Collecting Antique Baskets

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Have you wanted to know more about collecting antique baskets? Have you wondered how to identify them? Let's answer these questions.

Have you wanted to know more about collecting antique baskets? Have you wondered how to identify them? Let’s answer these questions.

Collecting Antique Baskets

It is my humble opinion that it is impossible to have too many baskets. Particularly beautiful, handmade, antique baskets which are endlessly useful. Today, I want to share some tips for identifying old baskets and also give you some tips to determine if their condition is good.

I love having a jumble of old baskets on a shelf or on top of cupboard. I am always using them for various tasks. In the summer, I use them to collect flowers and veggies from the garden. During the winter, I fill them with items to transport to the shop. Most recently I filled a basket with a bunch of antique linens to take to the shop. For the fall, I fill baskets with dried hydrangeas.

Large vintage white feather basket with greenery

If you have been following this blog for awhile, you likely know that I keep this one white large basket on my dining room table and fill it with greenery in the spring and summer. It’s one of my favorite baskets that I bought several years ago from Small Town Junk. I believe it is an old feather basket. You can see more photos of this basket HERE.

Baskets are great to use in decor, particularly if you love a neutral palette, because they introduce texture to a room. Texture is the secret to making a neutral decor work successfully.

Let’s talk about how to identify old baskets.

Baskets 101

Baskets are typically woven using one of two styles.

  • a splint style – where there are wider flatter strips of wood; or
  • a wicker stye – where there are numerous thin and round pieces woven together

Splint baskets are made out of oak or ash wood whereas wicker are typically made out of vines, grasses or plants.

handmade splint basket with dried hydrangeas

The photo above shows an example of a splint weave basket.

Vintage French Bread Basket

In contrast this photo shows a vintage French wicker bread basket.

Identifying Antique Baskets

When you are at a flea market or yard sale – what would you look for to determine if a basket is antique? There are a few things I always keep in mind.

  • Look to see if the wood handle is carved and solid.
  • Feel the weight of the basket because older baskets have more heft to them.
  • Look at the materials used. Oak splint and ash splint tend to be older baskets.
  • Is the basket reinforced on the bottom with wood strips? If so, this is a good find.
  • Does the basket have an aged appearance where the wood is naturally darker? If so, it is likely an old basket.
  • Is the basket signed and dated on the bottom?
  • Does the basket look like it was handmade?
  • Does that basket have old paint on it? Is the paint is faded and chipped?

Those are all characteristics that I look for when shopping for baskets. I have always had the best luck finding antique baskets in Maine.

Antique Potato Basket

The antique potato basket shown in the photo above was from Maine and was one of my best finds. The basket had a carved wooden handle and the splint weave was very sturdy. The basket had to be well made to hold all those potatoes! This basket sold awhile ago and went home with someone who loved it as much as I did.

Characteristics of a Well Made Basket

Collecting Antique Baskets

The next question I am asked is: How do I know if a basket is well made? How do I know if it is worth purchasing?

There are plenty of modern reproduction baskets and those that are mass produced. So here are a few things that I look for to be sure that the basket is good quality.

  • Make sure the weave on all corners of the basket is in tact. Often time the corners take a beating and they can be weak or have places where the weave is broken/missing.
  • If there are tiny nail heads used on the top rim of the basket, make sure they are not shiny. Newer baskets will have shiny nail heads. Antique and vintage baskets will have nail heads that are dull and in some cases the nails are rusted.
  • Older baskets are well made – and can usually hold a substantial weight for their size. Avoid baskets that are too light or where the weave is too loose.
  • Older baskets will often have a notch carved into the handle that allows the weave to hold the handle snuggly in place. If the wooden handle slides up and down too easily – that could be a sign that the basket is not the best quality.
  • Is the weave broken in many places? Inspect the basket carefully – if there are too many broken sections of the weave – then it may not be the best quality basket.

Other Considerations

Antique Baskets

In addition to baskets that are well over 100 years old, there are many excellent quality vintage baskets or more recently made baskets. I am very fond of those baskets that are handmade and signed by the artisan. If these handmade baskets are in good condition then it’s very likely that I will buy it. Handmade baskets are always superior to those that are mass produced.

I have scoured Etsy to find some baskets for you. Some baskets are old and some a newly handmade. If you scroll to the bottom of this post, you will see them listed.

Thank you for stopping by the blog today. Wishing you luck on your quest for antique and vintage baskets.

Three baskets on a white dresser

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  1. Thank you for featuring my splint oak round basket. A very thrilled person just purchased that basket in my Etsy shop. And she also told me about your block. I just signed up. Thanks again.
    Lakesidecottage Etsy

  2. Great shopping tips, thank you! So interesting that older items are often heftier and sturdier, ready to go another 100 years.

      1. Exactly! But not crazy, as the people, men and women, were perhaps craftsmen, skilled / trained and experienced. But mainly they TOOK PRIDE IN THEIR WORK. They wanted also to make quality, lasting products so that customers would come back and by word-of-mouth, gain new customers (also the new customers may have seen friends’ or family’s products and seen the quality firsthand. I am such a firm-believer and advocate of “yesterdays products,” that I will many-times FIRST attempt to buy vintage or antique over new products. Take furniture for example. If you needed a new chest of drawers / “dresser,” you would do yourself well to look for at least a vintage piece. Grand Rapids, Michigan for one was a huge furniture center in the 20th century. But there were quite a few others. You’re going to get REAL WOOD (Imagine that! A “walnut chest of drawers” made of WALNUT REAL WOOD! LOL! Or a “maple table” made of….you guessed it—MAPLE! Not various “fake wood products.”). Also, REAL BRASSES (drawer handles, etc.) Many times you will find pieces of furniture all-ready to use (other than a light cleaning or dusting.) But the quality, craftsmanship (even if “mass-produced” in, say, the 1950’s) etc. is so good, that repairs or touch ups to the finish etc. can be well-worth doing nonetheless. Obviously, with antiques you must have an entirely different perspective on “repairs / refinishing,” for example. Of course, then, again, you are free to do as YOU LIKE with anything that you purchase and love. MADE IN THE USA is a particularly strong “draw” with myself, also. SORRY for the long “diatribe” reply here, but the two of you made this extremely important point, and I couldn’t agree more strongly!! Thanks.

    1. Hello KariAnne-
      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on this post. Glad you found it to be informative!

  3. What a great post…super helpful! I love baskets but it’s always hard to tell if they are old or not, especially at a thrift store. Thanks so much!!

  4. Great information on baskets, Anna! That potato basket is gorgeous! Thanks for sharing your post on Tuesday Turn About Link Party last week- I’m thrilled to tell you I am featuring this post in the next TTA! I hope to see you at the next link party!

    1. Hi Cindy- Thanks for taking the time to comment. The potato basket was such a lucky find! Thank you for featuring me in your next TTA link party! I am thrilled!!

  5. Hi Anna,

    I’ve had this basket for over 40 years and it wasn’t new when I acquired it from a yard sale in Montreal. It’s gondola style and I think it’s wicker weave, but doesn’t fit any of the descriptions given here. Do you know if there’s a collector’s site where I could post a photo and find out more about it?

    1. Hi Lyn- I would suggest taking your basket to a reputable antique store and asking for an appraisal or for more information. They may be able to assist you or point you in the right direction.

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