Garage sales are one of the best ways to find bargains and antiques. Sometimes you can find treasures priced very reasonably. If you are shopping at a garage sale or an antique shop and find what appears to be an antique lamp, how do you tell if it’s really antique and worth the money you are paying for it? Should you just trust the person that tells you it's an antique? Before you spend money on that antique-looking lamp, know the telltale signs of a true antique.
Know your history. If you know your historical time periods and manufacturers that are consistent with various time frames, you can get an idea about the age of the lamp. You will also need to know what styles were prevalent during various periods. You can find information at your local library or even online (see Resources).
Determine the age of the lamp. Most lamps will have markings on the bottom of the lamp telling you the date with letters, numbers or certain types of graphics. Usually these graphics are logos that pertain to the manufacturer. The markings on the lamp will give you an idea of who made it; this will usually tell you the time frame it was made in.
Other ways to identify an antique lamp are by viewing old catalog pictures, newspapers or museum photographs. You can even find information in various antique lighting books and publications. These are considered reliable sources and you can compare different antique lamp styles which help determine the date of the lamp. While they are a great source for determining the age of an antique lamp, they can be very pricey and hard to find.
If you cannot determine the date and manufacturer on your own, you will need to find a reliable appraiser. Find a trustworthy antique dealer who will give you an honest answer and will help you determine whether your lamp is really an antique or not.
If you know how to spot fake antiques, you can take a lot of the guesswork out of the process of identifying antique lamps because you can simply look for signs of falsity. This takes several years of training and learning, however, so it's not the most practical method for the layman for identifying antique lamps.
A fun way to see if your antique lamp is real is to go to the “Antiques Roadshow." You can find out where these will be next by going to the website (see Resources).
If you purchase an antique lamp from an auction, make sure the company sponsoring the auction is reputable. There are some auctions that will sell you a purportedly antique lamp with no markings and they will claim they have sold you a one-of-a-kind antique.