Top 5 Ways to Ruin Antiques and Collectibles

Interior of abandoned ornate Colonial Villa with books and typewriter
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No one intentionally sets out to ruin an antique and diminish its value, right? But lots of people do make extremely costly mistakes caring for antiques and collectibles every day simply because they don't know any better. Whether that amounts to cleaning or storing things improperly, or botching a restoration project better left to a professional, it's better to do some research before you begin. 

Read on for valuable information to keep you from making an error you'll live to regret, especially if you intend to sell that treasured antique in the future.

  • 01 of 05

    Improper Cleaning

    Polishing antiques
      Kathrin Ziegler / Getty Images

    Cleaning some antiques and collectibles makes them more desirable and valuable, but that's not always the case. For instance, cleaning the patina from a really hard to find Roycroft copper lamp or a piece of masterpiece furniture can diminish the value greatly.

    On the other hand, gently washing a rare piece of Depression glass won't hurt it a bit. That is if you hand wash it. Putting old glassware in the dishwasher can cause it to become "sick," a collectors term for glass that has become permanently cloudy on the surface.

    It is always wise to do some research to find out how cleaning will impact the value of an antique or collectible before you begin. Talk to an expert collector or dealer for advice in the particular area you're researching, if needed.

  • 02 of 05

    Refinishing Furniture

    Upholstery workshop. A woman hammering fabric and padding to a chair frame.
    Mint Images RF / Getty Images

    Should you always refinish antique furniture? Definitely not. In fact, the less is more rule should be applied in most cases. If you happen to have a rare antique, or maybe even a furniture masterpiece, removing the original finish can be disastrous in terms of diminishing the value of the piece.

    Many times a gentle cleaning will suffice, but again, take care not to remove anything that might be seen as desirable patina. More common pieces can indeed be refinished, but do yourself a favor and read up on cream of the crop antique furniture if you don't know how to tell the difference.

  • 03 of 05

    Displaying in Sunlight

    Photos in a drawer
    Jill Ferry Photography / Getty Images

    What do old paper, vintage textiles and early plastics have in common? They're all susceptible to damage from direct sunlight.

    Paper, including photographs, will yellow and crack, the vibrant colors in textiles will fade, and many plastics will melt rendering a deformed object you'll no longer be proud to own or pass down to your grandkids. Take care to display your antiques and collectibles in dimly lit areas or for short periods of time in sunny rooms. Always avoid direct sunlight just to be safe.

  • 04 of 05

    Amateur Restoration

    Restorer and framer laboratory craftswomen: Restoring antique golden angel statue
    ilbusca / Getty Images

    Restoring an antique to its original glory might seem like a good idea, and sometimes it is. But a do-it-yourself paint job on the mechanical bank you inherited from your great-grandfather is a huge no-no.

    This is another area where an expert's advice will be invaluable to you before beginning a restoration project. Sure, if you just need to glue in a rhinestone that popped out of a vintage brooch or sew a rag doll's button eye back in place, that's fine. Leave the more complicated restoration projects to professionals like Rick Dale from History Channel's American Restoration to retain the value of your antiques and collectibles.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Improper Storage

    Don Farrall / Getty Images

    If you could create a museum-like setting in your home in regard to lighting, temperature, and humidity levels, you would have the perfect environment for antiques and collectibles.

    In most instances, that's not feasible, but we do need to be mindful of proper storage in order to preserve the rich history and beauty of our treasures. Keep valuable collections and heirlooms out of unusually damp areas like basements and overly hot areas like attics, if at all possible. Garages can also be iffy when not climate controlled.

    In general, if you store your treasures where you are comfortable, they will be comfortable as well.