Shopping for antiques just outside Philadelphia in Southampton
It’s been said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. But it’s not really a compliment when imitations or reproductions are used to defraud consumers. When you buy what is told is a genuine antique or a vintage collectible, but later learn they were knowingly sold as a fake, it’s fraud.
Buying and selling antiques is big business. You can buy antiques at auctions, shops, shows, and online. You may even discover treasures at garage sales and flea markets. It’s a smart buyer who learns about the differences between genuine antiques, reproductions, and their fake counterparts. Before you shop for antiques, it’s important to understand some terms used in the marketplace.
By law, an antique is an item that is at least 100 years old. A collectible is just about anything that people collect. The age of a collectible isn’t important except if it is labeled a vintage collectible. A vintage collectible is an item that is at least 50 years old. A reproduction is an item created to look like an original, but that has no value in the antique world.
Just as you do your homework before making other important purchases, it’s a good idea to research antiques before you buy them. This may include visiting antique shops, malls, and auctions, talking with collectors and reputable dealers and reading price guides, auction catalogs, books and magazines on the items you’re interested in buying. The more you know, the less likely you are to buy something that isn’t what you thought or to pay more than you should.
When shopping, ask questions:
- How long have you been a dealer?
- Do you belong to any professional organizations like dealer associations, appraiser associations, or organizations related to specific types of merchandise?
- Do you specialize in certain items? Dealers who specialize can teach you a lot about telling the difference between real antiques, reproductions, and fakes.
- Do you carry reproductions? If dealers have reproductions mixed in with antiques, the reproductions should be labeled clearly.
- How do you know the item is genuine and not a fake or reproduction?
- How did you determine the price of the item?
- What criteria did you use to identify the item?
- Will you guarantee the authenticity of the item in writing? If the dealer won’t give you a guarantee, don’t disqualify the purchase. Many dealers buy items without absolute certainty about their authenticity but the price should reflect that.
- What is your return policy? A reputable dealer should agree, in writing, to take back anything that was misrepresented.
If you have a problem with an antique dealer, first try to resolve the dispute with the dealer. If the item was purchased at an antiques show, mall or auction house, report the seller to the management. Make sure you act quickly. Some companies may not accept responsibility if you fail to complain within a certain time. If you can’t get satisfaction, consider contacting your local consumer protection agency for information and help.