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The Flowering of American Folk Art
by Jean Lipman

The quintessential guide to folk art in America illustrates more than 400 outstanding examples of American craft covering four major categories: painted, drawn, or stitched pictures, sculpture, architectural decoration, and decorated household objects. Pages include photographs and information on weathervanes, ship figureheads, tinware, toys, quilts, painted furniture, and more.

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Folk art can encompass a wide variety of antique objects. Some may be true folk art, created to fill a need in the community, while other pieces may have been created in what’s referred to as a folk aesthetic. This video discusses the difference between these two concepts.

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In this new periodic feature, Bob Brooke offers personal insights into the world of antiques and antiques collecting.

LATEST EXTRA!_______________________________________

How to Tell If an Antique is a Fake
by Bob Brooke


Collecting antiques, especially those made before the 1830s, can be an expensive proposition. And while dealers in high-end antiques are mostly honest, there have been some who have played a few tricks on their customers.

One trick is to replace parts of furniture with pieces from other antique pieces. The rule states that as long as 60 percent of a piece is original, then it can be sold as an antique. However, there are some dealers that “make” antiques. This is far easier to do with pieces of furniture than with ceramics, glass, or silver.

There are two types of “made” antiques. The first is what’s called a “marriage.” This is result of two pieces being joined together. A good example is a low chest combined with a cabinet set on top of it. Primitive pieces are particularly susceptible to marriages.

The second is an antique piece of furniture literally made of pieces from other pieces of older furniture. To the novice collector’s eye, this piece may look authentic. Also, pieces like this have no provenance.

Primitive pieces are particularly susceptible to marriages. Take this corner cabinet for example. By taking two old doors and old wood from other furniture, then painting it, and finally distressing the painted surface, a “new” antique marriage is born.

Fakers also use old barnwood and literally build primitive cabinets, tables, and such to create “new” primitive antiques.

And in a stroke of genius, someone took pieces of a Spanish galleon and created a large ornate table that looks as if always existed. It recently sold for $400,000!

Mark Soukup of Gap Mills, West Virginia, makes reproduction Windsor chairs by hand in the same way chairmakers did back in the 18th Century. The only difference is that his chairs look new. They’re not aged but are made to be used in today’s homes and offices. But there are other chairmakers out there who use the same age-old techniques to create fake Windsor chairs that are then sold by unsuspecting dealers as real thing.

A variety of other pieces of fake antique furniture—made to be sold as authentic—have been coming out of China and Indonesia for the last several decades. In some cases, only true antiques experts can tell the difference, but on closer inspection many other pieces show shoddy workmanship and a lack of details.

The best defense against fake antiques is knowledge, especially if a collector is spending big bucks to purchase pieces. Books, magazines, and price guides are a great place to begin. There are also Web sites, such as #TheAntiquesAlmanac, that offer supplemental information. It’s important to learn as much as possible about style periods and variations, as well as craftsmanship and original materials.

But nothing beats visiting museums, antique shows and shops, and even flea markets. Once a collector becomes familiar with authentic pieces, fakes will stand out, regardless of what a dealer may say about them.

Collectors clubs are another way of gaining knowledge and tips from other collectors.

Learn to Study a Piece
It’s important to thoroughly study a piece. Impulse buying can lead to costly mistakes. For example, examine furniture to determine if the manufacturing methods are consistent with the piece's alleged age. Ask yourself, what type of wood was the piece made from? Are there signs of shrinkage? Does the piece show signs of authentic wear or age? Is there evidence of modern tools or construction methods? Has the item been glorified, altered or converted from something else? Does the interior smell old? Are there signs of repair or refinishing? If the item passes these preliminary tests, consider the purchase.

A few signs that furniture is newer include consistent color, lack of patina, machine-cut moldings/carvings, and modern screws or nails. Things like mortise-and-tenon joints, wood pegs, hand-cut dovetails, and rose head nails are typically found in antique furniture.

If the price is too good to be true, it usually is. Collectors often discover what seems like a masterpiece in an antique shop at a remarkably low price. The dealer may have had the piece for a long time and lowered the price to sell it. Holding on to pieces usually costs more than the profit they may bring. Also, the dealer may specialize in one type of antique and the piece is not of that type. In that case, the dealer would want to unload it as soon as possible. And because the dealer probably wasn’t knowledgeable about this antique, a fake could easily pass as authentic.

Some collectors get to know a local dealer or two specializing in their category of antiques. This way they can take advantage of the dealer’s accumulated knowledge and expertise.

Most antique dealers are ethical and professional and won’t knowingly sell fakes. And if it turns out that a piece is questionable after being seen by another dealer specializing in that category of antiques, the dealer who originally sold the piece will usually take it back.

Dealers selling high-end antiques always provide the buyer with written documentation detailing its age, as well as a receipt of sale. The receipt is important should legal action needs to be taken.

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