5 things to know before buying olden furniture at a show

A Sotheby’s trained, Chicago-based furniture expert and former Chicago antiques dealer will be the highlighted speaker this weekend at the 47th Hinsdale Antiques Show at The Community House in Hinsdale.

Jennifer Litwin will discuss how to assess and buy antique furniture at a high-end show like the Hinsdale one — or anywhere else. She also will talk about how to choose the right pieces to complement your home.

Litwin is author of the book “Furniture Hot Spots” (Lyons Press, 176 pages, $18.95) in which she gives tips on buying furniture at various venues including auction houses, flea markets, stores and showrooms, as well as antiques markets such as this high-society event. Her second book, “The Best Furniture Buying Tips Ever” (192 pages, $14.95) to be published by House of Collectibles, is due out in October.

Here are her tips for buying antique furniture at a show:

  1. Get a list of the dealers who will be at the show before you go. Antiques shows usually have a catalog that lists dealers and their booths. Check on the dealers who will bring the kind of furniture or objects in which you are interested and see if they have a Web site. “People are shopping online before they make an actual purchase as research,” she says.
  1. If you buy something, take the dealer’s business card and make sure you can contact him or her should there be a problem. Without a written warranty, the consumer has no recourse should something go wrong.
  2. Negotiate. Usually a dealer will go down 10 percent to 20 percent because he doesn’t want to have to transport the piece back across the country. Also, the dealer wants to be able to cover his booth costs (which can be anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000).
  1. Check the Web to see if the goods the dealer is selling at the show seem more expensive than the furniture online. This should help you negotiate the best deal.
  1. Ask if the dealer can arrange for and assume the shipping or delivery expenses. Some will pay for shipping as a courtesy or as part of the negotiating process. Shipping can add up to 10 percent of the cost of the entire goods. If the piece has been dismantled in order to deliver it, ask if the dealer can put it back together for you as part of the deal.
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