What Is the Value of My Antique Mirror and Should I Restore It?

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What Is the Value of an Antique Mirror?

People often think of their heirloom furniture, such as mirrors, as priceless antiques. They consider them invaluable due to the history they’ve garnered through the various generations they have survived. The truth is, not all antique looking mirrors actually have age value as you might suppose. Yes, that is right, just because it looks old, doesn’t make it valuable. If you’re questioning whether the “valuables” you’ve got collecting dust in your attic are just sentimental keepsakes or actual antiques with hidden worth, allow me to spur you on to the next important question. Should you try to restore an antique mirror?

Good questions, which we can answer right here. So, whether you are looking to sell an “antique” mirror and want to know how much to expect it to be worth, or if you are trying to decide whether to freshen up that dusty one in the attic, you’ve come to the right place.

foxed-mirror

What Is an Antique Mirror?

Before you decide to sell or restore, it is important to know whether that mirror is actually an antique with value or not. Most experts require that a piece be at least a hundred years old or made before mass manufacturing to be considered a genuine antique. One of the clear tell-signs that a mirror is actually many years old is by a simple examination of the glass. The funny thing is, the more flaws there are on the glass, the more likely it is antique. Technology has made our ability to be precise and exact in manufacturing create mirrors that are essentially flawless and smooth. Mirrors that have bubbles, creases, or spots are typically this way because of the older, less-refined manufacturing process.

The manufacturing process for mirror glass, which is a regular sheet of glass with a thin reflective coating on the back, has adapted over the years. In the 16th century, mirrors were made with mercury and tin, which has a crystalline effect when it ages. If the glass has a shimmer or sparkle to it, it’s possible it is an antique. Nowadays, it is more likely for silver to be used on the back, but some old mirrors also use silver. The silver will often fog up in certain areas or de-silver if it is older (we’ll discuss this in more detail later).

Another way to tell if a mirror is a genuine oldie is by examining the mirror for markings that can identify the manufacturer, such as a name and date, or the signature of the artisan crafted the mirror. Many older mirrors were handcrafted and therefore contain little clues to the artist. Knowing history about some famous woodworkers during the time period you suspect the piece to be from can give you some ideas of what to look for.

Something else that increases the value of an antique mirror is if it is one-of-a-kind or the only one left. Do some research to see if the style, manufacturer, or artist’s (if you can identify them) work is rare. Many people own unique pieces of furniture and they don’t even know the value. Also, check the back of a mirror to find out how old it is. Many older mirrors have all-wood backs while newer ones tend to have a paper backing.

Desilvered Mirror

What Condition Is Your Antique Mirror In?

Now that you know whether your mirror is actually an antique or just a modern copy, you can discover how much it is worth by determining what condition it is in. There typically are three categories a sellable mirror can be placed in; Mint condition, Excellent condition and Good condition. If it is Mint condition, that means it is essentially perfect with no chips, cracks or breaks. Excellent condition means it has minor flaws like barely noticeable hairline cracks or minimal chips and spots. Good condition means there is some obvious weather and ware to the piece but it still maintains the original design, meaning it isn’t completely busted to pieces or rotted away.

If your piece is in any of these three conditions it is likely to be worth something. The better the condition, the more you will likely get for it.

Should You Restore an Antique Mirror?

The problem with trying to raise the value of an antique through restoration is that, often, tampering with a genuine antique will actually decrease that value or uniqueness. For this reason, antique collectors typically advise leaving antique mirror restoration to the experts.

There are ways that old mirrors can be freshened up. If the glass is riddled with spots from de-silvering, the coating in the back can be replaced. But old glass tends to be scratched or slightly hazy which is accentuated when new silver is placed on the back. Polishing out the glass creates distortions and warps the reflection. Furthermore, unless the glass is engraved it doesn’t hold any intrinsic value in itself. All of these reasons, cause many professionals to simply advise replacing the glass. Cleaning, painting or re-staining are all ways that the mirror frame can be revamped but all can slightly alter the original look and feel of the piece and should be considered with care.

Now you are well on your way to determining whether your mirror is actually an antique, if so, what value it truly holds, and if you should take the time and effort to restore it.

Please note, this article may contain links to Amazon products. As an Amazon Associate, Glass.com earns from qualifying purchases.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kyra Thompson

Kyra Thompson is the editorial assistant for USGlass magazine and Door and Window Market [DWM] magazine. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism with a minor in Cinematic Arts from Liberty University where she wrote for the school newspaper. She also helped start and run an independent-student-run news site.

Kyra enjoys her hometown but also has fun traveling whenever the opportunity arises. She loves the arts and spends most evenings teaching dance. When not dancing, Kyra can also be found singing and acting.

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  • I’d like to know the approximate value of our 7ft x 3ft x 5 inch gold leaf mirror that’s been in our family for about 85 yrs. It is in excellent, but not mint, condition having been owned first by our children’s grandmother. It was then crated and lived in our basement thereafter. I shipped it to our son in Clive, Iowa from our home in Newton, MA, but it never arrived in Clive. UPS is asking me to get an approximate value from an appraiser, who would have no more than a photograph of a reasonable facsimile to go on. I have no pictures of the mirror but can provide a picture of one very similar for insurance purposes for UPS to pay for our loss.

  • I have just been given a full length rococo style mirror (plaster frame) should have been free standing but has no parts for it. however it has been painted a few times, what are the best ways to remove this paint?

    • Hi Jo,
      The best way to remove paint from a mirror’s glass is to simply scrape it off with a razor blade. You can actually follow the same steps in our video tutorial on How to Remove Stickers from Car Windows. Razor blades are extremely sharp, and if not done correctly could cause injury to yourself of your mirror. When in doubt, always hire a professional.

  • I’m trying to replace an antique mirror that got broken. It’s was a beveled edge mirror and it has a board to attach it to little swivels. 3 drawer dresser. Everything is intact except the mirror. My grandmother gave me this before she passed away. Please help direct me.

    • Hi Amy, that sounds like a beautiful piece! Working with a local, high-quality glass shop or antique restoration specialist will be the best route. This way, they can ensure the mirror is properly mounted to the frame. We can check to see if we have any local shops in your area. Please send an email with your zip code to hello@glass.com

  • I have a mirror with a wooden back. I have had it for over 30 years. When I got it, it was painted gold! I stripped it & restores it to its original wood finish. In doing so, I found a newspaper between the wood backing & the glass dated 01/16/1894! So I know it’s at least the old! What do you think it might be worth today? It measures 17 & 1/2 inches squared. I also still have the original newspaper that was behind it!

  • I have my grans mirror still got the old chain on the back it was her mums first so it is over 100 hundred years old now what can I do with it part from bin it. Because I don’t know what to do with it or were to take it.

  • I have an old “sign” that hung in an bar on 2nd street here in Albuq. it has the name of the bar and a picture of a pretty lady in a bating suit. it’s broken in a couple of places. can this be fixed?

  • Ok, I have two old wooden fin house mirrors……yes, they are ones we can’t help but smile when we see a reflection. Problem one is they have what looks like fog streaks. I have partially removed one of the backs and find only decades of dirt build up.

    I think I want to restore/redo the reflective silver because the fog has almost taken over all the fun. Lol no pun intended…….just looking for a a little confirmation before I tackle the challenge. I have pictures I could provide.

    • Hi Janon,
      Thanks for the comment! Whether or not to restore a mirror is typically a personal preference, depending on what purpose the mirror serves in one’s life. In your case, you enjoy using the antique mirror and want it to be functional. Re-silvering is possible, but there aren’t many people that perform this any longer. You may want to consider having a new piece of mirror cut and installed in the original frame. This will keep the antique look of the frame unchanged, but provide you with a crystal-clear reflection. You can save and store the original glass in case you ever want to return the mirror to its original condition.

  • Hello, I have a question for you I have bought a mirror ( of course lol) ,it is a wood hanging got some carvings on the front and on the back it is all wood pretty heavy but on the back it is written 338/16 Van P1 I think that’s what it says and it is stamped NO.16 + 009/984 can not read other # if there is one but if you could tell me something,anything,etc. about this mirror I would be much appreciated,thank you.Dan

    • Hi Dan,
      Numberings/markings on the back of wooden framed mirrors are typically SKUs or manufacturing numbers that might indicate the manufacturer’s part number or location of manufacturing. It also could be some sort of “lot number” that represents the limited number of that item that was made. Or it could be a code indicating the price/cost to the retailer who will be trying to sell it. I have seen wooden framed mirrors from Europe and Mexico have those types of markings. I do not believe it is a custom piece because those would have the artist or fabricator’s name stamped or burned into the back of the frame. Wood carved frames are mass-produced in Mexico and shipped to the states where a mirror is put into it and they are sold in retail stores as well as at flea markets or resale shops. We actually sold these types of products in our retail stores in the 1980-1990s. I don’t think you have a “one of a kind” but I am hoping you like it and will use it for years to come. -Glass Detective

  • I just purchased a gilded oval Nurre mirror that measures 15”x 17” and am trying to determine the age. It has the numbers 0233 stamped on the back of it. The backing is coming off of the glass in a few different places yielding dark areas where a reflection can no longer be seen. I have no interest in refurbishing it, as it is a wonderful conversation piece. I am just looking to be more informed about it.

    • Hi Julie,
      Thanks for your comment! It sounds like a beautiful mirror. Your best option will likely be to have it looked at by a local antique specialist who specializes in these things. It’s almost always easier to inspect items like this in person. Best of luck!

  • Hi, I have a mirror 60inches in length and 19 inches in width, it has it original wooden frame a piece is missing, about 3 ins..there are no chips or cracks but it has a lot of discoloration. The back has a piece of paper with the name of the manufacturer b, Durant a red star in the middle with smaller stars around it..there’s a stamp that says sep 14 1875, it also has the number823, the paint on the back is brown gives it the look of wood..under the star it says 13 Baxter street. How can I find out the value of this mirror. Thank You

    • Hi Daniel,
      It will depend on numerous factors such as the size, condition, and features. Your best option is likely to take it to a local antique appraiser or send detailed photos to someone who specializes in valuing these items. Best of luck!

  • I just found a wood framed mirror in the dumpster at my apartment complex and I don’t normally take things out of the trash but this looked good. It has a plain wood frame and a wood back that is cracked and held on with brads. I tried to clean it an noticed a lot of fogging and 1 spot that wouldn’t come clean. So I removed the back to see if I could clean it from behind and it has a stamp on the mirror itself – RHSILVER Jul 21 1920
    I was amazed! The mirror is beveled and not chipped or cracked and it looks to have just been placed gently on top of the trash bags not thrown inside. I feel quite lucky tonight!

  • I have a large (29″ x 50″) mirror my mother purchased as an antique in 1964. I believe it is oak and it is very heavy. In each corner are ornate metal workings (I believe brass). It is in beautiful condition. They story told to my mother by the antique dealer who sold it to her was that is had hung in an old hotel in the gold rush era. I have no way of knowing if that is true. However it is a beautiful, very old mirror and I am wondering who I can contact to determine value?

    • Hi Janice, what a wonderful story about the history of your antique mirror. Thank you for sharing! Antique valuation is not our specialty, unfortunately. However, finding a local and reputable antique expert in your area who can inspect the mirror in person is probably the best option. You should be able to find some resources with a quick Google search. Or you may be able to receive recommendations from friends or family members. Best of luck!

  • I have a lead mirror that’s 45 years old and the glass is spotted like stains what can be done to it. Or should I just get rid of it. I payed 350 dollars 45 years ago

    • Carol,
      It’s likely that the “spotting” or “stains” are caused by the silver backing degrading over time. If your priority is to renew the glass to make it look new and functional, there are a few places around the country that can re-silver mirror. Alternatively, assuming the mirror is framed, you could have the mirror glass replaced by a local glass shop. Or, if you’re simply interested to know if the mirror still holds any value (which I believe it would), contact a local and reputable antique dealer near you.

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