To Restore, or not to Restore…That is the Question! By Reyne Haines

September 11th, 2012 by

varnish-brushOver the years, antiques have been passed down from generation to generation, from one antique shop to the next, and from flea markets all over the world to your home.  With the volume of households antiques have been in over the last 50-100 years, is it any wonder any of it is still in mint condition?

In the United States, collectors often want their antiques to be flawless. In other countries, some damage is more accepted.

I am often asked, “If I buy an item that is restored, does that make the value increase?”  That’s a loaded question.  It doesn’t make the item worth the same as if it was still in “original” mint condition.  However, it can certainly increase the interest in a potential buyer.

Should I restore my things?  It all depends on the type of item you are talking about.  To replace missing stones on a piece of jewelry, yes!  Should I refinish an American Highboy, probably not.

What’s a handy item to have when out antiquing? A black-light!  This handy little tool can help you detect if a piece of glass, pottery, porcelain or a painting has been restored.  Take the item and the black-light into a dark room. Turn on the portable light and hold it over the item.  Wave it from side to side and look for any spot to “jump” out at you.  If something seems to stand out, there might be some issues with the piece.

What if you want to buy a piece that needs restoration? Should you buy it, or should you pass?  In many cases, if an item is damaged, you can expect the value to be 10-20% of what it would be worth if pristine.  If an item is rare, that percentage would change.

So if you just happen to love the item, and it is priced accordingly, then by all means, buy it and enjoy it!  However, if your plans call to restore the item, you might contact your local restorer first to determine how much it would cost to repair it.  Restoration is often not cheap, and even though you are getting an item as a cheap price because of damage, the restoration costs might bring the total investment to the same or close to what you would have to pay if the item was in mint, original condition.

With all this said, where do you go to have your antiques restored?  For simple restorations, you can do a search online for “antique restorer (insert your city/state here)” and there should be plenty of restorers in your area.  If you have a bigger project, or an expensive item you want to make sure is restored properly, contact your local museum and speak with the curator in the department that exhibits your type items.

Finally, you can reach out to Old World Restorations at:

Or Wiebolds:

Recognized 20th Century Decorative Arts Expert and Appraiser.  As seen on CBS “The Early Show” and NBC’s “The Art of Collecting”. Haines has written numerous articles and books on collecting. Her most recent pubication is “Collecting Wristwatches” for Krause Publications which comes out April 2010.  Reyne is a frequent appraiser on PBS Antiques Roadshow.