Antique Trader Inbox: Readers continue to sound off

Ed. – Readers continue to sound off on the practice of haggling over prices as first presented in the Sept. 23 issue.

Dealers deserve some empathy

I (and I suspect many other antique dealers) read the “From The Editor” piece regarding your eavesdropping experience at a flea market with some dismay.

While the flea market dealer reacted inappropriately to the customers “counter offer”, I have a great deal of empathy for the dealer.
You did not indicate if you knew what price the dealer was asking (tag) for the candlesticks in question – but I’m guessing it was $50. The young lady requested the dealers BEST PRICE, and was quoted $40, a 20% discount. That does not invite a “counter offer” – best is best.

However, the offer of $35 represented a 30% discount from the asking price. Assuming the dealer paid $25 for the candlesticks, that leaves her/him with a $10 profit before show expenses (set up fee, gas, etc). So the dealer would have been lucky to net a $5 profit (10%) on the $50 candlesticks.

As a 30 year (plus) antique dealer who does 16-20 shows a year in addition to running a shop, I can safely say I have accepted an offer representing a 30% discount on only 3 occasions, and each involved multiple purchases totaling over $5,000.

Your article, and several similar articles by the Kovels, etc. seem to encourage haggling as a “sport” or a “fun experience”, and some articles imply that dealers purposely overprice their items to allow for this. I don’t believe this is true, certainly not for me.

While the primary example in your article takes place at a “flea market,” readers tend to take the message further; to true antique shows, even those where dealers and inventory are vetted, and set up fees are well into five figures. Show expenses continue to ramp up, while overall prices are down about 1/3 from the turn of the century.

Remember, the title of your publication is “Antique Trader,” not “flea market weekly.”

There are examples to represent both sides of the issue. I have had numerous incidents where potential customers have offered a discounted amount for an item or group of items. I accepted their offer – whereupon one turned to the other, saying “see, I told you he would come down,” and walked away with no sale. I’m sure it was great fun for them …

Roy D. Walker
Marseilles, Illinois

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Mourning the death of customer service

Received my Antique Trader this month. Read your comments on dealers handling of offer and his negative reply. I also want to comment on conversations I hear when I go to my local flea markets.

I get sooooo tired of getting to a flea market around noon on Sundays, after feeding my family breakfast, and attending church, and I find dealers packing up. I am charged an entrance fee, only to find the flea market with fewer dealers and loads more packing up. The flea market is advertised as 8 am to 3 p.m.

The dealers can be heard talking among themselves, loudly, complaining that the sales are not here today. When I remark that they are packing up early, they always say, “I have been here since 5 a.m.” (Your problem not mine, you chose this profession.)

Our local flea market is not put on in July and August “too hot” I hear dealers complaining constantly, too hot, too cold, too rainy etc. It seems they are never happy. And when I hear them complaining that nothing is selling I want to shout: “Then your prices are too high”
Whatever happened to customer service.? This is a business like any other business. Why are you talking on the phone, and arguing with your wife/girl, when I need to ask you a question. Why do you act like your doing me a big favor if I ask to see something you have in a case? And excuse me, but isn’t haggling on the price half the fun of a flea market atmosphere? I think it is. One more thing, I am at a flea market because I want a bargain. If I wanted to pay antique mall prices I would be shopping at one. You have a much lower overhead at a flea market than an antique store. Give me my lower prices!

Just wanted to give you input from a “buyer.”

How would those dealers like to go to their favorite restaurant and hear the waitresses complaining that they weren’t making any money, and no one was tipping so they were going home? Or worse yet, find it closed up because the weather wasn’t good, or business was slow.

Come on dealers, you chose to be in this profession. Run your business like a business.

It may take long hours, in hot summer weather, cold, dreary weather, drizzling weather (if there’s still people walking around, there are potential customers. With good customer service, and competitive prices. (price with some haggling room in there) you’ll get your sales.

Also I absolutely hate to have to ask “How much for this?” “How much for that?” You tell me $3, and tell the next guy $5. Take the time to price your items, like in a store with a starting point at least. Put some time and effort into your business. But most of all, have a good attitude.

Meril Robinson,
New Britain, Conn.

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Polite haggling can result in a sale

A very rude response and not appropriate. To me, a better response is “You asked for my best price and that’s what I quoted.” If she had said “Can you do any better” or something similar, it leaves more room for negotiation. However I would have sold them with a smile at $35.

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[On American Indian artifacts] I do not think that increased Federal regulation is necessary for artifacts. Your stories on page 6 are a case in point. Must be enough on the books to allow the Feds to crack down.

Jim Conover
via e-mail

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American Indians need regulated burial rights

This response concerns the e-mail from Connie in the Sept. 30 Trader. Not only is government regulation needed, but long overdue. As American Indian people were forced and pushed off of their land, they had no choice but to leave the graves of their loved ones behind.
For someone to come along years later and rob these graves for profit and private collection is morally and legally wrong. Grave robbing is grave robbing and the people willing to do this would have no problem robbing Connie’s grave at the end of her life if they thought there was a profit to be made.

Bill Eckman,
Valencia, Pa.

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Strange and unusual collections abound

We noted in your last newsletter your invitation to send in some of the strange and most unusual collectibles we’ve seen people collect. We have a section on our Web site where people can list their collecting area if they can’t seem to find anyone else who collects the same thing. There are some unusual ones.

Here is a sampling: hearing aids, black faced sheep, clothes hangers, croquet balls, diaper pins, flower pots with attached saucers, glass eyewash cups, horse rosettes, hotel do not disturb signs, flour sifters, mouse pads, oil field hard hat stickers, silk labels for clothing, snails, sprinkling cans, toothbrushes, yogurt foils and wire spoons.

Larry Krug,
Association of Collecting Clubs
National Association of Collectors

Ed.–For a complete listing of collecting clubs, take a moment to visit Mr. Krug’s wonderfully complete Web site at http://Collectors.Org

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Kaufman collection should be a gift to history

Concerning the story in the September 23, 2009 edition of Antique Trader on the King of toys. I want to say what an astounding collection of antique toy and model cars Mr. Donald Hoffman has put together.

It truly is most impressive. But part of me says what a shame to break up such a marvelous collection that most likely can never be duplicated.

I know it is hard to find a museum worthy of handling such a collection but it would indeed be wonderful for people to be able to experience this plethora of antique toys.

My heart hopes Mr. Hoffman would establish such a museum and give the opportunity to future generations to visually enjoy what he has so enjoyed amassing.

James B. Williams,
Willsboro N.Y.

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Oz was born in New York state, not Kansas

This is in regards to your Sept. 23 Antique Trader (page 8) article on collectors following the Yellow Brick Road to OzFest.

I want to first start out by saying that I am happy the state of Kansas is celebrating the 70th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz. I don’t want to put a hamper on the festivities, but I think it’s important to take note that L. Frank Baum, who wrote all the books and is responsible for all that is Oz, was born and raised in Chittenango, N.Y. This little town outside Syracuse, N.Y., gets very little or no press regarding the fact that Baum was greatly impacted by this town and is the very reason he wrote the books in the first place.

There is an annual Oz Parade and weekend activities. Chittenango holds an important place in history, made possible by Baum growing up here. I think it’s important to note that Baum visited Kansas only once for a few brief days and never returned.

As a collector myself of all that is Oz, I think your readers should get an accurate sense of how important this town was to Oz. While I appreciate Kansas for its role in the book, it’s important to note that this book means a lot to people all over the country and the world. Dorothy may have lived in Kansas but she was created in Chittenango, N.Y.

Alan Schnall,
Syracuse, N.Y.

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