Collecting Antique and Vintage Quilts

 

Starting your antique quilt collection: What do I need to know?

After making your own quilts for a while, or if you are lucky enough to be part of a family with quilting tradition and have grown up surrounded by quilts made by your foremothers, you might decide you want to start collecting antique or vintage quilts. Antique quilts are available for purchase, whether in auctions online or auction houses, antique shops or flea markets. Prices range widely, and the best way to purchase an antique quilt is to educate yourself and do a fair amount of research before you embark in the adventure of quilt collecting.

Obviously, the first thing when it comes to quilt collecting, as with any other type of collecting, is buying what you like. You might feel attracted to a certain style of quilting, a particular pattern or color. Buy what you love.
Before you buy, set a budget. It is easy to go overboard when bidding for a quilt you love. Research the market, the price range of the particular style or time period quilt you want to buy. A lot of factors affect the price of an antique quilt:

-Condition

A quilt that is in pristine condition, unused, unwashed, with very little wear will command higher prices than one that is conditionin fair to poor shape. Check the binding to make sure it is intact, not replaced. Check the fabric for wear or fading and for creases due to the quilt being improperly stored. Check for stains both front and back. Cleaning an antique quilt is not easy and if the quilt needs cleaning, you will have to consider the cost added to what you are already paying for the quilt. The same applies to quilt repairs. If the quilt needs to be repaired or stabilized, it will add to the cost of the quilt and affect its value.

-Quality

Given the same pattern or style, a quilt that is made with better fabrics, better stitching, more quilting, smaller pieces (in the case of a pieced quilt), embroidered details, neat applique with no fraying, well applied binding, and so forth, will command a higher price than a quilt poorly constructed.

-Provenance

Provenance is important, but in many cases hard to establish. Provenance is a word from the French provenir “to come 540870_4149389864236_337193837_nfrom”. Is the quilt signed and dated? Is there a reliable way to know who made the quilt if there isn’t a signature?

-Unique Features.

There are countless quilts made within any given category or style of quilts. Imagine a very popular pattern like Sunbonnet Sue. Thousands of quilts were made using this pattern during the early part of the twentieth century. Value is affected by the details that make a quilt different from the rest within the same style. Of course, you might encounter a rare quilt. The value of a unique quilt will always be higher than others made from a popular pattern.

-Age

Not always a reliable factor when it comes to pricing an antique or vintage quilt. Older quilts might not be more valuable255545_4447649880550_1402513804_n than newer ones. The other factors affect the value more than age itself. Dating a quilt is a complicated process. Knowing as much as possible about quilt history, fabric, patterns and styles will be of help to try to determine a quilt’s age. A quilt is dated by the newest fabric used in its construction. Likewise, remember that quilt blocks can be made and stored away to be put into a top years later. The age of a quilt is determined by the last stitch that is put into it.

-Fashion Trends

Like with any other collectibles, fashion trends affect the value of quilts. At any given time, some quilts might be more valuable than others, because collectors want a particular style or pattern to fit the present day’s decorating styles. This might change in a few years. The market determines the value of a quilt ultimately, so a quilt is worth the highest price any buyer wants to pay for it at a given point in time.

So knowing those facts educate yourself. Buy books that feature swatches of antique fabric, or quilt history books. fakeBecome extremely familiar with reproduction fabric lines, as not to be fooled by them. Keep an eye on online auction websites and look at the prices of quilts offered there, to get a general idea of market prices before buying. If at all possible, look at the quilt in person. Pictures aren’t the best way to determine condition and quality. And buy from reputable quilt dealers. The antique quilt market has experienced a decline in the last few years, because of the number of quilts that have flooded the marketplace. Beware of “fake antiques” offered online in auction websites. During the early 90’s, reproductions of antique quilts from the Smithsonian Institution were made in China to be sold as such, reproductions, priced accordingly. However, unscrupulous sellers tried to sell these as antiques.
When buying, check that pattern and quilt style and fabric match (an early twentieth century quilt needs to be made with fabrics trendy in that era). Check quilting and binding. Antique quilts had surface quilting as much for practical reasons as for durability. A fake antique might have less surface quilting and coarser/larger quilting. Check the binding as well. A fake quilt will often times have a knife edge binding, with a row of quilting one quarter inch away from it.

And don’t forget to get your antique quilt appraised by an AQS certified appraiser, to determine the quilt’s monetary value and to have it insured, if you choose to do so.

 

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