identify my antique furniture
Kristina Davis

Identify my Antique furniture? Confused on how to do it perfectly? Then this post is for you!

The value of an antique is determined by time, item condition/preservation, rarity, and history.

Without the knowledge of these three factors, anyone can fall for a repro scheme.

There are two ways of detecting if the antique furniture is fake.

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You can either get a professional to confirm its authenticity or equip yourself with credible research.

This guide is for DIYers. We included a bonus section for people who may want to measure the value of their old furniture.

So, let’s get to it.

Guide Outline

  • How to Identify My Antique Furniture
  • How to tell if old furniture is valuable
  • How to date antique furniture by feet
  • What do the numbers mean on antique furniture?

How to Identify My Antique Furniture

The age indicators for antique furniture include identification marks, foot styles, joinery, wood finish, wood type, and overall styles.

If you are lucky enough, the date may be written on the piece.

1. Joinery

The joinery is the first spot to check. Handmade dovetail joints date back to the pre-1860 era, as machine-cut dovetails became a thing after 1860.

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Handmade furniture has few and uneven dovetails while neatly-cut and closely-spaced dovetails were made with machines.

Also, the slats, rungs, spindles, and rockers present on handmade dovetails are not uniform, meaning the level of accuracy achieved in machine-cut pieces are not present in the handmade furniture.

2. Wood Finish

Like foot styles, the wood finish can point at a particular age. Very old items are usually coated with oil, milk paint or wax.

The Victorian era saw the rise of shellac while the lacquer and varnish were not in use until the mid-1800s.

You need alcohol, denatured alcohol, ammonia, white vinegar, and kerosene to detect the kind of wood finish present on your antique.

If the wood finish dissolves alcohol, it is most likely shellac. Milk paint can only be removed by ammonia.

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Dirty or waxed furniture can be cleaned with a mixture of denatured alcohol, white vinegar, and kerosene in equal proportions.

3. Wood Type

Before the 18th century, oak was the dominant wood used to make furniture.

The late 17th century saw the increased usage of walnut and mahogany.

How to Tell If Old Furniture Is Valuable

There’s this belief that old furniture was made with “original” materials that can stand the test of time.

The timelessness and condition of antique furniture can drive up its cost.

In the words of Ceelo Green, “antique things have worth. Something can be old, but timeless.

If this antique is preserved and deemed precious, it could be passed down as a family heirloom”.

I could not have written it better myself. As Ceelo correctly pointed out, timelessness, preservation, and popular belief are the three key factors to consider when measuring the worth of antique furniture.

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It is not enough to detect the originality of the antique item; you should also decide if it is worth keeping.

While personal preference cannot be totally ignored, you should always check if the furniture is in good shape before making a payment for it.

To be sincere, it’s not abnormal for an antique to have faulty parts. C’mon, it has seen many decades fade.

However, you should know the amount of work required to repair the damaged item. Sometimes, such damages cannot be repaired.

Steps to Check

Follow the steps below to double-check the condition of the vintage item.

Step 1. Check the drawers, hinges, doors, and joints for any faults.

Step 2. See if the dust panels or drawer guides are still intact.

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Step 3. Inspect the whole furniture for insect damage or dry rot. The rotted parts can only be replaced not repaired.

Sometimes, the dry rot is not conspicuous; hence you would have to pierce the wood with a knife blade (if you are allowed to do so).

The furniture is not rotted if it has resistance, but the wood is bad if you experience little or no resistance.

Step 4. Check for joint fracture. Wobbly or split components can be easily repaired but repairing broken wood joints is tasking even for professional woodworkers.

To get the exact replacement, you might need to pay higher fees.

And the antique might not be worth the stress and repair expense.

Step 5. Check the veneer. Although separated veneer is easy to rejoin with glue, missing veneer might be expensive to replace and fix.

How to Date Antique Furniture by Feet

Different periods have different trends. Certain furniture foot styles were restricted to a particular age while others span between ages.

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Checking the foot style of the desired antique can be a great step to determine its age and authenticity.

The 18th Century

The arrow foot was popular in the 18th century while the block foot rose to prominence in the mid-18th century.

Also, the late 18th century and early 19th century saw the rise of the cylindrical foot style.

 The cylindrical foot aka the elongated bulb foot can be found in Georgian and Neoclassical-style furniture (late 18th century and early 19th century).

The 1600s

The ball foot dates back to the 1600s. It is a popular feature of the William and Mary furniture.

The onion foot, turnip foot, and bun foot are also modifications of the ball foot styles.

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The hoof foot is a classic feature of the Regence and Queen Anne furniture.

The 1700s

Since its inception in the 1700s, the Ball and Claw foot has been in continuous dominance.

It can be discovered in lots of Chippendale Vintage Furniture.

The Dolphin foot looks like a fish head. It can be found in chairs or tables made during the ornate regency (the mid-1700s).

During the Louis XV era, the toupee foot was a thing.

What Do the Numbers Mean on Antique Furniture?

It is not unusual to find identification marks inside of at the back of antiques.

Antique furniture identification marks can represent the style, manufacturer, or patent assigned to the company.

Sometimes, you can find two to three marks on an item.


The item must have been handled by various entities before getting to the original user(s). Such entities include the cabinet maker, the retailer, and industry groups.

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You need to be familiar with the original label, as forgers can imitate labels from old reputable companies.

It can be engraved in the furniture in different ways, namely the paper labels, metal tags, or stamps.

The best way to uncover the meaning of an antique furniture identification mark is to check a chart or resource.


We hope now you know how to identify antique furniture and tell if the furniture is valuable. That said, if you can identify you can judge the best and never fall in scams.

If you have any doubts, you can comment below.

Further Read: Want to get rid off grime from your furniture? Check this guide for more details.