You may have visited an antique dealer or antique mall or two and wondered how the pieces vary between the two types of sellers. Differences can typically be tied to where the piece originated, especially in regards to how it is constructed. The authenticity and prices of pieces can also vary between malls and dealers.
Types of Items
The types of items you may find in an antique mall vary considerably depending on the mall and vendor. Because the items sold in malls are from estate sales, auctions, and flea markets, you will see a wide range of prices; some items will be higher-end while other pieces will be what many would consider bargain items. Vendors often keep a stock of numerous smaller and cheaper items in their stalls; you will occasionally see booths with more of the higher-priced pieces, but these types of items are more commonly found at dealers’ shops.
Items that you are likely to find in antique malls include furniture, jewelry, clothing, books, etc. if you choose to shop at one of these malls, be mindful that not all items sold are considered to be authentic antiques. For example, the Southside Antique Mall vendors often sell vintage items from the 1950s; while these items are over sixty years old, they aren’t considered antique, which will likely affect the price you are willing to pay for them.
One of the biggest factors to keep in mind when comparing antiques from a mall to the antiques filling many dealers’ shops is that the antique mall pieces are often American-made and of lesser value. European and American antiques are actually fairly similar in style; Americans would copy the styles that became popular in Europe, but the difference between the two is often in the antique’s furniture construction.
You can see the extra care and craftsmanship put into a piece by European furniture makers; they had a more established and wealthy clientele. European furniture was typically placed in homes that were often far more formal than American homes of the same period. American antiques are missing some of the subtleties of European antique furniture. As a result, features typically present only in English antiques include dusters between drawer cavities and beveled panels in the framing.
The presence and absence of certain features are not the only distinction between European and American antiques. The designs of American furniture may reflect European styles, but American furniture makers didn’t have access to the same resources so they had to create some unique styles of their own. American furniture in general was simpler than European pieces with smaller sizes, quieter tastes, and less decoration. Vertical pieces combined with fewer carvings established a more American style. In addition, American-made dovetails were fatter than the fine, narrow dovetails of English furniture.
The types of wood used also varied between America and England. Furniture makers used cheaper, local trees for a piece’s secondary wood. In England, this was commonly oak while American secondary wood consisted of poplar, yellow pine, or white pine. Black walnut was a common primary wood for American antiques; English furniture makers used mahogany or walnut.
It’s important to keep in mind that the origin doesn’t automatically determine the value of a piece. Many times how rare a piece is creates a higher value than where a piece was made. Because American pieces are often rare, they will sell for a higher price than a similar European piece even if they are of comparable quality.