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What is your opinion: To clean or not to clean Vintage Items?

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Inactive Etsy Member 5:51 pm Aug 4, 2012 EDT
Hi, Everyone, I hope to get opinions on this topic.

I know that refinishing furniture, and/or polishing/cleaning certain things can ruin the antique value, so I never clean those types of things, or refinish, etc.

However, I sell al lot of vintage silver, and I want to know what other sellers and buyers think about polishing, for instance, a Mexican SIlver piece. As a better example, I have a silver bell by a well known silversmith. It needs a good cleaning, but I don't collect bells, so I do not know what to do.

I usually do not clean jewelry, unless it is really physically dirty, but I also have a lot of experience cleaning jewelry, so I am comfortable doing it. But, what do buyers think?

Additionally, any antique copper buyers out there? I have a rare, signed, American kettle, but do not know what to do. The auctions I see have the metal shiny, but many of these pieces are from very high-end collectors, and may be coated to resist tarnish.

Brass? (Objects and jewelry)

Clothes- I would assume always clean?

Thanks!
RB

12 Responses

I personally clean my merchandise like silver and copper. I don't go too crazy cleaning, but I'm also aware that tarnish is the starting process of what could turn into corrosion or rust, so I do a light cleaning to remove enough of it, but still leave a bit of patina to the pieces. I also use a good wax like Mother's to protect the finish from moisture, and any future damage.

I know others may say don't clean items, but it could result in permanent damage......so you need to be the judge.
I only sell one type of vintage item - vintage razors. Because my buyers are most likely looking for a razor to use, not display, I clean them very thoroughly. It's really important with any vintage item to learn how to clean it before you even try though. Some razors that I find can be boiled to sanitize them, but not if they have gold plating or plastic handles. And for metal, it's so important to know what metal that is, and how to safely clean and polish it. I purchased a lot once on ebay, one of the razors had been completely ruined by a fool with a bottle of Tarn-X.
Anything I've ever heard from antique dealers is do NOT clean your vintage/antique pieces. You'll usually end up doing more harm than good, which lowers the value of the item.
When it comes to jewelry, do NOT clean any precious metals (silver, gold, etc). Lots of collectors, myself included, value a patina on vintage or antique jewelry and I literally want to cry when I see an old piece of silver that is now super bright and shiny. Also, if you are a serious collector of antiques, you likely know how to clean items yourself, so if your buyer wanted it clean, they could do it themselves. On the other hand, you cannot re-apply a 50 year old patina once it's been removed. It's always best to err on the side of doing less.
I do clean my clothes if they need cleaning and sometimes handwash them. As for jewelry i would definitely leave it that way.
If it was clothes, I would assume it had been washed, but most other vintage I would just leave as is. I have only sold a few vintage and just included needs a little loving care to clean it right up. AS long as you are honest about the condition of it, it should be fine.
Most of my items are spiffed up a bit prior to listing. Many times the items have layers of dirt and dust from being stuffed in a basement or attic for years. I won't sell dirty items.

Plus, if I can't get it clean without damaging it, I'd rather that happen while I still have it and not after someone buys it from me.

Vintage clothing that is to be worn should always be clean in my opinion.

I don't deal with larger items such as furniture but would probably do light cleaning there if I did.
I leave a light patina on metal.. I dont refinish old wooden items, I clean clothing in a hypoallergenic detergent. Glassware and china are cleaned.
I dont like to buy or sell vintage items that look too new, (unless it is new old stock.) ♥♥
When I buy vintage, I prefer clothes washed, anything else I'd like as is. Sometimes a piece gets a beautiful age and patina over time.

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