How to Tell if a Bed is an Antique
Because of the large number of reproductions and copies of antiques that are made these days, it is difficult to understand exactly how to tell whether a bed is an antique or a copy. However, it is possible to figure out, without being a professional, roughly how old the bed is. You just have to follow several simple steps.
First: Ask about the bed's history when buying it
If you decide to buy an antique bed from a private seller, you should ask about whether or not the bed has remained with the seller's family for a long time. If so, then the seller can easily estimate when the bed was made. Ask the same question of a dealer as well.
Second: Look for identifying marks on the bed
Various marks on the bed can help to identify its true age. During the 19th century, numbers were assigned to new patents, and if a bed has a particular number on it, then you can find the manufacturer and date of the bed by searching for that number at a patent office. Another way of identifying the bed's age is to look at hardware used on the bed. Screws were only introduced to beds after 1830; before that, dowels and pegs were used to hold furniture together. For beds that do have screws, they are likely shorter than a half inch with flat heads if they are antiques; also, old screws had slots that were cut by hand and not centered. If the bed has nails, check to see if the nails have a square head that has lost its perfect edges through wear and tear. Nails with these signs suggest that the bed was created before 1820, because the circular saw was not invented until the end of the 18th century.
Third: Look for veneer panels
You can get a rough estimate of the date of the bed if it has veneer panels on it. Early veneers were made out of walnut and had a thickness of roughly 1/8 inch. Grains in the veneers also usually did not match perfectly. Note that around the year 1680, veneers were a way to create decorations on furniture; because antiques were made by hand, the decorative veneers would have some flaws in them. They would also display a fair number of signs of use as well.
Fourth: Add it all up
Combine this information on characteristics of older generations' bed styles to help you determine if a bed is an antique. By examining characteristics of the bed such as markings, screws and nails, connections, materials used and its overall wear and tear, you can get a pretty good estimate of the bed's age without having to go to a professional antiques specialist.