This weekend I went to a flea market that had an “antique store liquidation sale” in an adjacent building. The building contained numerous rows of furniture. I would guess between 70-100 pieces total. The event was advertised on television and radio as an antique tag sale however; all the pieces were pricey reproductions.
I wanted to take pictures, but there were signs posted stating, “no cameras”. It would have been difficult to snap a shot because there were sales staff cruising through the isles constantly. I looked on the web for images of this type of furniture for my blog, but I only found one example that resembled the inventory I saw (see pic).
The furniture spanned many periods including colonial, country/primitive, Arts and Crafts, Shaker, fantasy/eye sore, and a style I will simply call “Tacky Asian”. All of the pieces had an oil rubbed look (like Pottery Barn furniture) with artificial distressing under the finish. The wood species appeared to be the same for every piece. It was soft wood with no prominent grain pattern.
The construction of each piece was poor with horrible dovetailing, chunky proportions, visible plane marks, weeping glue joints that did not get sanded, etc. The hardware was thin, artificially patinated, and too exaggerated for each period (particularly the Arts and Crafts and Asian pieces). The interiors of the cabinets also had an imported smell that resembles the odor of poorly tanned leather from India or Mexico, or the smell of every Pier One Imports store I’ve been in.
Each piece was marked with a sales tag bearing the name of the piece, period of manufacture, and price. My wife and I chuckled over the circa 1900 Arts and Crafts entertainment center… perfect for your turn of the century big screen Television. I felt a pit in my stomach as I walked past pieces with a red “Sold” tag dangling from them because many of them had sold for what a real example would cost.
I guess the moral of this story is buyer beware. Study real antique pieces before spending money on anything and learn from experts you trust. Once you have been around real antiques, fakes will stick out and offend your eyes.
The pieces I’ve mentioned in this blog were probably made with the intent of being marketed as inexpensive reproductions. It was the people leasing the building space for the liquidation sale that were misleading the public. Cheap repros are easy to spot, but there are also fakes created by skilled craftsman. These pieces require serious examination of the wood, construction, smell, finish, and hardware. You also have to watch out for period pieces that have been refurbished.
Sellers seldom mention flaws in pieces they are selling, unless you ask direct questions. I’ve also learned when you are evaluating an item with the intent to purchase, if something doesn’t add up it’s best to walk away from the piece because you will never be fully content with it.