12 things antique dealers wished everyone knew

Remember Reader’s Digest? They are still around and have a series of articles called  “What _______ wants you to know.” All manner of categories are used, like pets, flight attendants, doctors, mechanics and more. Well I thought you might like to read, “12 things antique dealers want you to know.” Let’s dig in;

1. Not everything you have is valuable.

Value has many criteria. Age, scarcity, condition, region and more. Dealers know their market and what sells for them and have a general sense of what most things are worth. Many factors can go into the offer a dealer may make on your item.

2. Know how to haggle on an item’s price.

We all love a good deal and sometimes we don’t always agree with what a seller has an item priced at. Haggling properly without offense is a skill that takes time to master. Asking “What’s the least you’ll take for this?” is probably not the best way to get that discount.

3. Our time is valuable too.

Owner/operator business owners have many things to do in a day. They are chief cook and bottle washer and don’t mind listening to a short anecdote or two, but please don’t tie up large blocks of their time if you don’t plan on buying anything. They are at work and have a full schedule.

4. We can’t buy everything.

Many antique stores have extensive inventories and sometimes more in storage. Some specialize and only buy certain items. Also, buying can be dependent of cash flow as we all have slow seasons. Don’t be offended if we don’t buy everything you offer, but we are appreciative you did.

5. There is more to the price than just the item.

Antique dealers have much to figure into our pricing. There is the item’s value of course, but this can fluctuate. There is also vehicle gas, research time, cleaning, possible repairs, and time to merchandise the items. Sometimes the value of an item may decrease over time, but our original costs don’t. Remember that until we sell that item, it is money frozen.

6. Yes, you might find it on eBay.

That doesn’t mean it will cost less in the long run, or look like it did in the photo. Also shipping is free only if the seller offers it and shipping takes time. If there is a problem (such as damage) and you have to return it, you pay the return shipping. If the item was insured, you also have to deal with the carrier to get your money back. Not an easy task.

7. We have expenses too.

Many costs are incurred in running an antique store in addition to inventory costs. Rent, electric, advertising, insurance, phone & internet, supplies, other utilities and even with no employees an owner must figure in their time. Sometimes we just can’t accept a lesser offer on an item or have many sales events.

8. There is no set markup.

We don’t buy inventory at fixed wholesale prices. Sometimes we have to pay a bit more to get better quality or rare items. This will sometimes translate into higher prices to maintain a profit. The jewelry store that offers 50% off sales can do this because their markup can be as high as 800%. Sometimes we make as little as $2.00 on an item.

9. We don’t get our items donated.

Antique stores don’t operate like thrift stores. We select and purchase every item in our inventory and have to earn a profit on each item. Thrift stores can afford to sell items at lower costs because items are donated, and they sell in much greater volume.

10. We are not experts in everything.

I have a pretty solid knowledge base as I have been buying and selling items for a long time. That doesn’t mean I am an expert in all areas. I learn new things each day in this business. I also try to pass that knowledge along as much as I can. This means sometimes I just can’t take a chance buying an expensive item, if I don’t know much about it.

11. Condition is everything.

No matter how amazing an item is, or how much we might want to buy it, we can’t if it’s damaged. Things like broken or missing parts, scratches, dents, chips, nicotine stains or water damage all take away from an item’s value. The item in the best condition garners the best price. Mint in the box or new old stock are always best.

12. We can’t pay for sentimental value.

We understand some of your items that you offer us have special meaning to you. That being said we can’t pay an inflated price for sentimental value. Provenance is a special category and must be documented. If an item was owned by someone famous or had a significant place in history, we have to have proof of that for it to affect the purchase and selling prices. Otherwise it is valued at the same rate as other similar examples.

Owning any small business is difficult. Owning an antique store has special challenges on top of the normal ones (especially now). The nature of this business changes year to year, month to month and sometimes day to day. Values change, item availability changes and customer interest waxes and wanes frequently.

Many of us do this and accept these challenges because we love what we do and for the love of the items. The history, the quality, the connection to, and preservation of the past and the nature of these items become interesting and meaningful. The personal relationships developed can last for years. We love seeing the items we curate and sell go to folks who will cherish them and build their own memories of the items they have found on our stores.

 

Published Florida Today Online Edition 4/10/2020 & Florida Today print edition 4/19/2020