These are iffy days in the American economy. No government official has come right out and said it, but the hints of the "R" word are everywhere.
That, however, is enough nay-saying, no nabob of negativism I, but I am curious about whether or not the woes on Wall Street have an actual effect on the nuts and bolts of our businesses and hobbies.
Personally, it seems like a good time to get some money into antiques, as we all know that good items hold their value, and that as the economy worsens, people will most likely sell. Ergo, deals are out there… Go and get ’em.
Here’s the question put formally, then: Do Wall Street ups and downs affect your buying or business?
I am on Social Security, and yes, this affects even me.
I have less dollars to spend on gas, so I go far less often as even a trip to the next town means a gallon of gas. I’m currently scolding myself for spending six-plus gallons of gas money on a stunning Westmoreland Paneled Grape cake stand yesterday, but it is pretty sitting here!
I still read everything I can get my hands on, but mostly at the library; no cost, plus I don’t have room for magazines to pile up. I share Trader with others. My 92-year-old neighbor especially enjoys it. Her dad was an auctioneer in Indiana. Can you just imagine the things she has seen!
I then pass Trader on to a 40-something gal who’s trying to learn and "keep her head above water" in this economy, and, by the way, when I read the online survey and saw college, high school, etc, I wanted to write this: I married at 18 so never went to college, but I read a lot in school and I have read constantly ever since graduating 1948, and when I discovered all the magazines and books on antiques and collectables I read every one I could find, acquired a 300 book library, and once sent 30 large brown groceries bags of Spinning Wheels, antiques and collecting magazines to auction.
So you may look at me and see an almost 78-year-old lady with a cane and sometimes a walker, but there’s a lot of knowledge between these two ears. I hate to waste my brain, though sometimes my body would really like to stay in bed. Just knowing there may be something wonderful to look at, however, gets me up and going! I don’t have to buy it, and sometimes it’s just a beautiful backyard or an awesome look at Lake Erie, or a passing eagle or Red tailed hawk that makes my day!
The economic slowdown has a definite effect on our business.
People need the basics to survive, and with inflation eroding purchasing power, there is less disposable income for people to spend. This fact has been quite evident in the shows I’ve done the last few months.
In discussions with dealers, we are all feeling the downturn in business. As a hardy group, though, we expect things to improve as we head into the election.
Vintage Poster Art of NJ
Print or online resources?
This was a question that really made me think about the resources I use for antiques research.
I’ve always been a student and a reader of books. I finished my degree in International Studies at the U of Washongton when I was almost 50, after a career in para-medical work. So, growing up with books, and finding them generally easier to access, I would have to say I usually go to them first.
However, I do not think we cannot use just one resource. We have to use whatever legitimate methods we can to research the offerings we sell: books, TV programs, publications and the internet, eBay and other auction and sale sites.
Shows and auctions are good sources of information, as are Museums of all kinds. I consider going to a good, higher-end merchandise show as a "seminar." Quite often I can’t afford to buy, but one can sure learn from the dealers as well as being able to actually examine and hold in your hands objects you may never have seen before, and only read about in a source. It trains the eye and the general sense of awareness of what an article is about.
Organizations for collectors of various things are generally a good source, of at least, background information. One can go more in depth from there.
Fortunately, or not, in this age of instant global information, our problem usually isn’t lack of information sources, but too many information sources. We just have to learn which are the most valuable sources for the object at hand. If all else fails, we have friendly co-dealers and shop owners to discuss items with. Like many dealers I’ve purchased items for my own collections or for resale, just on gut instinct.
I have been a dealer, shop owner and collector for more than 30 years. The one great thing about this business is that there is always something new to learn about.
Oak Harbor, WA
Has the Internet helped or hurt business?
I know this column is old, but sometimes it takes me a while to read all the stuff I get, never mind replying. This one I wanted to respond to.
My mother and I had a small multi-dealer antiques mall during the 1990s. Due to Internet drawing away business, local downtown changes health issues, we closed it in 2000 (broke our hearts!).
In 2005, my mother started selling on eBay, mostly miniatures, but some vintage and antiques things from her own collection. In 2006, I started selling on eBay from my personal collection. Since I moved in with her to help her, I’m squeezed into one room, the rest I’m paying storage. It made sense to sell on eBay… no large overhead, no employees, or having to be in a storefront everyday. After less then a year, in the spring of 2007, I started getting the sales report from eBay. I knew I wasn’t making much money. After listing 50-60 items a month, and maybe selling one or two, I figured up I was making less then a dollar on each item I sold. Some months I sold nothing, some months I sold several.
The end result has been neither my mother nor I have listed anything on eBay for almost a year. The eBay market wasn’t fantastic when I started, but it crushed me to know I was selling my treasures for pennies. If I had it, I loved it! I’d rather have an auction house sell my stuff in box lots than sell it on eBay. I may not make any more money, but I don’t have to watch my treasures go for nothing. I don’t really have much that is worth big bucks, anyway. So much of what we have are family pieces, or things that remind us of family members.
The Internet hasn’t really helped the antiques market as much as it has hurt it, but that’s just my opinion.