How To Tell If A Bed Is An Antique

June 25, 2009

In most cases only a professional will know how to date an antique bed. With so many copies and reproductions being made, sometimes only a well trained eye can tell the difference.

However, while you might not get an exact date there are several steps for how to date an antique bed.

If you’re buying a antique bed from an individual, it’s always a good idea to inquire about the beds history. If the bed has been in their family for a long time, they should be able to give you a good idea of when the bed was made.

They may even be able to tell you exactly when the bed was purchased.

Check for any labels or identifying marks

One of the first steps that you should take to determine the beds age is to check for any labels or identifying marks. In the nineteenth century, manufacturers began assigning numbers to each new patent.

If the bed has a number, you can search for it at the patent office to find the manufacturer and date.

Look at any hardware used on the piece

Another excellent way of dating a piece of furniture is to look at any hardware used on the piece. Prior to 1830, very few furniture makers used screws.

Instead, pieces of furniture were held together with the use of dowels or pegs. And, since they were made by hand they won’t be uniform in size.

The earliest screws were fairly short, generally no longer than one half inch and had flat heads.

The tips of the screws were blunt and the threads were barely visible. The slots in the screw heads were all cut by hand, so they aren’t generally centered.

Glue wasn’t used until the early eighteenth century.


If there are any nails in your antique bed, examine them closely even if you have to use a magnifying glass. The nail head should be square, but not perfectly square and it should be slightly worn down from age. If the nails show these signs, the bed might have been made before 1820.

The circular saw wasn’t invented until the end of the eighteenth century. Before that all wood was cut by hand and there should be visible signs of saw marks.

Often, the cuts weren’t completely straight and there may be slight gaps between wood pieces.

Veneer panels

If the antique bed has any veneer panels you might be able to get a close estimate of the date it was made by examining them closely. The earliest  veneers were made of walnut and were usually about an eighth of an inch thick.

And, often the grains in the veneers didn’t match perfectly.

The earliest pieces of furniture were constructed of solid wood. From around 1680, veneers became a really popular way to add decorative touches to furniture.

They were either cut with the grain of the wood to look fairly plain, or cut across the grain to be more decorative.

Because antique beds were made entirely by hand, they’re not completely perfect. And, since they are so old, they will generally show lot’s of signs of use.

Although, you can find some antique beds that have been kept in mint condition, if it looks almost new, it’s probably not very old.

These are just a few of the numerous ways of how to tell if a bed is antique. If it’s really important for you to know the exact age of a piece of antique furniture, you will probably have to have a professional dealer inspect the piece.

They will be able to distinguish whether you have a valuable antique, or just an older piece of furniture.

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