Your Guide to Buying an Antique Oil Painting

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Your Guide to Buying an Antique Oil Painting

As an art form, oil painting stands as one of the most beautiful and artistically difficult. The process can provide aesthetically pleasing images from all genres. Subject matter comes down to personal taste and everyone has his or her own opinion of what can be considered engaging. It is in this instance in which eBay’s market for antique oil paintings has solidified itself.

Since the arrival of online galleries the popularity of antique oil paintings has risen. Due to this, those classed as original are becoming rare in such a saturated marketplace. In the past the only way to acquire such an exclusive item was via a local dealer or personal contact in the art industry. Now you can browse antique oil paintings from various eras on eBay, allowing all to have access to such beautiful imagery.

Craftsmanship and Quality

Oil paintings that qualify for the tag of antique contain craftsmanship that simply isn’t found in modern day pieces. Breaking an antique oil painting down to into individual parts will help separate the great from the mediocre. It is the responsibility of a perspective buyer to educate himself or herself in order to create such a divide.

  • Age does not equal value – Just because a particular painting is over a hundred years old does not necessarily guarantee it to be valuable. What determines the value has often been debated but artist notoriety and quality of canvas will help guide you towards the perfect piece.
  • Quality – Pay close attention to the paintings brush strokes and use of light. Factors such as this will dictate not only a painter’s ability but also the degree of time they took with the piece in question.
  • Taste is personal – Just because an antique oil painting does not have a name or future value potential doesn’t mean it is not suitable. If the image is well constructed and appeals it should still be considered for purchase.

Achieving a trained eye takes time and is a trial and error process. Once achieved it will help you select the perfect antique oil painting for the home, office or resale.

What to Look for in an Antique Oil Painting

When entering the market for an oil painting it is crucial to know what to look out for. There are signs which help determine its age and condition. To start the inspection of a painting look at the back of it, preferably behind the frame.

  • Dark Canvas – In such instances you should be able to see cackle marks.
  • Light Canvas – Canvases that are a brighter shade of white will be from the early fifties through to present.
  • Dark Grey Board – Helps signifying that the painting was produced pre-1900.
  • Label – Labels on paintings are rare (as they come from the production company not the artist) but if found will help clearly signify the year of the painting.
  • Stretcher – The nails used will show signs of age that may not be obvious in the painting itself. New nails show that the painting has been reframed and questions should be asked with regards to why.
  • Staples – Staples are the ultimate giveaway that the frame and painting are new.
  • Wood – Unprepared wood will age at a steady rate and thus follows similar rules to the canvas itself. The darker the wood the older it will be, a reframed painting will negate this rule.

A general rule of thumb is that the lighter the canvas the newer the painting and this would discount it from the antique classification. Using the rest of the tips detailed above will also help find an antique oil painting but trusting ones judgment should also be significant.

Conditioning and Damage

What constitutes good condition is entirely subjective and will vary from buyer to buyer. Unless you are a restorer or planning on investing money in restoration you need to be getting a painting that is in as good condition as possible.

Almost every antique painting will have blemishes in some form as time always takes its toll. Expect there to be some form of cracking in the paint as it is the most common distinction in antique oil paintings. Be aware of the following when shopping for an antique oil painting online.

  • Scratches – Scratches to the painting and frame are usually a tell tale sign that it has been mishandled or poorly treated. These generally occur when a painting bumps or makes contact with another surface.
  • Tears – The biggest issue with older antique oil paintings. Even though small tears are repairable, large tears could spell the end. Such occurs when a painting has made heavy impact with a solid object.
  • Warping – Will occur in paintings produced prior to the 1800s. Sometimes the paper and board used does not age well and becomes weaker over time. In some instances they will warp, this doesn’t necessarily affect the image but can affect re-sale value.
  • Paint Flaking – Often the death knell for an antique oil painting. Large flakes require extensive restoration that is beyond most people’s skills and/or price range. Even after restoration there are no guarantees that the painting will maintain its quality.

Quality is key when it comes to purchasing antique artwork and knowing the signs of damage can be worth its weight in gold. eBay is an online marketplace and if buying local it may be worth seeing the piece prior to purchase. If this is not possible ask the seller to deliver a range of photos covering close ups of all aspects of the painting. This will help you gain a feel of the antique oil painting’s overall quality.

Education and Pre-Purchase Research

The antique oil painting market can be complex and varied. It cannot be recommended enough that before you invest your hard earned money that you educate yourself in the field. Great ways of doing this include:

  • Visiting Art Museums
  • Visiting Art Galleries
  • Researching Artists
  • Reading Reference Books
  • Antique Art Auctions

The above will help buyers obtain a wealth of information and give an insight into the tough world of art dealing. Using this guide along with some personal preparation will give a buyer the edge when shopping for antique oil paintings on eBay.

Price of Antique Oil Paintings

Prices in the antique oil artwork market range from affordable to extortionate. Antique oil paintings can range from hundreds of pounds to millions. However with eBay’s trusted sellers and reasonable price points there are pieces available to suit all budgets. When buying on eBay there are several base rules to adhere to.

  • Do not pay until you’ve seen the painting in person.
  • Be wary of low priced oil paintings from famous artists.
  • Do not be put off sellers by asking for deposits on more expensive pieces, it is a common part of the buying process.
  • Stick with your instinct and do not doubt your own personal taste.

They may seem like obvious guidelines but many buyers fail to adhere to them. Sticking to such will weed out the poor quality offerings and allow access to eBay’s array of high quality antique oil paintings.

How to Buy an Antique Oil Painting Using eBay

There is an interesting range of antique oil paintings available on eBay.

  • To start browsing what sellers have on offer use the navigational controls to the left of the homepage.
  • Select collectables and antiques and then click on art.
  • Narrow down the search by heading into the antique paintings category.


It should be noted that antique oil paintings carry high delivery charges; this is due to insurance coverage. A large percentage of eBay sellers will not ship a painting unless the seller purchases insurance. Be aware that choosing a shipping option without insurance option is not advised, as it will put the buyer, seller and item in question at risk.

eBay Shops

Art dealers have started using eBay shops in order to sell antique oil paintings.

  • In order to find eBay shops click on the eBay shops link located at the bottom of the home page.
  • Purchasing prints from abroad is another option to shoppers. This process may incur customs charges and such should be taken into consideration prior to purchase.

Making a Purchase

When purchasing an antique oil painting from eBay you will need to submit a bid, make a best offer or complete an immediate purchase via buy it now. Completing the checkout with PayPal allows a buyer to take advantage of the buyer protection program. In the instance of antique oil paintings this can be a helpful form of protection should an issue occur with the painting itself.


The attraction and intrigue that an antique oil painting presents is undeniable. Their unique imagery and beauty makes them stand tall in the art world and it would beneficial to capitalise on antiques pieces whilst they are still around.

The opportunity to invest in a piece that could increase in value is another upside of the art world. Using this guide will help you locate that special piece to add to your home décor. eBay have built an impressive reputation in the art world so they should be first choice when it comes shopping for antique oil paintings.

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