How to Determine the Value of Your Brass Bed
If you’re paying for quality, quality is what you deserve.
There’s a big difference between a mass-produced bed and a custom, handcrafted brass bed of quality. Maybe you inherited your product, bought it auction, or bought it new and want to learn more as a mindful consumer. So how much is your brass bed really worth?
The first step in determining the value of your brass or iron bed is figuring out how old it is. Brass was invented in the 1400’s and was first used to make furniture in the 18th century, and changes in craftsmanship practices can serve as clues as to when your bed was really made.
Look for Manufacturer Markings
To determine the age of your bed, first look for manufacturer markings (they’re usually on the frame). These markings will tell you where you bed was manufactured and by whom (as well as telling you, really, when).
You can use this information to search on Google, as well as research the company’s age, location, and manufacturing quality.
How Your Bed Frame is Held Together
In the late 18th century, brass beds were assembled with handmade bolts to hold the frame together. Prior to that, manufacturers laced ropes between the head and footboards. After the Civil War, machine-made bolts were used.
Screws made from about 1812 through the mid-1800s were partially machine-made, giving the threading a more even appearance.
The Victorian era (1830-1900) introduced the cast iron mortise and tenon horseshoe joint for the frame. This style is still in use today in the highest quality beds.
Early 18th-century hardware was cast from molten brass using molds made of sand.
This is easy to recognize because it often left ‘inclusions’ from the sand itself in the brass, either grains of sand or odd colors from impurities.
The backs of this type of brass was often left with the impression of the sand while the surfaces were polished.
Modern brass beds generally have screws and bolts with thin metal side rails, especially imports.
Step Two: How to Determine the Quality of Your Bed
You don’t have to be an expert in brass beds to figure out the quality of your bed. But you do need to do some sleuthing. By asking a few questions, you can quickly discover the quality of your brass bed- and figure out if you got a good deal after all.
Start by Examining the Brass
What Color is the Brass?
Brass is a metal composed primarily of copper and zinc.
Copper is the main component (55%-95%), and brass is usually classified as a copper alloy.
The color of brass varies from a rich golden color (most expensive) to a light silvery yellow depending on the amount of zinc and tin present.
The more silvery the color, the cheaper the brass.
Is the Brass Solid, Wrapped (seam visible), or Plated?
Solid brass is not magnetic (but it might have an inside steel rod for extra support on the posts which would make it seem magnetic).
Test with a magnet or sharp tool. If a magnet sticks, the item is usually steel or cast iron, with a brass plating. If the magnet does not stick, you can test further by scratching a hidden area with a sharp tool.
If you see a shiny yellow scratch, the item is likely solid brass. If you see a silvery scratch, your piece is likely white metal (zinc).
Solid brass is the most expensive.
Are the Connecting “Sleeves” and Fittings Cast Brass or Spun Brass?
Brass can be cast, forged (wrought), spun, or stamped (die-cut). Cast and forged are the most expensive and durable.
How thick is the wall of the brass tubing?
The thicker the wall, the more expensive the brass.
How heavy is the bed?
Consider the weight of the bed. As a rule, thicker brass weighs more.
Step Three: How to Determine the Price Range of Your Bed
Are all the parts there?
Check for missing feet, slats, bolts, finials, side rails, etc. (You can also find the value of replacement parts here on our website.)
How intricate is the design?
How intricate is the amount of workmanship, uniqueness of design and popularity of the “look”? These immensely affect the value.
Does a standard mattress fit it?
Many antique beds take custom size mattresses, making them less desirable and thus less valuable.
Look for similar items online.
Based on your findings from the above investigation, look for similar items online and see how much they’re listed for. Check Ebay, Craigslist, or other online platforms selling brass beds of similar ages, colors, and levels of workmanship.
And last but not least, get a decorator’s rough opinion of value.
Decorators specialize in knowing the quality of what they see. If anyone can tell you the value of you brass bed, it would be an expert. But there’s a lot you can learn on your own, too!
It’s important to understand the quality of your brass bed. So many mass-produced products appear high-end, but with a brief investigation you can find the difference. There’s nothing to compare with the quality of a custom-made brass bed and item of true value. And if that’s something you’ve invested in, you should be proud of it.
Want to learn more? Check out our brass beds in various styles crafted right here in our Richmond, Virginia-based factory by real artisans.