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How to spot an antique cabinet

Eighteenth-century antiques are all over the United States. But how do you spot one?

Francesca de la Flor, the America Now antiques expert, recently purchased an 18th-Century French bonnetaire.

"It was made in the late 1700's to house hats," says Francesca.

Unlike new reproductions, 18th and 19th-century cabinets and hutches are easy to disassemble. And that's something to look for!

"That's very typical of 18th-century armoires and bonnetierres," says Francesca. "They're designed to be moved, so they literally break down into a series of pieces, and that's one of the ways you know it truly is an old piece."
Wood-pegged construction is another thing that could mean treasure. But surprisingly, the most important clue is hidden behind the back.

"One of the most important things to look for when shopping for antique furniture is the back of the piece," says Francesca. "Really old antiques have backsides that are rough and hand-hewn. Newer antiques have backsides made of wood that has been machine cut. If it's a very old piece, it was up against a very cold stone wall, and therefore you probably had worm holes, you probably had other kinds of insects that attacked the wood."

Imperfections like worm holes and cracks in the wood only add to the charm, so don't repair them. They're part of a true antique's character, and only adds value to a treasure like this.

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