Are you a passionate collector of antiques, or would you like to add a unique metal decoration to your room? If you love the romantic vibe of royal chambers, consider an antique metal bed frame.
There are an exciting number of styles and themes. From painted frames to wrought iron frames, the sky is the limit when it comes to the models you can choose from.
However, even if you are passionate about antiques, knowing how to recognize and value these items might be a challenge. So what are the main clues that will allow you to spot if an iron bed is antique or a fake? How do you know the bed is in good condition, and how much is it worth? Let’s move on and find out…
A Bit Of History
In the beginning, antique iron beds were used for sanitary purposes. These items became a thing in the late 1800s when bed manufacturers encouraged people to use a more sanitary sleeping space. Why? Because it was believed that iron bed frames were more hygienic; easier to keep clean from dust and germs.
These iron frames were elegant and, in time, came with outstanding designs. Furthermore, they were more resistant to damage than wooden beds.
You are likely to find antique iron beds in specialized stores or even city dumps nowadays. So if you have found a potential antique iron bed and don’t know how to value it, this guide will teach you to determine its origins and monetary worth.
Antique Iron Bed Frames – Styles And Shapes
Initially less expensive than brass or wood beds and easier to care for, iron beds are exciting items on the antique market today. The best thing about them is the wide variety of shapes and styles, from the clean Art Deco geometric designs to the more elaborate Victorian styles. The iron used for manufacturing these beds was sometimes treated with particular substances to prevent rust. One sure thing about antique iron beds is they are heavy and require effort to install. But many people still prefer them due to the elegant look they afford a room.
These are the main types of antique iron beds:
Mixed Metal Bed Frames
Some antique metal beds are made of brass. They can be either a solid brass or brass combined with another type of metal, often iron. These elegant beds offer a classic style to your home decor.
As long as the brass is in good condition, its shine will be warm and attractive. However, identifying genuine antique brass might be tricky because this material tends to tarnish over time. Therefore, some collectors paint them to change the finished look. If you get your hands on such a model, you may have to polish the brass to reveal the beauty (if the metal frame is still intact). Remember that polishing comes with a disadvantage since beds with brass frames may require regular upkeep to maintain their shiny look.
The mix of metals may take the shape of decorative elements, like simple fleur de lis.
In a few cases, the brass elements are restricted to the top rails of the frames while the rest of the frame is made from iron and painted. Due to the combination of metals, the prices can be more affordable.
Painted Metal Bed Frames
When antique iron beds start looking old and rusty, people prefer to paint them in different colors, from classic black and white to other pastel shades. However, you may observe chips on the paint’s surface, which can devalue a frame.
On the other hand, some beds may feature different colors, accentuating the unique designs. Other antique iron beds feature tole painting, where delicate floral patterns are colored in shades reminiscent of folk motifs. Expect to find a variety of painted beds. Remember though, that paint is not always the best way to refresh an antique iron bed and that painting it and thereby changing the original design may devalue a genuine antique.
Art Deco Antique Iron Bed Frames
Art deco furniture characterizes the celebration of modern life. The Art Deco Antique Iron Beds date back to the 1920s to the 1930s meaning that they are sometimes classed as vintage rather than antique (i.e. between 20 and 100 years old compared to antiques which are over 100 years old).
Victorian Antique Iron Bed Frames
One of the most iconic styles of antique iron beds comes from the Victorian era. These frames are reminiscent of gothic styles; they offer a bold and dark aesthetic to the room.
So if you are searching for a majestic look for your bedroom, Victorian iron bed frames can be a great option.
Art Nouveau Iron Bed Frames
The most characteristic feature of Art Nouveau Beds is their shape. Many of these iron beds come with a high headboard and lower footboard. These bed frames tend to be more modern than others on our list today, so are often classed as vintage rather than strictly antique.
Evaluating Antique Metal Bed Frames
If you are a novice in collecting antique pieces, determining how old an iron bed frame is might be a real struggle. Luckily, there are some clues that can help you find out if the bed frame you own is a real treasure or not.
Look For Manufacturers’ Marks
Look closely at the bed frame’s surface. Can you find any manufacturer marks? Some marked their products with a stamp on the frame, often in a hidden spot. Have a close look at the back of the headboard.
If you notice any letters or digits, you might find more about the company. This way, you can learn about how long they have been in business. Furthermore, this information will give you an idea of the age of your bed frame.
Focus On The Construction
How was the frame constructed? How are the pieces held together? Expert collectors report that the oldest iron beds were put together using ropes to lash together the headboard and the footboard. Later on, manufacturers started using handmade bolts made from cast brass.
During the Civil War, most iron beds featured machine-made bolts. Victorian beds had iron joints fixed at the corners. They had a tenon joint and a horseshoe-shaped mortise, making them easy to recognize.
If you find an item in which the headboard and footboard are not connected to the bed frame, or screws have been used, it might be a modern replica.
Look At The Quality of the Materials
Pay attention to the metal used in creating the bed frame. There are some clues to tell you more about the production period.
For instance, the Victorians mainly used hand-crafted cast iron for bed frames, footboards, and headboards.
After World War I, manufacturers started mass-production and made bed frames of aluminum alloys. Therefore, if the bed frame is made out of aluminum instead of iron, you might be dealing with a reproduction.
Search For Similar Styles
Start searching through antique stores for iron bed frames that look similar. If you find something resembling your piece, you may get a clue about the period it was made in.
Some design styles that are the most prominent include the Art Nouveau styles, the Victorian styles, and last but not least, the Art Deco, which is the most “modern” style.
How To Value An Antique Metal Bed Frame?
When it comes to the value the antique iron beds, there are a lot of variations. Several factors have an impact on the final value:
- Style – in general, the more attractive the frame, with creative elements, shapes, and colors, the more valuable it will be. Rare designs are also more likely to be valuable.
- Size – can a standard mattress fit on the antique iron bed? Some antique beds were ¾ size, somewhere between a twin bed and a full. Therefore, it might be pretty challenging to find a suitable mattress. If the iron frame fits a standard mattress, it is often worth more.
- Condition – Do you notice any rust or damage? Was it restored or re-painted? Are there any parts missing? Condition is essential in determining the value. To be worth more, iron bed frames should be in top, original condition.
Checking The Value Of An Iron Bed Frame Yourself
To find out more about how much a bed frame is worth, you might need to take time to do some thorough research. Finding the manufacturer’s marks, age, and condition requires effort.
An easy way to value your antique iron bed is by looking for similar beds. Google Images is a great tool: you just upload a picture of your item and get similar results using Google Lens. You can also look on antique collectors forums and ask antique enthusiasts and experts about your piece.
Antique books are also a helpful resource. There you may find comprehensive information about the manufacturers too.
Ask an Expert
If you are in doubt about your iron bed frame’s value, style, and age, it is never too late to ask an expert. It is often a good idea to find your local antique bed frame expert and show them the frame in person. Alternatively, you may be able to send detailed photos to a reputable expert online.
You may also consider an appraisal. If you are wondering about the value of an antique iron bed, having them appraised can help you avoid selling the piece for too little. As with most antique purchases, research is the secret.
Selling And Buying Antique Iron Beds
Long gone are the days in which you had to attend antique fairs and auctions to sell or buy genuine old pieces. However, many people still prefer to do this and it can be advantageous if you want to thoroughly inspect an item you are interested in purchasing.
Mainstream online platforms make it quick and easy to complete antiques trading. Here is what we recommend:
Etsy is one of the best places to find genuine antique iron bed frames. There are tens of sellers and thousands of breath-taking antique pieces. Pay close attention to possible replicas and fake antiques. Also try to deduce whether the piece it actually antique or just vintage.
eBay is an excellent source for antique iron beds. The best part is that you can filter the products based on what you are looking for. Choose the style, period, color, and brand. Make sure you choose a reputable seller and listings with plenty of photos and details.
If you enjoy the look of an antique iron bed frame but would prefer to pay less for this type of bedroom furniture, try Amazon. Here you are less likely to find genuine antiques, but there are many replicas and vintage-inspired models to choose from.
Q: Are antique iron beds worth a lot of money?
A: Well, considering some Art Nouveau bed frames sell for more than $1000, the answer is yes. However, the condition, manufacturer, style, and possible adjustments will affect the final price. Check out auction sites like 1st Dibs for a range of genuine antique iron bed frames and get a feel for the kind of price they fetch.
Q: When did iron beds become popular?
A: Wrought iron bed frames were first introduced in the 19th century. From the first iron casting to polishing and adding the details, antique iron beds went through a handmade manufacturing process. They quickly became popular as people appreciated their hygienic and easy to clean properties.
Q: How To Restore Antique Iron Beds?
A: With their intricate scrollwork, the decorative bed-bolt cover, and impressive spindles, antique iron beds can maintain their original charm if you restore them.
These are the basic steps to guide you through the process of restoring an old painted iron bed frame:
- Remove all the dust and chipped paint evenly. For this step, consider using fine-grit sandpaper. Start removing the chipped paint from all the surfaces to obtain a smooth surface for applying new paint.
- Take your time to make sure the frame is assembled correctly according to its original design.
- Clean everything with a damp cloth.
- Prepare the iron surface by spraying it with metal primer.
- Let everything dry thoroughly.
- Take you chosen metal paint and spray it evenly all over the frame’s surface.
- Repeat the process if needed with additional coats.
- Let the paint dry overnight until it is not sticky anymore.
Bear in mind that restoring or repairing your antique iron bed frame may devalue it if it is considered not to be in original condition. On the other hand, if the frame is in terrible condition you may be able to increase the price by restoring it carefully and to a high standard.