Sunday 11th June 2023 - Della Bentham
How to Spot Undervalued Antiques at Auctions
Antique auctions can be both thrilling and overwhelming, especially if you're new to the game. Yet, there's a unique sense of satisfaction when you uncover a hidden gem — an antique item of significant value that others have overlooked. Treasure hunting of this kind can be a rewarding hobby, and should you discover a valuable bargain, you can potentially make a lot of money.
Before you begin your quest to find hidden treasures, it's crucial to understand how antique valuation works. Factors like age, rarity, condition, provenance, and demand all contribute to an item's value. It's also essential to stay updated about current market trends in the antique world. You can do this by researching online and following antique news and experts on social media, auction websites, TV and print and digital publications.
Not all valuable antiques scream 'expensive'. Some are hidden treasures, unassuming to the untrained eye. Look for items with quality craftsmanship, a signature or maker's mark, and those that are representative of a specific style or era. If you spot a piece you think could be valuable, you can then go and do some research to find out more about it.
Provenance refers to the origin and ownership history of an item. An antique with a well-documented provenance can be more valuable as it authenticates the item's history, increasing its desirability to collectors. If an item comes with paperwork documenting its history and provenance, it could potentially be valuable. Use the information in the documentation to do further research about the piece.
Some types of antiques are often overlooked or undervalued, including old books, period furniture, vintage jewellery, porcelain, and certain artworks. Having a good grasp of these items can give you an advantage at auctions. Learn as much as you can and gain experience by regularly visiting auctions online or in person and trawling charity shops and car boot sales for hidden treasures. This will help you develop an eye for valuable items through practice and experience.
Maker's marks and signatures can provide clues about an item's origin and age. These marks may be etched, stamped, or painted onto the item and often require some detective work to interpret. The internet is a great tool to use to research maker's marks. You can compare pictures online to those of an item you're interested in to see whether it looks authentic and to help you learn more about the particular maker or item.
There are numerous online resources available for researching antiques. Online databases, forums, and valuation tools can provide valuable insights and help you compare items. Auction sites and marketplaces can be incredibly useful if you use them to see what similar items have sold for in the past.
Creating a network within the antique community can provide invaluable insight and guidance. Experienced dealers and experts can provide advice, help you identify potential hidden gems, and even authenticate items. Utilise online forums and social media to connect with experts and individuals interested in antiques. Getting involved in discussions can help you broaden your knowledge and expertise.
There have been numerous instances of hidden gems being discovered at auctions — from paintings bought for a few pounds and later identified as works by famous artists to rare collectables found in mixed lots. These stories are often highlighted in news pieces online, so follow antique news to stay in the know.
Patience, observation, and research are key. Set a budget before the auction and stick to it. Try to inspect the items in person during pre-auction viewings. Don't be afraid to ask questions about the items you're interested in. Researching prior to the auction will help you develop confidence about how authentic or valuable an item may be. If you're unsure, keep your bids low to minimise the risk.
After acquiring a potential gem, you may want to get it authenticated and appraised. Consider getting it professionally restored if it's in poor condition. Then, you can choose to keep it, sell it, or add it to your collection.
Discovering hidden gems at antique auctions is part science, part art, and part luck. With time, patience, and experience, you'll develop a keen eye for spotting undervalued items. Remember, every auction is a learning opportunity — a chance to expand your knowledge and appreciation of beautiful, historic objects. So, keep exploring, keep learning, and let the hunt reveal the next hidden gem!