I have been buying and selling antiques (and some collectibles) for over 30 yrs. started out buying and selling to help pay for college. got a degree in business admin. and worked in managerial positions for 23 yrs. but, during this 23 yr. period I kept my sanity by continuing to sell antiques in my spare time. now that I am semi-retired, I still deal in antiques - it is in my blood. I am knowledgeable in auctioning, estate sales, online sales, direct sales, and appraisals.
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even though this happened in the early 1980's, i remember it like it was yesterday.
i was at an outdoor estate auction in the middle of november. it was cold and windy and there were only about 100 people at the auction. during the preview i was looking through a box of old picture frames when i noticed 3 signed paintings by an artist that i recognized. the auctioneer was not very knowledgable of antiques and sold the entire box of "frames" to me at $25.00. two days later, after a few phone calls and a short trip, (this was pre-internet era) i sold all three paintings to a collector for 35k.
not a huge amount of money by todays standards, but considered to be a good chunk of change in the 1980's. please understand that this does not happen on a regular basis, most acquisitions yield much less profit. a few examples off the top of my head:
fruit jar bought at flea market for $5.00. sold for 175.00
fountain pen bought at yard sale for $2.00. sold for 150.00
mouse trap bought at estate sale for $5.00. sold for 375.00
oil painting bought at auction for $8.00. sold for 750.00
fishing lure bought at auction for $35.00. sold for 1500.00
baseball bat bought at yard sale for $5.00 sold for 95.00
yes, this does happen every once and a while. if they are a regular client of mine i will try to sell the item back to them if it is still in my posession. if the person is not a "regular" i may offer it back to them at a modest profit.
it very much depends on the reason the person is selling. collectors who are downsizing or liquidating their collections will usually have a price in mind for their items. there is usually very little, if any, profit for a dealer in this type of transaction. many dealers will shy away from trying to buy from collectors for this reason.
people who are liquidating the estate of a loved one, who has passed away, will usually ask for an offer. when i purchase the contents of an estate, i do usually keep two or three pieces that i like or think may appreciate in value down the road.
an antique dealer who keeps everything that he (she) likes will be poor indeed.
in the past decade, with the advent of the internet, more and more people are researching the items they inherit. unfortunately, they then try to sell the item(s) to dealers at top prices and get upset when the dealer(s) will not buy. i always tell folks who try to sell this way to contact collectors not dealers. and, even most collectors will not pay top dollar for something unless they absolutely have to have it.
thank you for your question.
good question. the road show uses some of the most knowledgable appraisers in the country and they put on a good show. what is important to remember is that each show screens hundreds of items before they find 4 or 5 that have some real value. also, an appraisal represents a value for a given point in time. antique values go up and down dependent on supply, demand, trends, and even geographic location. for entertainment value, the road show has to spotlight the "high end" items that are usually appraised from a few thousand to hundreds of thousands of dollars. most people will never own an item in this price range. although it would be less entertaining, the show would be more realistic if it included more common items in the $20.00 to $1,000.00 range. real antiques dealers know that these are the type of items that people are most likely to have inherited or have laying around up in the attic. although i can't speak for all antique dealers, i think that most probably are not big fans of the road show since it gives the impression that the antiques trade is an all big money business. in fact, most of the dealers i know have second jobs to supplement their income. if i had a dollar for everytime someone called mistakingly saying, "i have the exact antique that was just on the road show" i could quit my second job.
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excellent question. a verbal story, by itself, ads nothing to the value of an item. but, a story with proof (or provenance) often increases value significantly.
an example would be, a nice lady tells a dealer that the gun she is trying to sell was given to her great grandfather by teddy roosevelt in appreciation for his help during a hunting trip. nice story but no proof.
but, if the nice lady shows the dealer an engraving on the gun that says, "with warmest appreciation, teddy roosevelt" and pulls out a photo of the president giving the engraved gun to her great grandfather....now the value has probably gone up quite a bit. gun collectors and presidential collectors will want this gun and the photo.
in my opinion, the antiques market abounds in fakes and reproductions. and, the online auction market has made it even easier for those folks who try to cheat, lie, and steal. (things that are sold online can be seen, but nothing compares to being able to touch and thoroughly examine the item you are buying).
i cannot think of an antiques category in which i have not seen a fake or reproduction. eveything from coins to car parts are being faked. i have heard that you can send a real antique item (let's say a rare 1877 indian head penny) to certain individuals in china who will then make you as many fakes as you desire. a novice coin collector, or even a beginner dealer, can be fooled quite easily.
there are antiques trade publications that try to keep up with fakes and reproductions. there are a few online sources also.
with rare pieces, the key to not getting taken is documented provenance. (early photos, appraisal histories, proof of ownership, etc.) major pieces are usually sold through the best auction houses (Cristies, Southebys, are examples) that have a commitment to honesty and authenticity.
the dealers best defense against fakes and reproductions is experience and knowledge. the hardest thing for an inexperienced dealer to do is WALK AWAY from what appears to be an incredible buying opportunity. the antiques highway is littered with the out of business carcasses of greedy dealers who failed to learn this lesson.
excellent question. you may want to check with your states laws in this regard. in new york, a license is not needed. you do, however, need a business certificate and a new york sales tax id number.
depending on your level of expertise, starting small is advised. eBay is a great way to get started and get maximum exposure for your items. there is also very little overhead when selling on ebay.
i personally do not recommend opening up a store. a store will take up a huge amount of your time and dig deeply into your profits. (rent, utilities, taxes, supplies, insurance, advertising, are just a few of the expenses that will drive you crazy)
a better choice may be to rent space in an antiques mall or co-op. less costly, and probably greater exposure to your items than a private store will provide you.
words of advice an old antiques dealer gave me when i was first starting out, "son you'll never become a millionaire in this business, but you'll have a hell of a lot of fun trying to." good luck to you.
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