These are general tips that will come in handy when inspecting anything vintage. A guideline to remember, keeping in mind that there are exceptions to every rule. More than one factor has to be considered as one cannot rely on one point alone.
With vintage items come knocks and bruises, wear and tear; which is part of the reason why vintage items are so popular – they have lived another life.
So if you come across a piece that appears so new that you can pretty much see where the ‘Made in China’ sticker once was – keep away from it. However, you must keep in mind that mint condition collectables are in demand. Items that appear brand new and in their original condition are good items to own. Just use the following points to see if anything else seems suspicious.
Signs of lack of detail are often signs of reproduction. Is the detail precise and intricate? Is the paintwork slightly crude? This is not always the case but can be a sign.
Age can be given away by the way things were produced.
Take clothes for example. If the seams were overlocked by an overlocker, it’s probably a piece from the 1960’s or newer, as overlocker machines were not proper. Tips like that can be a good giveaway.
What is it made of? Is it quality fabric? Is it expensive or solid timber? Is it heavy? Would production have been expensive? Replicas are commonly made cheaply and of lower quality materials compared to the original. Try to gain experience handling the originals so that you will be able to tell the difference.
Some sellers may just have one for display but meanwhile have a stockpile in the back. Quite often, the higher the quantity, the more likely it is to be a stash of reproductions.
A price that is too good to be true probably is. Although bargains do exist, it is highly unlikely that the item would not be priced at its worth.
Natural wear on items is something that reproductions are unable to get right. No matter how hard you try, it is impossible to fake more than 50 years of wear. Even sanded paint on furniture does not look the same as natural wear.
Follow your gut
Don’t underestimate your gut instinct. If your gut and other signs are telling you that it’s not vintage, then it probably isn’t.