Identifying Antiques & Collectibles is more than just the proverbial Art and Science. It is a business. Much of what we now call Antique or Collectible appeals primarily to the artistic side of one’s appreciation and there is also a lot of science involved in making certain Antiques. Yet, one of the main reasons Antiques Dealers or Collectors value their possessions is that they represent financial liquidity similar to that found normally in regular monetary assets such as shares and stocks.
For example, most homeowners that keep a collection of Antiques at home, and certainly all reputable Auction Houses that deal in Antiques, insure their inventory to full Market Value. This is standard practice for most business-minded and prudent Collectors and Antiques Dealers as they recognize that Antiques & Collectibles can be converted to cold hard cash very easily, in some cases faster than stocks or bonds.
Additionally, many Antiques Dealers, including online sellers, place definite values or prices on their items, which then become the basis of their trade activity, including considerations as what to pay for their inventory and at what price to sell them. This in turn determines their profit, taxation, and other aspects of their business.
It is therefore important that a Dealer or Collector of Antiques and Collectibles can identify their items with precision. Knowledge of the maker and period of an antique, along with its condition and provenance, are the most important criteria used in determining its value. For example, although other minor details related to historical aspects of an antique also come into play, identifying the makers marks of a piece of antique Porcelain, is vital to its proper authentication and appraisal. This is why most professional Antiques Appraisers always ask the owner of an Antique as to how or when they acquired it and of course check for any makers marks or logos that may reveal the manufacturer and/or period of the item.
Luckily, most Antiques and Collectibles are marked with a logo or brand, known as makers marks or backstamps. Some makers used different antique marks during different periods and this helps in determining the year or general era an item was made. Even if an antique makers mark was used for a long period of time or throughout the operation of the manufacturer or Studio, the style of the piece often gives us clues as to when it was made. Other than style, an antiques appraiser can also check for signs of wear and age, such as crazing, oxidation, shrinkage, method of manufacturing etc to arrive at a usually fairly accurate assessment as to an antique item’s age. Of course, the actual history or provenance of an antique, such as who and when owned it before, provide a general time-scale and a good starting point for more research.
Antiques and Collectibles fall into a huge variety of categories or genres, some based solely on the material used to make them and some based on their style or period they were made. Material-related antique categories include antique Ceramics (porcelain, pottery, china), antique Silver or Metalwork, antique Furniture, Art (paintings, lithographs, engravings etc), Antiquities (ancient artifacts), Militaria (antique firearms or US Civil War items), Rugs and Linen (antique carpets or collectible Samplers and needlework), Antique Toys or Games and many others.
In addition to antique styles whose names are derived from concurrent personalities such as Georgian, Victorian, Queen Anne, Federal American etc, most Antiques and Collectibles can also be classified by the aesthetic movement they represent, as in the case of Art Nouveau, Arts & Crafts, Art Deco, Modernist etc. Furthermore, certain styles can be associated with places where a certain antique style was first introduced or was most prevalent; examples include Limoges porcelain, Dresden figurines, Paris Porcelain, New England antique furniture, Delft pottery and others. In some instances, a secondary attribute such as the “finish” (in porcelain that would be the glaze) is of importance as in the case of Majolica or Faience pottery and Blue & White chinaware.
These Material and Period or Style classifications are important to recognize since they give an antiques appraiser definite clues in terms of where to begin his or her research to identify these antiques. Proper antiques are at least 100 years old, expect for Carpets/Rugs that can be only as old as 65 years to be called “Antique”.
However, many times, the general style or period of an item does not match its estimated “age”. This requires careful consideration of all elements as described above, which must come into play in order to tell whether an antique is indeed an “antique” or a recent imported Reproduction or decorative copy of an original older piece. For example, many recent importers of items from Asia and other emerging economies, label their wares using older symbols and antique makers marks. These pieces are great decorative or utilitarian items, but are not “antique”.
Therefore, in order to identify Antiques or Collectibles and as a first step, it is necessary to recognize the overall Antique Category or “genre” which a specific item reflects or represents. This is the first attribute that must be assessed to allow for a more focused approach towards its proper identification and authentication as an antique item, such as makers marks or backstamps found on the piece.
For a huge visual display of makers' marks on Ceramics (Porcelain, Pottery, Chinaware) or Jewelry & Silver or Metal Ware, please see our corresponding services at Marks4Antiques.com.