Antiques for Beginners

Find out why antique hunting may be your calling

We've put together a comprehensive beginner's guide on what to look out for when buying antiques for your new home


Many people assume that because something is an antique, it must be pricey, but this is just not true. Move over Ikea - because if you're a new homeowner or want to start a fresh look without breaking the bank, antique hunting may be your calling. There are more creative, personal, and distinctive methods to design an interior on a budget, and antiques are most certainly one of them.


Why antiques? 

For an item to be considered an antique, it would be at least a hundred years old. Original antiques, the first of their sort and style, can be fairly expensive depending on where you locate them, but pre-1940s replicas can look just as beautiful, have superb craftsmanship, and be relatively inexpensive. Collectables can be either vintage or antique, and vintage objects are often at least 20 years old.

Back in the day, wooden furniture was handcrafted and built to last for generations. After the 1940s, almost everything in the UK was machine-made, lacked dovetail joints, and ended up on the scrap heap after a few decades at most.

When compared to the expense of purchasing brand new items of lower quality at the lowest rates available from bargain-basement retailers, old chairs and settees in need of reupholstering are typically significantly cheaper to acquire and recover. Basic components are simple enough to repair with a bit of research and DIY know-how. Fabrics can be purchased in markets at a lower price than those found in an upholsterer's sample books.


An 18th century French kingwood and parquetry inlaid transitional commode

Sold for £950

Where should you hunt?

If you are antiquing on a budget, try to avoid high-end stores with flashy window displays. They may have some rare Georgian silver for sale, but you won't be getting a decent bargain.

Market stalls, sales, auctions, fairs, flea markets, and antique stores that like to pile their products from floor to ceiling where pricing levels will be affordable are the greatest places to sniff about. Because not all stores are what they appear to be from the outside, it may take a lot of going in and out of numerous doors to discover the appropriate ones when you first start. Once you've found reliable suppliers, there should be lots of opportunities to unearth a plethora of diamonds at reasonable prices.

Patience is essential while acquiring antiques. Shopkeepers and stall owners may have many new items coming in every week, so it's best to take your time with the choosing process and return to your favourite places multiple times.

eBay, for example, is an okay place to look for antiques on the internet. However, there are several possible dangers when purchasing something over the internet, so much caution is required. If the photo quality is bad, you should probably move on to the next item. Antiques should be well photographed, with many detailed photos and detailed descriptions.

You can also look up your closest reputable auction house for inspiration. At Dawsons, we showcase the results of our many monthly sales on our website; why not have a browse in our news section and see what recent sales have been under the hammer?

 A George II giltwood and gesso occasional table

Sold for £17,500


What to Look For

There are a variety of ways to develop expertise and knowledge for the novice antiquer. One option is to speak with auction houses and enquire about the items of interest you discover and how to identify how old something is and what style it is. 

Antique collecting will probably take considerably longer than shopping for current equivalents, but the hunt is half the fun. It's incredibly satisfying to know that you created an interior with one-of-a-kind, high-quality pieces for the same or less money than you would have spent on new, low-cost finds. Antiques keep or enhance their worth over time, but new furniture loses value over time.


Please do get in touch, if you have any questions for our friendly team of experts. The specialists at Dawsons Auctioneers & Valuers are always happy to provide a free verbal appraisal and auction valuation; regularly consigning an array of wonderful items to our monthly Fine Art & Antiques sale.

We would love to hear from you.


Call us on 0207 431 9445 or get in touch via email on