Do's and Don't of Antiquing
1. Upon entering an antique shop; DO ask the proprietor what she has recently added to her inventory. It's fun to shop for fresh antiques. DON'T say to the dealer, "What's new?" She might hit you over the head with a highly collectible "Griswold" cast iron skillet.
2. If you're looking for something to put in front in front of your sofa, DO ask the proprietor if she has anything that might serve as a coffee table. A cut-down (leg-shortened) table or cleaned-lined blanket chest might suffice. DON'T walk into her shop and say, "I'm looking for an antique coffee table." It is a relatively modern furniture form.
3. If you're looking for an affordable country look, DO keep your eyes open for pine furniture. Most antique pine was originally painted. Look for layered traces of that old paint inside the crevices of stripped and refinished antiques. DON'T buy knotty pine devoid of layered paint remnants. Old-day cabinet makers seldom selected boards with a numerous of knots that might fall out. This does not hold true for backboards or other unseen planks (secondary wood). There, such wood was often employed to save on cost.
4. At an auction; DO bid with the bidding card you signed-up for during "registration." Even keen-eyed Auctioneers can miss your bid if you don't hold your card up high. DON'T raise your hand to ask a question or wave to your friends.
5. During an auction preview; DO inspect every piece you are considering and write down in advance the top price you would happily pay. Once the sale begins, DON'T bid on anything you failed to inspect and price during preview. Emotional bidders make un-astute buyers.
6. At tag sales; DO keep your eyes open for things that look old, but not necessarily antique: fountain pens, GI Joe and Barbie Dolls, Arts & Crafts Period pottery, toys you played with when you were a kid in excellent condition, 1950's and 1960's stuff with a space-age or hip look, beautifully lined and expertly constructed furniture in un-refinished condition, early sports gear, etc.. DON'T buy something you don't like or need just because it looks like a rare antique: Persian brass, under priced advertising antiques like Coke trays, crackled glass, comical folk art, fancy furnishings, etc.. Such things are often recent fabrications intended for greedy-eyed bargain hunters.
7. Regarding dealers, when someone enters your place of business, DO say "May I help you?" DON'T say, "Can you be helped?" Buyers and browsers cannot be discerned by appearances. Treat everyone with courteously and respect. Regarding customers, DO the same. DON'T think courtesy is a one-way street.
8. Upon purchase, DO ask for a written receipt specifying: age, origin, condition (including repairs, restoration, etc.), provenance-if any, the agreed upon price, date, and dealer's name and guarantee policy. DON'T be afraid of quality shops and people. In the long run, the best antique buys are not discovered amongst naive sellers, but from the most capable buyers. Whether your preference is for Chippendale furniture, or a line of more affordable antiques like my respected Woodbury colleague, Jerry Madans handles, seek experience. Admirable merchantries can be found in all lines of ware and price. Jerry puts it succinctly, "My neighbors sell period stuff, I sell stuff, period!"