How To Tell If Your Antiques Are Worth A Fortune

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How can you tell if your precious heirlooms are genuine antiques or ordinary household items? This guide tells you some of the more obvious pitfalls.

 Provenance - This means that you are certain of where the item comes from, you may have a receipt,  relevant letter, catalogue entry etc. As a general rule, antique means at least 50 – 80 years old, and usually over 100 years.

Makers marks. A very good rule of thumb is that if a maker is proud of their workmanship then they will put their name to it. No makers marks (particularly on figurines or fancy china) usually means inferior quality. The main exception to this is antiques pre-1800, before it was usual to put names on goods. Another big exception to this rule is Staffordshire figures, which were mass produced and not normally marked, but can be worth many hundreds of pounds today.

Makers marks include signs and symbols such as swords, crescents, logos etc. Your local library will have a book with the main makers marks in, Geoffrey Godden encyclopaedias are the best.  NOTE: Be wary of Crossed Swords, Anchors and Crescents etc as the original are  Meissen, Derby and Worcester  and there are many fakes and copies.

A word about English Sterling Silver; Sterling Silver has been Assayed (verified and  stamped) for over 700 years, and for the last 450 years a little lion has been stamped onto all English Silver - see picture above. Many pieces of silver plated cutlery etc have ornate stamps which look impressive and use symbols, but no  lion, no silver.

Look at the quality of your item – if it’s a figurine can you see the individual fingers? Does the face have an expression, eyelashes, crisp edges? Detail is quality. If it’s crockery, is it translucent (can you see through it)? If it’s a book, is it in good condition with startingly wonderful or unusual illustrations?

Finally, if you think you have something special, contact your local antiques Auction house. Most reputable dealers will give you a free valuation, although they may charge if you want it in writing for insurance purposes.

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