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.

This post was originally written in January 2022 and was updated in April 2024.

Collecting Antique Baskets

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If you are new to this blog: Welcome! My name is Anna and I share information on collecting antique/vintage items, refurbishing furniture and making small crafts/projects. The purpose of this blog is to share with you how to use creativity and antiques to make your home beautiful. In addition to information here on the blog, you can also follow me on the following social media accounts InstagramFacebook or Pinterest.

Collecting Antique Baskets

It is my humble opinion that it is impossible to have too many baskets.  In particular beautiful, handmade, antique baskets which are endlessly useful.  While baskets have been made for centuries, they started becoming collectible in the 18th century and picked up popularity in the 19th century. Today, baskets made in the early 20th century (early 1900s) in excellent condition are very desirable. However, some vintage baskets, while not as valuable, are also collectible and are excellent quality. Today, I want to share some tips for identifying old baskets and also give you some tips to determine if their condition is good. 

White Antique Feather Basket

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.   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. They also impart soul, character, patina and a sense of history.

Let’s talk about how to identify old baskets.  

Baskets 101

Baskets are typically woven using one of three 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
  • a grass style – where thin strips of grass are woven together to create intricate designs

Wood splint baskets are made out of oak or ash wood whereas wicker are typically made out of vines, grasses or plants.  Some of the best basket makers have been producing handmade baskets since the early 19th century.  Native Americans are known for making sweet grass baskets.  While the Shakers are known for making sturdy shaker baskets.  There are also well known basket makers including Longaberger making baskets since 1896, and the Peterboro basket company founded in 1854. There are also the famous Nantucket Lightship Baskets which are highly collectible and were first made in 1856.  These baskets are still being made today and are very collectible. 

Splint weave basket

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 when trying to identify old baskets.

  • Take a closer 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 baskets and ash splint baskets tend to be older.
  • 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? Most baskets that are handmade will be signed and dated on the bottom. Or they will have some type of emblem imprinted on them.
  • Does the basket look like it was handmade? Is the handle hand carved?
  • Does that basket have old paint on it?  Is the paint faded and chipped? If so, that is a good sign

Those are all characteristics that I look for when shopping for baskets.  I have always had the best luck finding antique baskets in Maine. Since I live in upstate New York, the vast majority of older baskets I find are made in New England and are from the early part of the 20th century. 

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

I am frequently asked: How do I know if a basket is well made?  How do I know if it is worth purchasing? How do I know “good baskets” when I see them?

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. 
  • Make sure the basket has a tight weave. 
  • 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. 

Common Basket Styles

When baskets were made in the 19th century, it was often for the specific purpose of gathering or transporting items.  Some common examples of these early baskets include:

  • A fruit basket – a medium sized basket with a handle used to hold apples, pears, peaches etc
  • A berry basket – a small shallow basket with a handle
  • An egg basket – a smaller sized basket with a handle used to gather and hold fresh eggs
  • A flower or vegetable basket – a long narrow shallow basket, with a handle, used to gather flower cuttings
  • A market basket – a medium sized basket that is deep, with a handle, and can hold an assortment of items from a market
  • A picnic basket – these typically had a lid 
  • A pack basket –  sometimes called an Adirondack Pack Basket or Trapper’s Basket used for hiking or spending time in the woods

Other Considerations

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 better quality than those that are mass produced.  

In addition to condition, I always look for baskets in unusual shapes or that have great form.  For example, the large white feather basket shown above. Another example are buttocks baskets. 

Similarly, I love the patina and character of an old painted basket.

​Finally, if a basket was handmade and is exceptionally small, then it is also worth considering purchasing. 

Finding Antique and Vintage Baskets

There are a number of reproduction and manufactured baskets available. I recommend visiting a reputable antique store, if you want to buy collectible antique baskets. There are many such stores in New England. Antique baskets are often sold as “Primitives”. I always find it reassuring to be able to look at and handle a basket before I purchase it. Furthermore, most antique dealers will tell you the history of basket or any information they know.

If you can’t locate a reputable antique store, then your next best option is online sources such as Ebay and Etsy. You can easily search for terms such as “antique oak splint basket” or “handmade sweet grass basket”. Before purchasing the basket, look at the number of sales the vendor has as well as their reviews. It might also be worth noting whether they have a return policy.

Finally, you can sometimes stumble upon an old basket in a flea market or on facebook marketplace but its definitely not common. It’s more difficult to verify the age of the baskets. However, you are very likely to find them for a better price.

Summary 

Thank you for stopping by the blog today. Hopefully you found some useful information about finding, identifying and collecting antique baskets. If you own some old baskets and aren’t sure of their value, I recommend taking them to reputable antique dealer or auction house. They may be able to tell you more about your baskets. Above all, I wish you luck (and fun) on your quest for antique and vintage baskets.

Anna Signature Block

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like to read:

Collecting Vintage US Flags

Collecting Yellowware Pottery

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18 Comments

  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.
    Pat
    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.

  6. This was such a helpful post, Anna! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve picked up an expensive French basket at an antique shop or outdoor event and had no idea if it was authentic or not and worth the price. I love baskets because you can easily dress them up or down and use them all over the house in any season so to me they’re always a fun find. But gosh the antique ones can really get expensive. Thanks for all these helpful tips and tricks. You make smart shopping so much easier! Big hugs, CoCo PS: Can we talk about that little pink table? Talk about gorgeous!

    1. Thank you for the kind words CoCo. It’s hard to go wrong with old baskets! I notice Maria from Dreamy Whites has some great old baskets from Sweden. (but -yes- as you note – they are expensive)

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