Start Collecting Antiques: Five Categories to Collect and Enjoy Now

Dec 15, 2022

Antiquing can be a fun and exciting hobby, but it can also be a little intimidating to get into. It may seem like you need a lot of extra cash and seemingly endless knowledge about everything from old furniture to rare books, but that's not necessarily true.

If you want to get started with antiques, the best way might be to focus in on one category you're truly interested in. You might choose to dive deeper into items you already have some knowledge of, or focus on something new you've always been intrigued by. In this post we'll explore five popular categories of antiques you can start collecting now.

How to Decide What Antiques to Collect

While many people collect antiques as part of a side hustle, there are plenty of other reasons to cultivate an antique collection. Think about whether your goal is beautifying your living space, building an investment, or the excitement of hunting for the perfect piece. You could do a little bit of everything! Having a goal in mind can help you decide what pieces to add to your collection and how much to spend.

When deciding what kind of antiques to collect, let your interests and preferences guide you. Expect to spend a lot of time researching, asking questions, and getting involved in related communities. You'll enjoy yourself more if you follow your natural curiosity rather than focusing exclusively on what's popular or profitable.

Something else you'll want to think about is how you prefer to shop. Do you like to do your hunting online? Or you may love to travel and want to source your pieces while you explore new places. If you are purchasing large items, like furniture, consider how you'll transport these treasures. 

5 Antique Categories to Start Your Collection

1. Glass

Glass bottles in a variety of colors.

Photo by Alexander Grey on Unsplash

When it comes to vintage and antique glass, there are a lot of different varieties for you to choose from. You might dedicate yourself to a single type or collect a wide range for a truly eclectic collection.

  • Depression Glass is extremely popular. Affordable and colorful, it came in various patterns, including Cameo and Royal Lace.
  • Milk Glass is an opaque glass that's typically white, but you might also find it in shades of pink, green, or even black. Like Depression glass, it was mass-produced and came in many patterns.
  • Carnival Glass is easily identified by its iridescence, but it doesn't get its name from its appearance. These pieces were often given away as carnival prizes.

No matter what type of glass you choose to hunt (and there are many more than we've touched on here), thrift stores can be a fruitful place to start. Wide varieties of glass were mass-produced and widely owned, so wherever you live, you have a good chance of sourcing some beautiful pieces without breaking the bank.

2. Timepieces

a blue and gold Champleve mantel clock

Antique clocks and watches can make for fascinating collections. If timepieces interest you, you'll want to get familiar with maker names and marks. It can also be helpful to learn about the different mechanisms that make these pieces tick (yes, we did that).

Antique timepieces also provide a lot of variety for collectors. You'll find everything from wristwatches to full-sized grandfather clocks in this category.

A word of caution when collecting clocks: this is a category where you may encounter fakes. Disreputable dealers may replace the original inner workings with something less desirable or forge identifying marks. If you are investing in a valuable timepiece, we recommend purchasing one that comes with a reputable appraisal.

3. Original Art

large portraits in antique frames

Photo by Dan-Marian-Stefan Doroghi on Unsplash

You can't go wrong with original art pieces if you're hoping to use your antique collection to decorate your living space. Paintings are an easy way to express your own unique style.

When shopping for original paintings, a few things can add value to a piece. Often, an antique frame can add a lot of value to the artwork it contains. A painting of little value may even be housed in a desirable frame.

You may want to favor paintings that have the artist's signature. If you know who painted a piece, it makes it much easier to do research into the artist. Don't make the mistake of assuming if an artist isn't famous that their work isn't valuable. Sometimes an artist's background or the period in which they worked can make for a highly sought-after piece among certain collectors.

Art and paintings can be a good choice for collectors because you can find them pretty much anywhere. From thrift stores to garage sales, you never know if you'll stumble across a 

4. Books

rows of antique books

Photo by Thomas Kelley on Unsplash

When collecting antique books, you'll want to remember that there is a big difference between rarity and desirability. If you're building a library purely for enjoyment, you don't need to worry about how rare a book is. However, if you're hoping to turn a profit, here are a few things to look for:

  • First editions: The first edition of a book is in its original form before later changes to text or layout are made.
  • Signatures: Valuable signatures aren't just limited to the author. You may find biographies or historical accounts autographed by the subjects.
  • Physical characteristics: This can include anything from misprints to unusual bindings or typography.

Of course, even if you find a book that meets these criteria, desirability also comes into play. A book won't always fetch a high price just because it's rare; it will also need to be in demand among collectors.

Books are another category you can shop for almost anywhere. Search used bookstores, thrift stores, and garage sales. We've even got a category where you can shop for books on Chattic.

5. Lighting

an antique chandelier

Photo by William Krause on Unsplash

Another category that can fit in your home decor is antique lighting. This category encompasses everything from tableside lamps to ornate chandeliers.

The designs of antique fixtures are often replicated in modern pieces, so you'll want to do a bit of research before making a significant investment. Familiarize yourself with manufacturer hallmarks or casting marks. You'll often find these on the metal parts of the fixture, and they can help distinguish an original piece from a reproduction.

Estate sales are a potential goldmine when it comes to antique lighting. One advantage is that you're likely to find pieces that complement each other. If you're planning on selling, interior decorators often look for unique fixtures, and if you already have a curated set, all the better! You can also find out some information about the pieces from the previous owner.

Wrapping Up

Collecting antiques is a hobby with broad appeal. Ultimately, you'll want to indulge in what makes you happiest. Lose yourself in the thrill of the hunt, create a particular aesthetic for your home, or make a tidy profit; however you choose to participate, you're doing it the right way.

Want to get started now? Have a look through the Antiques category on Chattic!

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