How Do You Know If a Lamp Is Valuable?

Some lamps offered at auctions may be valuable while some may be a trash. Even the lamp you use in your home daily may also be a valuable item.

Determining the value of any lamp involves doing a bit of research and taking a close look at some obvious clues on the lamp to evaluate its value – this is also true for modern lighting. You can’t just assume that a lamp is valuable because it’s old.

Normally, an item must be 100 years old to claim the status as an antique.

However, a lamp may sometimes not meet this standard and yet be valuable as a collectible. So, the question remains, “how do you know if a lamp is valuable”

This post will give you some insight into how to know if a lamp is valuable, read on.

How to Determine the Value of a Lamp

The best way to know if a lamp is valuable is to follow this acronym – RADAR.

RADAR stands for Rarity, Aesthetics, Desirability, Authenticity, and Really great condition.

Don’t mistake this for the electromagnetic sensor that uses radio waves for detecting or locating objects.

When a lamp meets these five criteria, then such lamp is likely to be valuable and also appreciate in value as the years go by.

A lamp is also more valuable when left in its original state with most or all of its original parts intact. You may slightly scratch the bottom surface of the lamp to determine the kind of material it’s made from.

For instance, a lamp may appear to have been made of metal, but in the real sense, it is not made of metal but just painted to look and feel like metal.

General Steps to Determine the Value of a Lamp

1: Look closely and examine the overall condition of the lamp. If you notice any damage, take a careful look at the type of damage to determine if repairs are possible or not.

Most times, damages don’t completely discount the worth of a rare lamp, instead, they reduce the value of the lamp.

2: As stated above, scratch the bottom surface of the lamp, especially in a hidden place, with the tip of a screwdriver or your fingernail to find out the material the lamp is made of.

Some vintage or antique lamps may appear to be made from a particular type of metal, but instead, they are not but only painted to mimic the metal.

3: Look out for the manufacturer’s label, raised imprints, sticker, or embossed stamps on the lamp.

Sometimes, the included sticker may include the name of the maker and/or date of manufacture.

Most vintage and antique lamps with these identifications are very valuable – Fulper, Van Briggle, Duffner, Pittsburgh Pilabrasgo Co., Tiffany, Pairpoint, and Handel.

Lamps with markings from Jefferson, Wilkinson, Gorham, Stickley, Bradley and Hubbard, Steuben,Kramer, and Bigelow and Kinnard also have a high value.

Other valuable lamp styles include Jonathan Adler, George Nelson, George Kovaks, Louis Poulsen, and Stiffel.

Note that not all lamps list their manufacturer. Instead, some lamps use a small clue, such as a handwritten pencil number or a model number that can help you research the manufacturer. Therefore, note all clues for your research.

You should also examine the switches or metal pulls carefully for any markings to the manufacturer. These markings may be the only clue to the lamp manufacturers.

You may need a magnifying glass if you notice any marking, number, or stamp that you can’t read well.

If the bottom side of the lamp is covered with felt, gently lift the felt to look for clues to the lamp’s manufacturer.

5: For electric lamps, you may need to look at the wiring for a clue to the manufacturer or age of the lamp.

Lamps with cotton-wrapped wires are older lamps, though some owners may have repaired or replaced the wires.

You can also examine the plug or interior of the bulb socket for any clues or markings to the maker.

6: For lamps with lampshades, examine the lampshade for any clue to the manufacturer. If you have checked the base, don’t hesitate to also check the lampshade.

Don’t assume that the base and shade came together as a pair. Sometimes, you may have a valuable lampshade on a valueless base.

Some of the most iconic lampshades are made of iridescent Favrile glass and intricate glass mosaics, as well as fabric and parchment.

Therefore, examine each part of the lamp carefully before concluding on its value.

7: With the information you have collected from the steps above, research online or check printed lamp guides and reference books to know more about the value of the lamp.

When you follow the steps listed above carefully, then you will be able to tell if a lamp is valuable or not. Most times, antique oil lamps are also valuable. So, how can you tell if an oil lamp is antique?

How Can You Tell If an Oil Lamp Is Antique?

Here are some features that will help you identify an antique lamp:

An antique lamp has a metallic fitting collar that fastens into the burner, a metallic fitting hole where the oil is poured into, and a metallic font-to-base connection.

Sometimes, a real antique lamp has hardware attached to it with plaster.

Most people don’t know that the value of a lamp’s accessories, decorations, or fittings can be more than the value of the lamp itself.

Some lamp accessories were made of rose quartz, pink tourmaline, jade, ivory, cinnabar, bone, or other rare materials that are now very expensive.

Also, old bulbs may be more valuable than a lamp. For instance, Edison and early Weston bulbs can fetch up to thousands of dollars as collectibles.

Antique Tiffany lamps are about the most valuable lamps today. They are the most sought-after lamps today and the market for these lamps remains highly competitive for investment-quality works.

Currently, the value of an antique Tiffany lamp can be anywhere from $4,000 to over $1 million. The most expensive antique Tiffany lamp sells for upwards of $1 million.


If you have any questions about this article or would like to know more about the value of your lamp, please contact us today to receive expert assistance and we may refer you to an appraisal professional that can provide a valuation of your antique lamp.