1. Knowledge is Power.
It is your responsibility to educate yourself about the antiques of greatest interest to you. Thousands of books and Web sites about every antique and collectible are available on every antique imaginable. Visit historic homes and museums to study your favorites.
The more you see, the more you will recognize common pieces. Most items were mass-produced and aren’t really rare. Staff members and volunteer docents who give frequent tours are great sources of information. Join a collectors’ club where you can socialize while you learn. Both the Association of Collecting Clubs and the National Association of Collectors have detailed lists of clubs online. Attend upscale antique shows where national experts come to sell and share knowledge.
2. Train Your Eye
Combine personal observation with your research. Alas, it is necessary to learn about reproductions in almost every collecting category. Learn to spot repairs and know how they affect the value of what you collect. Know what characteristics makes an item more valuable. For example, patriotic designs such as flags and eagles on dishes are usually more valuable than floral patterns. Printed designs and patterns usually sell for less than dishes with hand painted designs and borders; learn to recognize delicate brush strokes.
3. Keep Up With the Times
During the 21st century, many people are living well into their 80s. That means when it’s time to liquidate their collections, due to death or downsizing, their children may already be senior citizens themselves. Gen-X grandchildren usually don’t yet have much interest in traditional collections of their elders. Therefore, many outstanding collections are becoming available every week in all parts of the country. Since many families are scattered across the country, it may be necessary to liquidate whole households of the eldest family members quickly because younger generations are in from out of town for a limited time.
Many families choose to have auctions, while others don’t want to schedule a sale. In today’s fast-paced society, the best bargains often go to the dealer or collector who is readily available with a fat wallet, strong back and big truck.
4. Shop Smarter
The ways of finding bargains that worked in the 1990s may not work any more. If you’re going to be a savvy 21st century buyer, the Internet is a vital part of your new plan. It is a good idea to check online sales to learn current buying trends and values. Your customers and fellow collectors certainly are. Read small area newspaper ads online to find auctions that aren’t well advertised. A poorly advertised sale will generate a smaller crowd, so sold prices are usually much lower. You’ll also find ads for antique shows and flea markets that aren’t well known by most antiquers. Lots of non-profit groups hold regular sales of quality antiques that aren’t publicized outside their town.
Make a regular circuit of thrift stores and flea markets as often as you can. If your needs are specialized, let the owners know you’d appreciate them contacting you when they receive any items that may be of interest to you. Reward them with a small token of appreciation such as a box of cookies. Above all, resist the urge to gloat and boast about how much profit you made on items you’ve purchased from them in the past.
5. Go Incognito
Mom was right; manners are important. Whether you’re at a small town yard sale or a prestigious antique show in a major market, walk the walk but don’t talk the talk. Dress to fit in with the crowd and don’t do anything to attract attention to yourself. While you want to be friendly, watch what you say. Don’t spout off how long you’ve been in business, how much you know, what things used to cost or anything else others could consider boorish. Keep negative comments about the merchandise, the event (or anything else) to yourself. Avoid long personal conversations in person or on the cell phone when you’re within earshot of others.
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