Part 3: Real or Fake? How to tell if it is antique

Take a break Tuesday presents,

A little reading that will go a long way!

A few weeks ago I mentioned in my post Part 2: Key Antique Objects Made from Animals and Plants  that I would touch on how to better understand what is real from what is fake at a later date. The day [Part 3] is here…

Antique Metal Milk JugsExperience is key to distinguishing a genuine antique from a reproduction (or something newer) however with that being said there are definitely some standard tips + pointers that can help you tell them apart.

Can you tell the difference between an antique, reproduction or something that falls in between new and old? I am getting there but these things take time. In this post I am covering what to look for in a true antique. This also means I am relaying what things are reflective of a reproduction (copy or fake) or may be seen in newer creations.

All About Wood:


  • Items will likely be made of more than one type/kind of wood.
  • More expensive wood will be used on the exterior (where people can see)
  • Cheaper (lesser quality/ more inexpensive) wood will be used in hidden areas or interior places ex. joints and the bottoms of drawers.
  • Reinforced glued joints with dowels. Or a mortise hole and tenon tongue.
  • Marks and dents on the piece, especially in the corners.
  • A bit of a smell ex. inside drawers or when you open item/object.
  • Boards may be separating on the seam separation.
  • Irregular dovetail joints
  • Larger surfaces were made with wider boards featuring an uneven width ex. tables & trunks.


  • Are usually made of one type of wood. Check the underside of piece for continuity.
  • Are heavily stained to cover imperfections and are made of bad quality wood. Consistent color is also a tell-tale sign.
  • You may see apparent runs and drips of paint or stain.
  • Newer pieces will appear very smooth flat on the top. Glide your hand across.
  • Factory perfect corners that are rounded
  • Modern screws drilled into piece.
  • Machine-created dovetails are usually even and very thin. Newer pieces may have perfect joints.
  • Phillips screws, staples etc. were most often used in recent years.
  • Narrower and more symmetrical boards used.
  • A whole ton of glue is used – may indicate something is not well made.

dreamstimefree_84378Hand Carving:


  • Hand-made carvings are usually uneven or at least slightly asymmetrical.
  • Small imperfections are a sign it is human-made and not machine-made.
  • Stare at the craftsmanship! Don’t hesitate to follow the lines and look at the ornate detailing up close.


  • Machine carvings are more symmetrical.
  • New age carvings are more smooth.
  • No imperfections (or imperfections very rare)

Fabric, Upholstery, Stuffing & Batting:


  • Natural stuffing such as horsehair and straw/hay was used. More animal hair that was used included hog and cow.
  • If stuffing was done by hand it may not look as pristine ex. could be a bit more bumpy.
  • Worn looking and tattered fabric.
  • Hand-stitched seating cover (fabric).
  • Fabric patterns follow trends ex. Flowers. Look for the unfamiliar!


  • Synthetic items such as foam were used after the 1920’s.
  • Common patterns seen everywhere.
  • Dacron and vinyl could be used.

To properly classify antique chairs there is more specific stuff you can look for such as Caning techniques. That’s coming [All About Chairs] in a post in May.

dreamstimefree_267678Signs of Age and Wear (Suits most items):


Real antiques show signs of wear and tear in places where they are subject to the most use (contact) by people ex. end of chair arms where your hands rest. Not only is contact a think to consider but cracks caused by expanding and contracting over the years can be noticeable.

Plus if an object opens and closes you will see wear there too ex. drawer’s runner. Some other items to look for in an antique:

  • Scratches, Dents & Flaws
  • Black marks indicate water damage on a piece. This could mean it has been around the block.
  • Stains (aged looking)
  • Warping is a big one!
  • Odor including a musty or mildew-smell…(a little yucky but liveable)


  • Consistent wear throughout the piece ex. New age shabby chic reproductions
  • If the tarnished look (patina) is too coordinated looking. It should be random.

Keep the tips above in mind and you will have an easy breezy time finding Vintage and Antique pieces. Remember the three (well 4) R’s when all else fails.

  1. Reproduction furniture (or items) are new and have no original elements. A Replica is best described as a fake as it will match exactly.
  2. Rebuilt furniture (or items) have some new materials or components.
  3. Refurbished furniture (or items) have been repaired/restored in some shape or form.

Part 4 and more of Real and Fake will be coming to this blog real soon. Curious to know about Furs, Marble and Furniture Hardware?



9 thoughts on “Part 3: Real or Fake? How to tell if it is antique

      1. Hello, I am not certified appraiser at this time. If you send me a picture of the item and any markings/stamps, I would just do research on it for free 🙂 However it would not be considered an appraisal, more of an opinion based on my expertise and research and perhaps provide you with more details on it. Feel free to send along.

  1. hi!,I really like your writing so much! percentage we keep up a correspondence more
    about your article on AOL? I need a specialist in this space to resolve my problem.
    Maybe that’s you! Looking forward to see you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s