Stylish and Comfortable Furniture

3 Important Tips For Selling Your Antique Furniture

by Jason Mason

Your grandmother's hand-me-down dining set, lamp, or couch might represent a small fortune -- but many unwitting benefactors simply throw out their "old junk" or post it on local sales websites for next to nothing. Don't be one of them! Here are three pieces of advice for helping you get maximum value for those pieces of furniture by selling them to professional antique dealers.

1. Different Dealers Specialize in Different Periods

Just as doctors may focus on specific areas of the body or attorneys on specific areas of law, furniture dealers who buy and sell older pieces may specialize in different periods or styles such as:

  • Victorian - Like its namesake, this style of furniture ruled throughout several decades of the 19th Century. Victorian furniture tends to be dark and heavy in effect, with elaborately carved wood and special touches such as glass knobs and gilded finishes.
  • Art Nouveau - Curving, complex shapes, rich varnishes, and lots of ornaments dominate this style of furniture, which was particularly popular in France and Belgium toward the end of the 19th Century. 
  • Hollywood Regency - Many pieces of furniture from the 1930s reflected the Hollywood aesthetic of luxury and glamour in defiance of the Great Depression. If your furniture looks like something out of a 30s romantic comedy or musical, then you might have some Hollywood Regency on your hands.
  • Mid Century - Mid Century, the American equivalent of European Modern and Danish Modern, featured unusual egg-shaped, rounded, or geometric pieces with little to no adornment or embellishment. Mid Century furniture dealers may also deal in "Atomic" furniture, which incorporates thematic elements from 1950s science (or science fiction).

You're likely to get the best price for your furniture if you take it to a dealer that trades heavily in its specific style. If you're not sure of the style or period, it's time to talk to an appraiser.

2. It Pays to Appraise

Some furniture sellers may balk at the idea of spending extra money for a professional appraisal of a piece that might not be worth much more than the cost of the appraisal itself. If you're pretty sure that the piece is genuine valuable, however, shouldn't you have that fact verified by an objective third party before getting bids from antique furniture buyers? Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • An appraiser can point out tiny details that might drive your asking price either up or down, and advise you on whether any refinishing or renovation might be a good idea.
  • Like dealers, many appraisers specialize in certain periods or styles of furniture.
  • A sharp-eyed appraiser might discover other items in your home worth even more than the one you're putting up for sale.
  • Choose an appraiser who belongs to a recognized authority such as the American Society of Appraisers.

3. Go Mobile for More Success

Your location will almost certainly have an impact on your ability to sell your piece of furniture quickly and for a good price. For better or worse, you're likely to get more competitive offers if you live in a major metropolitan area that boasts a healthy customer base for such luxury items. These major dealers may sell pieces to interested buyers from around the world, enabling them to offer higher prices than a local dealer who only serves the immediate community.

If you know you've got something valuable and you're worried that you won't get a fair price for in your own little town, it may be well worth the effort to plan some road trips to major cities in your area. If loading and carrying a heavy item seems impractical, take several detailed photographs and take them with you instead so you can at least get some rough bids. 

Learn more and get some professional advice on your furniture's style and value, and be willing to go where the money is, if you want to see a tidy sum for your antique or vintage furniture. You may discover that what's old is new again -- once you've bought some handsome new furniture with the money from your sale!