How Much Is My Antique China Cabinet Worth?
Whether you’re an avid antique collector or the owner of a family heirloom, it’s exciting discovering what your treasures are worth. Of course, if a piece holds a lot of sentimental value, it might be priceless. However, emotional value and monetary value are two different things.
An antique china cabinet can be worth anywhere from just a few bucks to thousands of dollars. There are some antique cabinets on record for selling upward of $30 million! The reality is, there are too many factors to consider before you can simply hang a price tag on your antique furniture.
The ideal way to discover the worth of your antique china cabinet is to consult with a professional appraiser. Trained experts know precisely what to look for, what pieces are in high demand, and which items are a dime a dozen. Of course, it never hurts to know as much as you can about the process.
What Is a China Cabinet?
Despite some misconceptions, china cabinets did not originate in China. These functional pieces are named after their intended use, which was to store, you guessed it, china.
In Europe during the late 1600s, it was considered very trendy to collect various pieces and styles of china. Furniture makers rose to the lucrative business opportunity and began constructing simple cabinets that people could use to store their collections.
Over the years, people continued to use china cabinets to store china and a multitude of other items. You can find china cabinets in several styles, including Victorian, Asian-influenced, and even contemporary.
Is Your China Cabinet an Antique?
Another misconception is that all china cabinets are antiques, which simply isn’t true. China cabinets are still made today, either as replicas of past designs, or sleek, new modern pieces.
There are a few different ways you can roughly determine if your china cabinet is, in fact, an antique. One of the easiest ways is if you are confident about the age of your china cabinet. If your cabinet is over 100 years old, then it is an antique.
However, if your china cabinet is less than 100 years old, it is considered vintage. Still, some china cabinets are “retro” if built after 1950. If you are confident that your cabinet is more than 100 years old, that always doesn’t necessarily mean it is worth a lot of money.
Of course, consulting with an expert antique appraiser is the best way to determine the actual status of your piece. A professional will confirm if your china cabinet is indeed an antique, but can also offer you more details about your furniture.
These details consist of the origin of your piece, its condition relative to other furniture from the same era, and any unique features. These details are critical in determining the value of your antique china cabinet.
Looking for Clues That Your China Cabinet Is an Antique
There are a few quick clues you can look for to determine if your china cabinet is an antique.
Tools You Will Need for the Job
- Cloth Gloves
- Paper and Pencil
Put on a pair of soft gloves to help protect your furniture piece from any oils in your skin.
Examine the finish on the wood and the knobs and pulls of your piece. Slightly dull finishes, scuffed edges, and metal pull with a slight patina are signs of aging. This aging could represent an antique, but a professional will know for sure if it is real or reproduced weathering.
Another area of your cabinet to inspect is the hardware. Use the screwdriver to remove an inconspicuous screw from your piece. If the threads on the screw are worn and the head off-center, this is another sign of a potential antique.
Next, check to see how your china cabinet is constructed. Remove a drawer to conduct your investigation. What are the pieces made from, and how are the pieces joined together?
If you notice a lot of modern hardware, obviously you don’t have an antique. However, if you notice dovetail joints you might be in luck. Dovetail joints are cut-outs that join two pieces of wood together.
However, not all dovetails are created equal. If the joints seem a bit irregular, this is a strong sign that they are handcrafted and your piece could be an antique. If your cabinet has dovetail joints that fit together perfectly, they were likely cut with a machine and it’s a newer piece.
If your china cabinet features any glass, check to see if there are air bubbles in the glass. If you notice air bubbles or waves, this is a sign that the glass was hand-rolled, which is characteristic of antiques. Smooth glass surfaces are more likely to represent newer furniture pieces.
Search your piece for any defining marks or labels that might give you a clue as to where your cabinet originated. You might find a sticker from a furniture shop, a signature, a stamp, or some other bit of information.
Look everywhere on your china cabinet including inside of cabinets and drawers, on the back, underneath, and even under shelves. Take a picture or write down any information that you find.
Take a picture of your china cabinet from every angle and the inside of your cabinet. You will need this picture, along with the other information you have gathered, to get an accurate price from an appraiser.
Find a reputable antique appraiser to help determine the actual value of your china cabinet. You can find a local appraiser through organizations like the American Society of Appraisers or Appraisers Association of America, Inc.
Things To Look for When Determining What an Antique Is Worth
If it is determined that your china cabinet is an antique, an appraiser will look at several things to determine the value.
Here are some of the things an appraiser will consider when determining what your antique china cabinet is worth:
- Is there any furniture damage like cracks, missing pieces, or overly worn finishes?
- What is the cabinet made out of; wood, metal, marble, or some other material?
- What is the provenance of the piece, in other words, where is it from? Did your great-grandfather get it from Europe during the First World War? Was it found in an old 19th-century estate?
- Have there been any repairs made to the piece?
- How many similar pieces are there?
- What do other similar pieces sell for in the antique market?
- Is your piece a collectible? A collectible and an antique are not the same. A collectible is a piece that is highly-coveted and in high demand.
Where is the best place to find antique china cabinets?
While you could always luck out and find an antique piece at your local Goodwill, shopping at reputable antique dealers is a safer bet. You can also find antique furniture at a number of online sites including eBay, Etsy, Bonanza, and other popular online dealers.
Can one antique china cabinet have multiple values?
Yes. An antique’s value can vary from dealer to dealer, plus there are different categories of value. There is the most common price which is the retail value, or what a buyer would pay a dealer for a piece. This price is also known as the fair-market-value.Then, there is the wholesale price, which is the price a dealer would be willing to pay for your antique china cabinet. The wholesale value can be 30% to 50% less than the retail value of a piece.Finally, there is the auction value, which typically falls between the retail and the wholesale cost. If you’re unable to find an antique dealer or appraiser to value your piece, you can always try using an online appraisal app like Worthpoint.com.
If you have an antique china cabinet, it can be exciting to learn that you have a hidden treasure on your hands. However, just because a piece is an antique, doesn’t mean it is worth a lot of money.
There are many factors that go into determining the value of an antique, including condition, provenance, and rarity. A professional antique appraiser is the best way for you to determine what your antique china cabinet is worth.
If your cabinet is a family heirloom or holds particular sentimental value, then its worth might go far beyond money. If your china cabinet is unique, has an interesting story to tell, or is dear to you, then it’s priceless.
Stacy Randall is a wife, mother, and freelance writer from NOLA that has always had a love for DIY projects, home organization, and making spaces beautiful. Together with her husband, she has been spending the last several years lovingly renovating her grandparent's former home, making it their own and learning a lot about life along the way.
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