.  One hypothesis is that people who live in the country may choose furniture to reflect the period the in which house was built.  They also may stay more consistent in their taste whereas suburban and city dwellers are often more easily swayed by the new fashion trends in furniture.

Something any collector should note is that mixing up styles can often have an aesthetic benefit. This is evident particularly in recent years where we have seen décor trends increasingly lean towards a mixture of vintage and modern style. For instance one spectacular 18th century gilt wood mirror; an item of great beauty and skill, can fit in very well with a modern interior and clean lines.

Where to look?

Furniture is sold in countless arenas and if you are looking for an interesting and unique find it is best to look everywhere.  Car boot sales, provincial auction houses and antique shops are known for having good deals. In recent years the Internet has also become a viable source to find furniture, particularly if you are looking for 20th Century, modern or retro design. 

How do I find out how much my furniture is worth?

There are several books and online forms that can assist an individual when researching a particular piece of furniture that the owner thinks might be unique.  The easiest way to determine whether you are getting a bargain is to go to an impartial appraiser for a valuation. At Value My Stuff we offer a convenient online service, and have professional appraisers who will give you an accurate opinion on your furniture’s value within just 48 hours (or 24 hours for our express service).

It's quick and easy to get an appraisal...

1Create an account and purchase 1, 3, or 10 credits

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2Upload images of and give us some details about your item

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3Receive your appraisal straight to your inbox

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Learn how it works

Our expert will prepare their appraisal which we will email you within 48 hours. The two part report is a PDF with your item's history & value and an online certificate held on our secure server so you can share your appraisal with others. If you're planning on selling your item on eBay you add the HTML code to link to your online certificate to show potential buyers our estimated value of your item.

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