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How to Buy Antiques Online

I have spent my entire life around antiques, and not just in our home. As I’ve mentioned before, my mother was an interior designer and my paternal grandmother was an interior decorator. Her showroom also sold antiques in the style of the Colefax & Fowler showroom in London. I loved learning about antiques from her, everything from the “standards,” such as the gorgeous Sheraton demilune that always drew my attention to the esoteric, such as the carpet bowls she collected and displayed in large bowls throughout the house. Her collection of Staffordshire spaniels was enormous and each was adorned with a red bow for Christmas.

One of my favorite ways to spend an afternoon, pre-pandemic, was browsing antique shops or attending auctions. With the pandemic, much of that has been put on hold, but the rise in online retailers and auctions has been wonderful. Of course, nothing can replace the real thing, but it’s a good substitute for now. Here are some things to keep in mind when shopping for antiques online.


Know the general price range for what you’re interested in

Have a general idea of what a respectable price range is for the item you’re interested in is. It’s easy to spend too much, especially on popular items like Staffordshire spaniels. Be sure to stay within your budget, as well!


Check the dimensions

Make sure you are buying what you think you are buying and check the dimensions! It’s easy to get confused with standalone images of the item, like plates, when there are no other items for scale in the image.


Look at the pictures

Check carefully for any damage–cracks and crazing for ceramics/porcelain, pulled threads for textiles, and damage for silver. If you’re unsure if there is a flaw, reach out to the seller to ask.


Confirm how the items will be shipped (and how much shipping will be)

I’ve often stumbled across the perfect item, but then realized that shipping would be prohibitive. Make sure you factor in how items will be shipped (freight, USPS, UPS, FedEx, etc.), and what that will add to your final total.


If you are buying…

Fabric: Ask the seller to provide a color comparison–for instance, have a paint color card photographed on top of the fabric so that you know the exact shade. It’s difficult to get a sense of the true color without something you can compare to in real life.

Silver: Know the silver pattern you’re looking for, and use a reputable source to verify any silver marks.

Porcelain/ceramics: As mentioned above, know any marks used by the manufacturer–not just to indicate the manufacturer, but also marks used to indicate the year the piece was produced. You might not mind a modern-day piece, but be sure you aren’t paying for an antique if that’s not what you are purchasing!


Where to shop

Here are some of my favorite online retailers for antiques:

Etsy*

Chairish*

1stDibs*

EBay*

Housing Works

Sotheby’s

Millea Brothers

Replacements.com*

And Instagram!


Where do you like to shop?


Links marked with asterisks are affiliate links, and I may earn a commission at no cost to you if you choose to purchase something through my link. I have only linked to companies from whom I have purchased antiques and had a good experience! You can read more about my use of affiliate links here. Thank you for supporting Fewer & Better!

The image used is of my grandparents’ house, Thimble Hall, as published in Gold Coast Magazine.

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