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Kovels.com gets lots of questions asking should a collector buy damaged antiques. Dealers and collectors always say to look for pieces without damage, preferably in mint condition. But is there any value in antiques and collectibles with nicks, chips, cracks, stains, wear marks, or missing parts.

The answer is, of course, yes, in some cases. But the decision is up to the buyer. The damage could remain, or a piece could be restored so the damage doesn’t show.  A few things should be considered first. How rare is the piece? Does it have a famous designer or maker that gives it extra value? Does it fill in a set of something you already collect? Does it have sentimental value? Is it something decorative you would just like to own and display? Buying an antique that is less than perfect is a way to afford something that is too expensive if perfect.

Here are 4 things the Kovels think are good bets:

1. Art pottery.  While minor damage can reduce a piece’s value, not all signs of aging are bad. Light crazing on pottery doesn’t take away value; sometimes pottery is made to look crazed. A piece of Rookwood with a hole drilled for a lighting cord sells for half the price of the piece without the hole. And any large and attractive Newcomb or Ohr pottery with a chip can have value. Look for pieces with damages that have minimal impact on their beauty. Put flowers in them and let them hide the imperfections!

2. Toys.  Few antique and vintage toys are in mint condition and one that has been repainted or improperly restored is worth less than half of a mint toy. But some wear and tear on toys is normal and “good” condition is acceptable. Replacement parts for almost any toy can be found, even the decals that came on the originals. Spring mechanisms can be repaired. Or old toys can be sold to dealers or restorers who want the parts. But keep in mind that a toy with even some of the original paint is worth more than one that has been repainted. A few exceptions are carousel horses and barber poles.

3. Furniture.  Antique furniture has use and value and resale prices are high. Most new furniture loses value quickly. Finish is important; destroying it reduces worth. Proper restoration can retain or add value, but sloppy repairs lower value. Broken legs, arms and drawers can be fixed. Hardware can be replaced with other period hardware. Upholstered pieces should be refinished to the period – fabric with big red flowers on a Sheraton sofa will surely lower its value. But if it’s good furniture, it will sell anyway, but at a lower price.

4. Jewelry.  Old damaged jewelry can be repaired, restored or repurposed. Hinges, clasps and pin catches can be fixed. Restoration would involve replacing damaged parts with like-period pieces, such as using “old mine” diamonds when called for instead of newer more sparkly ones. Repurposing implies renovating, like making a piece look more modern and fashionable or turning a hatpin into a pin, pendant or hair ornament.

The antique porcelain teapot pictured here was once broken and “fixed” with a silver pour spout. It’s an example of a “make-do,” a thrifty notion that could be thought of as an early example of recycling. People thought a broken item was worth fixing, and if it can’t be put back together as it was originally, why not repair and refashion it into something artful. Some collectors specialize in make-dos. This teapot would have been worth about $500 before it was broken. As a make-do, it might sell for $250, depending on the auction and the audience.

 

 

 

Comments  

#10 RE: Damaged Antiques - Should a Collector Buy Them?Porcelina 2017-11-07 08:54
I'm a ceramic restorer based in London and I'm pleased that restoration is getting some acknowledgement in this article...antiq ue dealers have always used our service because our skills add value to broken pieces which would otherwise be worth a fraction of their value or completely worthless and lost to future generations.
Vincent I would recommend that you source a local restorer and abrowne if something was restored in late 19th Century or early 20th by stapling then someone must have thought the piece deserved it... and so it would be worthy of modern restoration too.If anyone needs professional restoration advice based in UK then please send your photos to and I will be more than happy to help
Have a nice day:)
#9 Chipped Roseville Vaseluckylady1958 2017-02-23 02:20
I have a beautiful Roseville Zephyr Lily vase that is mint....except for a small chip on the rim. The size of the chip is about 1/8" in diameter. Does this make my vase worthless ? If not, what could I expect to ask for the vase if I decide to sell it ? Can anyone help me here ? Thanks.
#8 RE: Damaged Antiques - Should a Collector Buy Them?Ocaleea 2017-02-20 19:31
I'm a pottery collector and I especially like to find pottery bowls with marks in the bottom from being used. This was used and someone made meals for their family with it. Somehow that's very comforting.
#7 On Damaged PotteryAlanGallon 2017-02-16 20:29
VincentL should certainly sell his Dutch boy & girl as a pair. There is always a premium for a pair, and clearly the girl displays well.
Abrowne should be proud of the staple repair. The original owner was willing to pay for the best technological repair available at the time. I have a 1905 trade card for a Glass and China Warehouse here in Halifax, England. They were agents for Royal Crown Derby, Copelands Spode, Royal Worcester, Coalport, Wedgwood, Minton, and my specialty Goss. James Fleming Farrar "established over 75 years" offered "Cheap and Reliable Riveting and Repairing Glass and China".
#6 Conservatorchezart 2017-02-16 14:39
Many damaged paintings can be bought for far less than their market value and enjoyed after restoration, or sold for considerably more than the buying price and the cost of restoration. Our records prove this. Please mention this in your "when to buy damaged antiques." Thank you very much. Shae Avery of Avery Gallery art restoration.
#5 restorationsJavier5424 2017-02-16 04:51
Nice article. Interesting restoration ideas
#4 Damaged China/Potteryhartbrewer 2017-02-16 01:55
Well, first crazing is hard call as it's inherent to many types of pottery due to expansion/contr action of body and glaze in non-vitrified items. As such items of a particular body are nearly all crazed. Another item of consideration, although not damage is simple "wear".
If an item is heavily decorated but has extensive wear it detracts. On very old items, some minor damage has to be expected. True, there are many variables and I would have to go with the late Ralph Kovel -
"If you like it - buy it". Simple, but he did sum it up.
#3 damaged antiquesabrowne 2017-02-16 00:35
what about china that's been repaired with staples? stumbled on unloved Royal Crown Derby Witches chalice, had to have it (was fascinated by finesse of restorer's craftsmanship -- broken across bowl and will nevertheless still hold liquid!), now addicted to this genre . . . a futile exercise? (these items not for use, display only)
#2 Any thoughts on a set of Heubech piano babies with minimal damage?VincentL 2017-02-15 22:59
I'm going to sell a set of original Heubech bisque piano babies -- a seated Dutch boy and girl at about 8 inches high each. The boy is in mint condition. The girl would be except that her head broke off and was glued back on at some point. It's such a clean break that it's difficult to notice until pointed out. It's been suggested that I should just sell the boy separately. Any thoughts?
#1 Buying damage antiuescookiejarman 2017-02-15 22:56
As a cookie jar collector I try to buy my jars as cheap as possible. If it means finding a vintage cookie jar with damage to one one of the two pieces I would buy it I know I will find a replacement piece in time. Only time I buy a jar with both pieces damaged is if rare and cheap. I think one should check out the prices of items in past or completed sales on sites that have live auctions before one even bids on anything. It is best to think this as a hunting trip you should know your prey.

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