Is My Antique Trash or Treasure?

With the popularity of shows like American Pickers and Antique Roadshow, many Americans are digging into basements, thrift stores, garage sales, and other unassuming places to find treasures of their own. For thrifty consumers, this is a great way to turn trash into treasure – not to mention turn a great profit!

But how can you tell whether your “antique” is valuable or just a piece of junk? We’ve pulled together some resources to help clarify matters…


When it comes to silver items, if its sterling, it will be indicated somewhere on the object. Check the bottom of vases, clasps on jewelry, etc. If it doesn’t explicitly say STERLING or have a mark like the ones on this page then you’re holding something that’s silver-plated. Sterling silver means the product is 92.5% pure silver. It tends to be a little lighter than silver-plated goods.

Silver-plated is worth very little. Don’t even think about holding on to it for the value of the silver in the plating. Removing this plating costs far more than the value of the plating itself.

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Bronze is one of the more commonly “faked” metals. In order to test an item you suspect to be bronze, run a magnet across it. Real bronze is not metallic. If the magnet shows attraction, the “bronze” you hold in your hand is fake. Also, you can scratch an inconspicuous surface on the bronze with a pin or needle. If it leaves a yellowish mark, you probably have real bronze. If the mark is of a non-bronze color, then – you guessed it – fake!

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Standard gold karat weights are 14K, 18K, and 24K gold (the highest level of purity, for all practical purposes). Anything less than 10 karat weight is considered “fake” gold. 99% of the time, real gold will have the karat weight marked on the piece.

Place the item in question in a solution of vinegar. If the color changes to a grayish gold, then it’s fake. If it remains unchanged, then it is pure gold. Keep in mind, this will ruin any fake gold pieces. So, only perform this test if you don’t care about damaging fake gold.

Also, you can perform the bronze magnet test with gold. If the magnet attracts, it’s fake. Lastly, check out the density test recommended here (tip number four).

Have you ever been ripped off by someone selling gold? If so, you should file a complaint with Complaints List!

File a complaint about Coins / Gold.

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