Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Getting into the Antiques Biz

I love antiques and have been collecting them for 20 years or so and have so many things that my house is bursting at the seams. I’m ready to retire and have been thinking about opening my own antiques shop. Is this a good idea in this economy?

ANSWER: Lots of people dream about going into business for themselves. For some, it seems like a way out of the corporate rat race. For others, something to do in retirement. And while an antique shop may seem like an uncomplicated, quiet business to get into, it’s far from it. Remember, first and foremost, selling antiques is a business–and the emphasis here is on selling.

Many people think because they’ve been buying up a storm at yard sales and flea markets that they can turn around and sell what they’ve bought. Sure, you can put some items up on eBay to sell, but to be successful at selling on eBay, you first have to know what people are buying. Salesmanship is a skill that needs to be learned. And loving antiques has nothing to do with it. In fact, the worst reason to open an antique shop is that you love antiques and have been collecting them for years.

To have a successful antiques business, whether selling in a shop, at shows, flea markets, or online, you need to know what people want to buy and then buy those items. What usually happens is that the items people want to buy aren’t the ones you personally like to buy, so you avoid them. For instance, today, the trend is towards collecting items from the 1930s and 1940s. But you love Victorian antiques and can’t stand Art Deco.

Also, this is a business. That means keeping records, learning how to display things so they sell, and developing a network of sources to buy new inventory. The IRS doesn’t look kindly on people who just play around.

NOTE: I’m still having problems posting images to this blog. And an antiques blog is nothing without photos of the items I’m discussing. So I’m looking for a new host for my blog and may be moving it in the near future. Please stay tuned and thanks for your patience.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Thrill of the Hunt

QUESTION: I’ve been buying most of my antiques at flea markets and in shops. I’d like to go to antique shows, but I’m afraid the prices will be too high. Can you give me some advice?

ANSWER: Though there are all sorts of antique shows out there, I divide them generally into three levels–the friendly firehouse or school show, the more elegant hotel show, and the high-end show.

You’ll find the first of these, the friendly firehouse or school show, held in a local fire company hall or the all-purpose room of an elementary school once or twice a year. Here, you’ll find lots of affordable antiques and collectibles. Prices range from as low as a few dollars up to perhaps three figures. Dealers, mostly from the surrounding region, tend to sell only at shows or out of their homes.

The more elegant hotel show comes around usually once a year and features finer items. Tables often display a myriad of small objects–Japanese Imari porcelains, Wedgewood, fine English majolica, and Staffordshire ware, along with small pieces of furniture, trunks, stained glass lamps, and so on. Dealers tend to come from a wider area, including surrounding states while prices range from two to four digits, with finer items selling for several thousand dollars.

High-end shows are extravagant affairs, both in goods and prices, and feature dealers from all over the country. For some patrons of these shows, nothing says they’ve made it better than bragging about how much they’ve spent on an antique, whether it be a piece of fine 18th-century furniture or a diamond necklace that once belonged to a princess. Just before the recession, patrons at these shows thought nothing of whipping out their checkbooks and writing checks for $30,000 to $40,000 for an Empire sofa or as much as a quarter million for an 18th-century Philadelphia secretary in the Chippendale style.

Many of these shows are vetted, which means the promoters guarantee everything sold there as authentic. Where’s the fun in that? Part of the thrill of the hunt is being able to tell for yourself if a piece is real or not by the knowledge you’ve amassed about it beforehand, especially when the dealer doesn’t have a clue.

And while you can attend high-end shows by paying the heft admission price–going to a good cause, of course–you’ll find the reception from other showgoers rather off-putting. Let’s face it. They have no idea from your worn jeans and casual top that you just inherited a cool million from daddy. The dealers, on the other hand, couldn’t be nicer. After all, they’ll gladly take money from anyone.

Give me the dealers at my neighborhood flea market and firehouse antique show any day. While things may not cost as much at these venues, the dealers love to bargain. And, for me, that’s part of the thrill of the hunt.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Problems, Problems, Problems

I've tried to post to this blog every week, but several weeks ago, I began to have problems posting to it. As with all free services, you're left at the mercy of companies, like Google, that make it impossible to contact them for help. After much searching, I did find a link that said "write us." Clicking on that link, I was hopeful of getting some help and thus getting back on my posting schedule. Instead of taking me to an E-mail window, the link took me to a forum where hundreds of bloggers post complaints. Only a fraction of these cries for help got answers--and then only from other bloggers.

It seems that companies like Google and Yahoo, who both offer free chat and other services, make it extremely hard to get help when a problem occurs. Some people's blogs disappeared, others did crazy things. In all, it's frustrating enough to work with all the new technology.

In the end, after much thought, I tried several things and solved my problem. I still can't figure out what caused it.

My regular posts will begin again on Monday. Thanks for your patience.