Antique Reproductions: Identification & Buying Guide

Updated March 23, 2022
antique pink chair

Being able to tell a reproduction from a genuine antique is an important skill, especially if you love antique furniture, decorative items, and collectibles. Antique reproductions can be beautiful imitations of older pieces, especially if you choose items made with quality workmanship and materials. Once you know how to tell the difference between new and old, you can make an informed decision and choose the piece that's best for your home.

What Antique Reproduction Really Means

An antique reproduction is a piece that is made to look like an antique. It replicates the style, features, and sometimes even the materials of a genuine antique item. However, it's not as old as the real antique. In fact, an antique reproduction can be a brand new piece, but it can look almost exactly like an older item.

Antique reproductions are not the same as fakes. Fakes are designed to deceive the buyer. Unscrupulous sellers or manufacturers create fake antiques to look like real antiques, and misrepresent them as real during the sale process. Reproductions are not trying to hide anything about their age. A reproduction looks like an antique, but no one is claiming it actually is one.

Ways to Tell an Antique From a Reproduction

antique teal sofa

Some reproductions are so beautifully made that it can be a challenge to tell them apart from a genuine antique. If you're buying or selling antiques, you need to be able to tell the difference. You don't want to ask or pay the price of a real antique for something that is newer. There are a few key ways to tell the difference between antique reproductions and the genuine article.

Materials Used in Antiques vs. Reproductions

The materials used to make a piece of furniture or other item can be a give-away about its age. Take some time to look at the wood, glass, and other products in the piece, especially in harder to see areas.

  • Look for particle board. Modern furniture and decorative items often include particle board or MDF instead of solid wood. Look at the edges and undersides of pieces to see if it's made of solid wood.
  • Check for different kinds of wood. Manufacturers of long ago often mixed woods in furniture and other items to save money, using less valuable woods in areas that wouldn't be visible. If you see a mix of woods, it could be a real antique.
  • Watch for synthetic materials. Upholstered furniture and antique textiles and clothing should feature natural fabrics if it was made prior to the 1920s. If it includes synthetics, it's probably a reproduction.

Signs of Age in New vs. Old Pieces

Many antique reproductions include manufactured signs of age or use, while a genuine antique has a patina that forms over time. This is one key difference between something that is old and something that just looks old.

  • Check the wear pattern. Genuine antiques become worn where people touch them, but some antique reproductions are uniformly distressed.
  • Look for darkening in lower areas. In any piece with carvings or a pattern, the original material can darken with time in the lower parts of the pattern. This is particularly evident in silver or materials that tarnish or corrode. An antique reproduction may show darkening in higher areas too.
  • Examine wood for cracking or warping. Changes in humidity and temperature affect antique furniture and can cause wood to crack or warp. Cracks should be with the grain of the wood if they are present.

Workmanship in Antique Reproductions vs. Older Items

Many quality antique reproductions feature beautiful workmanship, but even the best made pieces usually still involve modern techniques. Take some time to look carefully at how something was made.

  • Take a look at whether the piece is uniform. A modern piece usually has uniform dimensions and construction, while an older piece may not. Time changes the shape of many materials, and hand made items are less uniform than machine-made pieces.
  • Examine the hardware. Antique furniture hardware includes older nails, screws, handles, and other pieces. If the hardware is old, the piece is more likely to be an antique than a reproduction.
  • Look for signs of handmade joints. Dovetail joints and other joinery methods will not look perfectly uniform on many older, handmade pieces. New high quality antique reproductions may use the same joinery methods, but they are usually done by machine.

Buying Reproductions of Furniture and Other Antiques

If you love the look of older pieces but want to purchase new reproductions, there are some things to consider. You should have a basic understanding of antique reproduction value and some idea where to shop for quality reproductions.

Value of Antique Reproductions

The value of reproduction antiques is mostly determined by the desirability and quality of the piece. Antique values often include factors like rarity, age, and condition, and these are less important with reproductions. An antique reproduction may not be more valuable than a modern piece, and some things may actually lose value with use. For example, an upholstered antique reproduction sofa will be more valuable new than it is after a few years of use and wear.

Where to Shop for Reproductions

There are a few stores that specialize in reproduction antiques, sometimes from specific eras. Consider one of the following:

  • Victorian Trading Co. - Victorian Trading Co. offers a wide range of Victorian-style pieces. You'll find everything from home decor items like embroidered pillows to furniture of all kinds.
  • The Ancient Home - Offering sculptures, home decor items, and reproduction antique furniture from a variety of periods, The Ancient Home is a great source for unique pieces that feel old.
  • Cherry Brook Woodworks - If you're looking for antique reproduction dining tables, cabinets, and other furniture, Cherry Brook Woodworks is an excellent source. They can replicate furniture from a picture or simply make a piece that looks like it comes from your favorite era.
  • Eloquence - Eloquence offers all kinds of antique reproductions, as well as genuine antiques. You'll find home decor items, gifts, furniture, linens, and more for many different eras.

Creative Antique Looking Decorations

Whether you choose reproductions, antiques, or a mix of both, you can use special objects to add a sense of history to your home. Antique interior decorations are fun and give your space a special and creative feel.

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Antique Reproductions: Identification & Buying Guide