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Ways to Ruin Antiques

How to Avoid Damaging Your Precious Collectibles


No one intentionally sets out to ruin antique, right? But lots of people do make costly mistakes caring for antiques and collectibles every day simply because they don't know any better. Read on for valuable information to keep you from making an error you'll live to regret, especially if you try to sell a treasured antique in the future.

1. Improper Cleaning

Cleaning some antiques makes them more desirable and valuable, but that's not always the case. For instance, cleaning the "patina" from a really hard to find Roycroft copper lamp can diminish the value greatly, while gently washing a rare piece of Depression glass won't hurt it a bit. It's wise to do some research to find out how cleaning will impact the value of an antique before you begin. Talk to an expert collector or dealer in the particular area you're researching, if needed.

2. Refinishing Furniture

Should you always refinish antique furniture? Definitely not. In fact, the less is more rule should be applied in most cases. If you happen to have a rare antique, or maybe even a furniture masterpiece, removing the original finish can be disastrous. Many times a gentle cleaning will suffice, but again, take care not to remove anything that might be seen as desirable patina rather than plain old grime. More common pieces can be refinished, but do yourself a favor and read up on cream of the crop antique furniture if you don't know how to tell the difference.

3. Displaying in Sunlight

What do old paper, vintage textiles and early plastics have in common? They're all susceptible to damage from direct sunlight. Paper, including photographs, will yellow and crack, the vibrant colors in textiles will fade, and plastics will melt rendering a piece you'll no longer be proud to own or pass down to the grandkids. Take care to display your antiques and collectibles in dimly lit areas or for short periods of time in sunny rooms. Always avoid direct sunlight.

4. Amateur Restoration

Restoring an antique to its original glory might seem like a good idea, and sometimes it is. But a do-it-yourself paint job on the mechanical bank you inherited from your great-grandfather is a no-no. This is another area where an expert's advice will be invaluable. Sure, if you just need to glue in a rhinsetone that's popped out of a vintage brooch (using GS Hypo Cement) or sew a rag doll's button eye back in place, that's fine. Leave the more complicated restoration projects to professionals like Rick Dale from History Channel's American Restoration to retain the value of your antiques and collectibles.

5. Improper Storage

If you could create a museum setting in your home in regard to lighting, temperature and humidity levels, it would be the perfect environment for antiques and collectibles. In most instances that's not feasible, but we do need to be mindful of proper storage in order to preserve the rich history and beauty of our treasures. Keep valuable collections and heirlooms out of unusually damp areas like basements and overly hot areas like attics, if at all possible. In general, if you store your treasures where you're comfortable, they'll be comfortable too.

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