Monday, July 19, 2010

How Much is This?



[NOTE: Occasionally, I’ll be posting some blogs that are more my opinion of a particular situation involving antiques and collectibles than an answer to a quesiton about one. This is the first.]

“How much is this?” If you have to ask, then the antique shop or flea market dealer hasn’t completed their job–or the person is just downright lazy.

I went to a favorite flea market of mine last Saturday. I say favorite only because it’s the only regular one left in my area–it occurs on the third Saturday of each month from late Spring to late Fall. A lot of the same dealers display some of the same things they’ve had for sale for the last couple of years.

While most of the dealers price their goods beforehand, a few don’t. Take Mr. I-Don’t-Price-Anything, Mr. Idpa for short. This rather smug dealer always seems to offer interesting items, none of which has a price. So I’m always forced to ask, “How much is this?”

There’s a slight pause as Mr. Idpa sizes me up. If he thinks I’m a Yuppie with a Beamer parked out under the trees, he’ll immediately raise his price by as much as 50 percent, even before he says anything. I know this because I’ve conducted a little study over the last few months in which I wear different styles of clothes on different visits to the market. I then pick the same or similar item and ask the same question: “How much is this?” He rarely remembers me and so far, none of the prices quoted for the same item have been the same.

A few times I really wanted an item I collect, but resisted because not only did he make up prices as he went along, he also refused to bargain when I asked “What’s your best price?’ If he were the only dealer doing this, I would just pass by his space. But, unfortunately, he’s not–although he’s the king.

Last week, a new dealer had set up next to Mr. Idpa and like him, she hadn’t priced her goods. As I neared her table, I overheard her say to another woman, “I don’t understand why no one has asked about my chairs.” She had four well-used ladderback rushed chairs arranged out in front of her tables, each nicely draped with colorful silk scraves.

After the woman left, I approached her and said, “Perhaps it’s because you don’t have any prices on your items.”

“Do you think that’s it?” she asked.

I explained that customers need a place to start–a pricing reference point. “When I approach a dealer’s tables and see something I like, I look at the item, then at its price to see if it’s within my budget.
“But I thought prices might scare customers away,” she replied.

“Not at all,” I said. “ You see, people who are serious collectors, like me, come here [to flea markets] looking for items to add to our collections...for the right price, of course. If a dealer overprices an item, I move on. But if it’s within my price range, I begin a conversation with the dealer about it.”

Just then, a woman approached the dealer carrying an old hand washboard she had picked up out near the dealer’s chairs. The washboard had a price on it of $18. From my previous conversation with the dealers, I assumed she left the previous price sticker on from when she bought it. I stepped aside and let them haggle. A few minutes later, the customer walked away with the washboard under her arm and a smile on her face.

I again approached the dealer and said, “That makes my point.”

“I guess so, “ she replied. “Now what can I use for price stickers.”

More on pricing antiques and collectibles next time.

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