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The best-ever description of an antiques dealer

Mike Ivakovich, long-time auctioneer, appraiser, and host of "What's It Worth? Ask Mike the Appraiser" radio program, shares a description of an antiques dealer in a recent Readers' Letter.

*Editor's Note: This readers' letter from radio host Mike Ivankovich appears in the Oct. 25 issue of Antique Trader.

Antiques Dealers are full-time or part-time entrepreneurs who love old things. Some love a single category while others love a broad range of items. Few are born into the trade and most collectors become dealers in order to finance their collecting habits.

Antiques Dealer Life

Here’s an interesting summary that describes many Antique Dealers. Some are from the book “Killer Stuff and Tons of Money” by Maureen Stanton (the best book on the Antique business I’ve ever read), and others are based upon my 40-plus years as an antiques dealer.

 Available from national booksellers.

Available from national booksellers.

It’s not an easy life and it takes confidence and faith to succeed as an Antiques Dealer.

There are no regular paychecks and never a cost-of-living increase.

There’s no paid sick days or vacation time.

There is no pension fund or retirement plan.

There’s no corporate ladder where they get recognized or promoted for hard work.

 No safety net. They survive by their wits alone.

Product knowledge is more important than luck. The more they know, the more they can make.

Every day is a treasure hunt and infused with the hope of finding a pot of gold.

Everyday Lessons

Buying is just as important as selling and mistakes are an every-day occurrence.

It’s a risky business and anyone who says they’ve never lost money on a transaction or show is probably a liar.

Antiques are a product that many like, but no one really needs. As a result Antique Dealers are usually the first to be hurt when times get tough.

Vital cash flow is often impacted by the weather: Too hot or cold? Snow, rain, sleet, wind, or ice? Nor’easter or hurricane? None help the show gate. And if the weather is perfect? That’s not good either if the buyers stay home to work in the yard or just relax.

Cleaning and refinishing, packing and unpacking, show set-up and breakdown, marketing and promotion, accounting and money management are all non-paying positions in the family business. And usually done by the same 1 or 2 individuals.

A beauty of the antiques business is that dealers can do it whenever they want, wherever they want, and with whomever they want, while making new friends in the process.

Finding Positives in the Challenges

There’s no time clock. No one can fire them or lay them off. They control their own destiny.

It’s capitalism down and dirty. There are no guarantees. And no regrets.

And I’ve heard said that it’s a little like the Mafia. Once in the antiques business, you’re in for life. There’s no leaving.

WHAT’S IT WORTH:: How do you put a value on a life you love? I spent 15 years working in the corporate world and hated it most of the time. The more than 35 years I’ve spent dealing with antiques and collectibles have been the best years of my life. And most Antiques Dealers would probably agree.

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Mike Ivankovich

Mike Ivankovich

Mike Ivankovich is an Auctioneer, Appraiser, Home Downsizing Expert, and host of the “What’s It Worth? Ask Mike the Appraiser” Radio Show that airs live in the Philadelphia PA area on Friday mornings from 9-10 AM EST on WBCB 1490 AM and on the Internet at:

You can also visit his Radio Show website:

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