Evaluating Antique Metal Bed Frames

Published May 13, 2020
Brass bed frame

If you want to add a beautiful vintage touch to your decor, consider an antique metal bed frame. From brass beds to painted iron beds, there are many lovely designs to choose from. Learn how to identify the metals and materials used, what clues you can find about the bed's condition, and how much these antique bed frames are worth.

Types of Antique Metal Bed Frames

In the late 1800s, bed frames constructed of brass or iron became a popular alternative to traditional wood. Consumers may have seen these metal options as a "cleaner" type of bed frame - easier to dust and clean under. Possibly, they simply liked the style. Today, you can find these metal bed frames in antique stores, flea markets, and at auctions. There are a few types to choose from.

Antique Brass Bed Frames

Some antique metal beds are brass - either solid brass or brass wrapping another metal. These beds offer a classic look for any style of home decor. When the brass is in good condition, they shine warmly. Identifying antique brass can be a bit tricky because it tends to tarnish over time, and older beds were sometimes painted to change their look. However, if you polish the brass, you'll find that its beauty is often still intact. This polishing is also a disadvantage of this material, since brass beds require regular upkeep to look their best.

Brass Bed Frames

Antique Iron Bed Frames

Originally more affordable and easier to care for than brass beds, iron beds are also on the antiques market. They come in a wide variety of styles, from simple Art Deco geometric designs to elaborate Victorian options. The iron was sometimes treated to prevent rust, and rust can be an issue in antique beds made of iron. They are also very heavy. In general, they tend to be an affordable alternative to brass frames, and they offer a completely different look.

bed with wrought iron headboard

Mixed Metal Bed Frames

Some antique bed frames mix metals - often iron and brass. This may take the form of brass accents like fleur de lis that decorate a simpler iron bed. In other cases, the brass accents the top rails of the frame, while the rest is painted iron. This combination of metals may have made frames more affordable than all-brass options, and it also adds a unique decorating touch.

Antique brass bed

Painted Metal Bed Frames

Often, metal beds were painted in white or other pastel colors. The paint may be chipping or distressed. Some beds feature multiple colors of paint to accent the designs. Others may feature tole painting, which are simple floral paint patterns that people sometimes did as a type of folk art after buying the bed. There's a lot of variety in painted beds, and the paint is not always in good condition.

Ornate bed head

How to Determine the Age of Antique Metal Bed Frames

In order to determine how old a bed is, you need to see what you can find out about it. Identifying antique furniture can be challenging, but there are often clues to help.

Look for Manufacturer Marks

Look at the bed to see if you can find any furniture manufacturer marks. You may find a mark stamped on the frame of the bed, often in an unobtrusive spot, like near the rails or on the back of the headboard. If you find a mark, search to see if you can find out anything about the company. You'll hopefully be able to learn what years they were in business, and this will give you a range for when the bed was produced.

Examine the Construction

How is the frame of the bed held together? Brass Beds of VA reports that the earliest metal beds were held together with ropes between the headboard and the footboard. After that, manufacturers used handmade bolts, often made from cast brass. However, most beds made after the Civil War feature machine-made bolts. Most Victorian beds have cast iron joints at the corners featuring a horseshoe-shaped mortise and tenon joint. If the headboard and footboard are not built into the frame of the bed, it may be a modern reproduction.

Antique Metal Bed Frame Values

When it comes to value, there's a lot of variation. Several factors can affect the price someone may pay for a bed:

  • Style - Because these large pieces of furniture are still in use, their style is a major component of value. If the frame is attractive and fits in today's decor, it'll be worth more.
  • Size - Does a standard mattress fit the bed? Some beds were 3/4 size - something in between a twin and a full. This can be a hard size to find for mattresses. If a standard mattress fits it, it is worth more.
  • Condition - Does the bed frame have rust or damage? If restoration has been done, was it skillful? Are all the parts there? Condition is important. The frame should be sturdy and attractive.

How to Assess Value

To find out how much your bed frame is worth, take some time to do all the research you can. Find out the manufacturer if there's a mark. Find out the age. Take a hard look at the condition. Then look up similar beds that have sold recently. Here are a few example values for antique metal bed frames:

Ask an Expert

If you're in doubt about the value of an antique bed frame, you can ask a decorator to take a look. Since beds are an important part of interior decoration, much of their value lies in whether and how they can be used in today's homes. A decorator can give you insights.

Consider an Appraisal

It's also a good idea to have antique furniture appraised if you're wondering about value. If you're considering buying or selling an antique or vintage metal bed frame and feel the value may be high, having it appraised can help prevent you from paying too much or selling it for too little. As with all antique purchases, doing the research is key. Now that you know about some of the different features to look for in an antique metal bed frame, your research process will hopefully be a little easier.

Evaluating Antique Metal Bed Frames