Whether you’re hunting for the valuables that will turn your life around, or just wondering what to do with the ugly vase your distant relative left you with, our guide can help. The first step is, of course, identifying what vase you have!
Is it vintage? Is it antique? And most importantly, is it worth anything?
In this guide, we’ll take you through it all. Find out if your vase is one of the most common antiques (or something rarer) before discovering how to value a vase and where is best to buy and sell them online.
Antique Vases vs Vintage Vases – Is There a Difference?
As a general rule, not just for vases but for all old objects, if it’s over 100 years old then it’s an antique. If it’s older than 20 years old, but hasn’t been around for a full century, then it’s vintage instead.
This is a big distinction! Antiques are very old objects and sometimes just their age is enough to give them value. The older an object is, the higher the chances that it will break or be destroyed. Many antiques therefore are one-of-a-kind and this inflates the price even further.
Vintage vases, on the other hand, may be easier to come by. Manufactured in the last 100 years (the 1920s and later), there are often many of the same type available. Especially with the invention of plastic and other sturdier materials, vintage vases are pretty easy to find! Of course, this does mean that in general, vintage vases are cheaper than antique vases.
The exception for vintage vases is when they are designer, limited edition, or even manufactured with a quirk or mistake that makes them unique.
- Over 100 years old = antique
- 20 to 100 years old = vintage
Identifying Valuable Antique Vases
The first thing you want to do when you are identifying a vase is to turn it over. On the bottom of the vase, you may be able to find a mark or stamp that was added when the vase was created. This indicates the manufacturer and may even include a date, which makes your job much easier!
Here is an example of a candle holder with a very obvious stamp mark for Lehmann Denmark on the base:
Not all marks will be a name, however. You might also find symbols or strings of numbers that leave you scratching your head. If this is the case, then you need to head online (or alternatively go to any library with a section of books on maker’s marks) and try to find the manufacturer that uses that mark.
A good way to do this is with Google images. Just tap the image icon in the search bar to upload your image. Google will return with similar existing images online. If that doesn’t return any results, then you can take it to an antique dealer.
Once you know who made the vase and when they made it, you can usually figure out a value (see below).
If your vase has no identifying marks on it, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s worthless. But finding out who made it and when will be tricky. Either take it to an antiquarian or match it to one of our most common types of antique vases below.
Most Well-Known Types of Antique Vases
Here are some of the most well-known types of vintage and antique vases. If your vase looks the same (or similar) to one of the vases below, it may be valuable! On the other hand, it may be a reproduction or counterfeit.
If your vase is absolutely perfect then that is usually a good sign that it’s a fake. Check the composition – the materials used are a good indicator. They should match whatever materials were in use at the time. Furthermore, there should also be some inconsistencies with antique vases –handmade ones tend to have tiny flaws and marks that shouldn’t be there, while reproduced and fake vases made in factories with modern methods will be perfectly molded from every angle.
If you aren’t sure if your vase is the real deal or just a faker, take it to an antiquarian. As this guy found out, some people go to a lot of trouble to create unique vases that appear to be valuable… when actually they are worthless!
1950s Hobnail Milk Glass Vase
Hobnail milk glass was made all the way up to the 1950s, so is considered vintage at best. You can find these kinds of vases everywhere, especially at yard sales. Although even the authentic ones are cheap, they are still loved by many and collectible.
Art Nouveau Transitional Vases
The transitional period from the Victorian era to the Art Nouveau era created some really elegant and extravagant vases. While there’s no one style preferred (like the hobnail milk glass vases) they are all unusual in shape and push the strict boundaries that the Victorian era was known for. Toward the end of the Art Nouveau movement, in the 1920s, René Lalique was creating some really beautiful (and now valuable) glass vases like the one pictured above.
Bohemian China Vases
Made in Czechoslovakia, often between 1918 and 1938, these vintage vases are decorated with vivid bright colors and often depict floral designs or feature birds. These bohemian fine China vases also often come in pairs. If you have an authentic pair of vases, they may be worth quite a bit!
Carnival Glass Vases
Carnival glass is molded or pressed glass that has an eye-catching iridescent look. They come in many colors and the very first carnival glass vases made in the US around 1910 will be worth quite a bit.
Chinese Ming Vases
Originating from 15th century China, Ming vases are made from fine porcelain and have a distinctive blue and white design. Ming vases are very valuable, so there are many fakes out there. How the vase was manufactured is usually the best way to determine when it was created and how much it is worth.
Depression Era McCoy Vase
McCoy has been making vases for a long time and so the number of styles is extensive. You will need to use the McCoy Online Reference Guide to try and identify any depression era or mid-century vases you find that have the McCoy USA stamp.
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, French pottery was filled with gorgeous vases made with a glazing technique known as faience. The colorful designs and glistening glazed finish was applied to numerous vases over this period, and nowadays they can fetch moderately high prices.
German Dresden Vases
During the romanticism movement in the 19th century, several ceramic studios in Dresden Germany created very ornate and characterful vases that have become known as ‘Dresden vases’. These vases are best identified via the marks left by their creators. The Dresden crown or Bavarian coat of arms was often used as a mark, alongside the letter ‘D’.
Vases produced in the late Victorian era (not to be confused with Art Nouveau, although their time periods do overlap a little) are typically decorated with gold elements and depict scenes from ancient mythology or civilizations.
New England Glass Vases
These glass vases made in the 19th century are very valuable. They were made by the New England Glass Company – typically only glass vases by this company are considered valuable, unlike other well-known vase types where multiple companies would create vases in a similar style.
Valuing Vases – Antique and Vintage
Once you think you’ve identified your vase and know both who made it and when, it’s time to get it valued. Getting your antiques valued professionally is the best course, so see ‘How to Get Antiques Valued Professionally’ below for more info.
It is possible to value a vase yourself, however. This is particularly useful if you’ve found a vase online or in a shop and want to value it yourself – taking it to an antique dealer before you’ve bought it isn’t an option in this scenario!
How to Value Vases Yourself
The value of a vase is based on authenticity. You need to prove that it was genuinely made by the manufacturer who originally marked it.
So, look at existing antiques online. If possible, browse through a catalog of vases created by the same manufacturer. You’ll want to look for vases that are in a similar style or appear to be similar to what you have found.
As well as the style, you should look at the material. For example, old glass vases often have small bubbles within the glass. There will also naturally be some wear and tear on the vase if it genuinely is old and doesn’t have a complete history of who owned it and where it was stored throughout its life.
Very old antiques would be made by hand, so there’s usually only one or a handful of identical vases. If you think your vase was made centuries ago, but you have found a completely identical vase for sale elsewhere online or in the catalog, there’s a high chance that it is a replica and not original.
But what about getting a value for it? Well, it’s certainly true that similar vases from the same time period, and made by the same manufacturer, will have a certain price. But uniqueness also plays a factor – if your vase is unlike anything else in the catalog, but you’re convinced that it is genuine, then you may have stumbled onto something incredibly valuable. Collectors will be knocking down your door with offers to buy it.
If you can’t easily find a value for your vase by analyzing existing vases in catalogs and on auction sites, then you can try posting it on a forum or community board. Here are some great places to get started:
- Antique Marks Forum
- TreasureNet What’s It Worth? Forum
- WhatsThisWorth Subreddit
- ThriftyFun Chat Thread
If you can’t get an answer, then the next step is to get it professionally valued. If you’re in a thrift store, that may mean you have to buy the antique so you can take it away and get it looked at. Some antique stores may have an antique dealer or valuer who can explain why they gave it that price in-house.
How to Get Antiques Valued Professionally
There are actually many websites online where you can upload photos for “experts” to value your antiques over the internet. But we aren’t totally convinced that this is the best path to go down. Photos can distort colors, sizes and patterns. Not to mention, some materials are best examined in real life. Tapping the vase to find out how hollow the material itself is, examining it under different lights, feeling the texture… none of these things can be done over the internet.
So, the best thing to do is find an antique valuation service in your local area. Some antique dealers will specialize in a specific style or era – these experts are best if you are already certain that your vase is authentic and from a specific year/manufacturer.
General antique dealers can give you a valuation too. Regardless of what they specialize in, most will be able to tell a fake from a real vase with a simple evaluation and give you a price from there. They may also be able to refer you to other antique dealers who can give you a more specific price or may be interested in buying the vase off you!
Just bear in mind, these services may not be free.
Where to Buy Valuable Antique and Vintage Vases
Antique dealers aren’t just found in quirky corner shops – they also have a huge online presence. There are plenty of auction websites specifically for antiques and vintage items. You may also be approached on forums if you show off your valuable antique vases.
If you want to get your vases or find vases from mainstream sellers, these three sites are a good place to start.
Both Antiques and Vintage Vases
eBay is a good place to look for vintage and antique vases. Thanks to the large number of people who know of and use eBay, it’s a good way to get a large audience to see the vases you have for sale. You can also auction off vases, making more profit.
Start by searching through the collectible vases category to see what’s currently available.
Generally, it’s impossible to tell if a vase is authentic or fake just by an eBay listing, so you are taking a gamble by purchasing items from this site.
Best for Vintage Vases
Etsy is well-known as an online place to buy handcrafted items from individuals and small businesses. But it also has a thriving vintage market. You can find numerous vintage vases made in the 20th century. Many are one-of-a-kind but some stores will have multiple of one vase (or many similar ones).
As an example, take a look at newoldjewels store. Based in Connecticut, they often have numerous vintage vases to buy.
If you want to sell products on Etsy, you will need to create a storefront – it’s a lot more effort than setting up an eBay account!
Best for Mock Antiques and Vintage Items
When it comes to Amazon, most products are brand new. The ones sold as “Like New” under the Used section have typically been owned by one or two people at most. Nevertheless, you can still find many items that appear to be vintage or antique on Amazon.
For example, at just over $20, this is certainly not a Chinese Ming vase… but it is expertly crafted and would look beautiful in your home.
If you want a fair price for selling vintage and antique vases, forums, auction sites and eBay are better choices!
How can I tell if a vase is valuable?
First, identify who made the vase. This will then help you find the right year or era that it was made in. Typically, the older the more valuable! Vintage vases can still be valuable even if they’re not too old – it depends if they are collectible or rare.
Are old glass vases valuable?
Some can be! With antique glass vases, there are often small bubbles in the glass which were impossible to avoid during manufacturing. Modern or fake glass vases don’t have these bubbles. Of course, you should also look for the mark.
How do you identify an antique vase?
Look for the maker’s mark on the base, browse through official catalogs to see if it matches the right style and dates. If it’s over 100 years old and appears to be genuine, it is an antique vase.
What kinds of antiques are worth money?
Vases are moderately valuable. Other valuable antiques include dolls, watches, large furniture items, and even small trinkets like collectible postcards or stamps.