Archive for Education
Those of you who’ve read this blog over the years will know Ive offered lots of tips on how to become and antiques dealer. One of the important things to do is to get to know the people in the trade and network with other dealers which is something which takes time and effort just like making any other type of contact. Generally, unless they are trying to do a deal with you or you know them well, antiques dealers are grumpy and secretive. Its the way of the trade, knowledge is everything and you dont want to be giving it away to easily. Todays blog is about the things newcomers do which annoy the trade. Ive complied this due to real incidents which Ive witnessed or have happened to me recently.
Dont ask a dealer (unless you know them well)
- how much will something fetch, my knowledge was hard earned and Im not giving it away for free to a stranger. Would you?
- Ask them not to bid on a lot because you want it
- take a lot off someone whilst they are viewing it ( yes this happened to me)
- ask to borrow my catalogue as a refusal usually offends. I will have made notes in it and added prices and certainy dont want anyone else seeing it.
Dont talk to your friends during the auction . A couple of old ladies sitting in front of me chatted through the whole auction yesterday. Dont you know others are trying to follow the auction and hopefully buy something.
At an antiques fair
Dont say to the the stall holder:
- its cheaper on eBay
- Ive got a better one than that at home
- Ive got three of those at home
- Rubbish the item or its condition.
All stall holders at fairs expect to be made offers on their stock and 10% off in normal for the asking. Any more than that and you are doing well. Please dont make silly low offers , it only winds the dealer up and gets you no where unusually.
Its polite to ask first before picking up something form the stall and certainly dont let your kids touch anything.
If your trying to get a free valuation for an item
Dont ask me, I will always recommend you take the item to your nearest auction house as they do offer free valuations.
Dont offer to sell me something just to try and get a free valuation or price out of me. I know that trick and come across it several times a week.
If your trying to sell me something
Dont assume I or any other dealer will give you 90% of what you think the value is. The best you should hope for is 50%. Selling takes time and effort. Personally I have to clean and photograph every piece of vintage jewellery I sell. I the upload it to the website, take payment pack and post the item. I cant do this for £10 over the cost of the goods I would be loosing money at that rate. We all have selling expenses and many of us have to pay VAT out of the price we get for an item. We then have income tax to pay on the profit and yes a little profit left over for ourselves at the end is important
Dont expect me to come way across the country to look at some thing you have for sale, Its too time consuming and costly. Actually I dont go into strangers homes to buy antiques at all. Would you?
So yes, I know it sounds like Im turning into a grumpy old Anne but does a few manners and a bit of politeness really hurt ?
Ive two pieces of new costume jewellery here in front of me. Both of these pieces are new but have been made in vintage style to look like vintage jewellery. To a practiced eye it is immediately obvious that this necklace and this brooch are imitation vintage jewellery, copies of the original.
This necklace is in the lavalier style which is said to have first been popularised by the Duchesse Louise de La Vallière mistress of King LouisXIV of France. Most of the antique lavaliers we see today come from about 100 years ago in the earlier 1900s. The lavalier is a necklace with a pendant hanging from the center just like this one has .
So how do I know that this necklace is new rather than a piece of antique jewellery from the Edwardian era? To me the things that are wrong are the colours, the materials and the way some of the pieces are made and set.
This necklace is made of a bronze coloured costume jewelery metal. In the Earlier 1900s costume jewellery metal would have been brass coloured or silver tone. The stones in this necklace are the wrong colour and material too. In an original piece the stones would not have been made of plastic like they are in this necklace rather they would have been glass. The colours would have been red, blue, green or yellow. They would have imitated amethysts, aquamarines or pearls. I have never seen a real piece of jewellery from the early 1900s with brown coloured stones like there are in this necklace.
One more giant clue about the age of this necklace. Take a look at the clasp, this is the type of clasp known as a lobster clasp. These clasps are a later 20th century innovation and would never have been found on a piece of vintage or antique jewellery.
Heres a new costume jewellery brooch featuring a butterfly sitting on a spray of flowers. The detail is coloured in shades of brown and cream. If this was a genuine piece of vintage jewellery I would be putting it up for sale on antiquesavenue.co.uk as it is I think that sending this to a charity shop is more likely .
What is it about this brooch that tells me its new? The first thing is that its bright and shiny, in fact too bright and shiny. The colour is not vintage enamel or paint as it has a pearl lustre effect in it that is not seen in older jewellery. This paint is also relatively soft and thick compared with older enamels . Pretty but not vintage.
OK, You have decided you want to be an antiques dealer. Today I’m going to discuss a few ways into the business and things to think about before you start.
Different Types of Antiques Dealer
One of the attractions of the antiques trade is that you be very flexible with how you run your business. Antiques Dealers can be part time or full time. Trade from their own shop, at Fairs, Car Boots, Antique Centers, on-line or a combination of these. I will discuss each one of these venues in more detail in part 6 of this series. The decision about where to trade is down to the individual however it is influenced by the type of stock you choose to sell
Expertise and Specialisation
So what type of stock should you choose to sell as an antiques dealer? Firstly I would say choose to deal in what you are interested in, what you love and what you collect. You are going to spend a lot of time with your stock. To be successful you need to become an expert in your area, you need to have enthusiasm for your items to sell them. This would be quite difficult if you are trying to deal in something which you do not care for.
When I first started I knew that I wanted to spend all day working with beautiful old things but was not sure what to specialise in. I had hear advice from long term dealers to learn about one or two areas and specialises but found it difficult to choose. I bought all kinds of stock from small furniture, textiles, glass, ceramics and even modern collectables. This gave me a great broad grounding which serves me well today however I would probably have been more successful sooner if I had specialised sooner. The choice is yours. Having said that specialisation is the best way to be successful as an antiques dealer there are many thousands of general antiques dealers who will just buy up any stock as long as it is cheap and then pass it on with a small profit. It can be great fun but it requires an awful lot of hard work and long hours to make a living.
When you are choosing your specialisation think about the requirements of the different types of stock. Furniture needs a lot of space and a Van, Ceramics need to be stored and moved careful so they dont break and high end Antique Jewellery requires a lot of capital and very good security. Paper ephemera needs to be kept somewhere damp free – just to give a few examples. On-line trading needs good computer skills and you need to be very organised if you are going to make a living that way . Think about the stock and how you are physically going to handle and store it and the special needs your stock might have.
The type of stock you deal in will also influence where you trade from. The average antiques and collectables fair tends to be full of stalls selling ceramics, glass, Jewellery, textiles and smaller furniture. High end antiques fairs which set up over several days have more furniture as do the larger trade fairs such as the Newark antiques fair. If you are selling small specialist items then the Internet is a good choice as you can reach a far wider international audience.
You need cash to buy stock
I know this is obvious but the amount of money you have to start with will influence the type of stock you can trade in. You can of course raid your own collection for your initial stock or sell off some stuff you have around the house and is no longer required. Most dealers start off with a small investment in stock and gradually build up over time. You can go a car boot sale with just a few pounds in your pocket and hopefully make a small profit on what you buy. Starting so low is going to take a long time to build up enough stock to fill a stall at an antiques fair or an antiques center. It is pointless setting up your own website with less than 100 good items but you can sell just one or two pieces on eBay.
You will also need to invest in a few other things besides stock. Storage boxes and bubble wrap for ceramics and glass. Furniture polish? A trolley and for doing fairs. Display stands and price labels. Personally when I started my biggest investment besides stock was in reference books . Many of the specialist books can cost a lot of money. Starting at about £5 for a cheap reference book you can look to pay up to £50 or £60 each for the better specialist books which you will find invaluable even in these days of free reference on the Internet. Most selling venues will require cash up front too. This applies to setting up a shop, taking a stall at an antiques fair or center , your own website and eBay.
Knowledge and How to get it
To be a good antiques dealer you need knowledge including knowledge about your stock, where to buy and sell that particular type of stock . Its good to know other dealers in your area as well. Much of this knowledge takes years and years to acquire.
How to learn about antiques. There are courses, there are books, there’s the Internet (including this blog). Probably the best source of information is to find a dealer to teach you although you may find that their is a huge reluctance to just give away their hard to acquire secrets of the trade. I know a few people who have started by taking a job as a porter in an auciton house, that could be looked upon as an apprenticeship. For some the route into antiques dealing is via a fine arts degree for others its working in an antiques center. I started by doing a little trading and attending lots of courses. Next week I intend to write a specialist article on how to acquire the knowledge about vintage jewellery including courses, books and websites.
For general antiques courses you can look for evening classes locally. I went to an antiques evening class one night per week for about 6 years when I lived in Nottingham. Look in your local area . I also took a correspondence course in antiques and also undertook professional training to become a qualified jeweller.
The books you buy will to some extent depend upon your area of specialism but here are a few good general antiques reference works.
Millers price guides both the antiques price guide and the collectables ones. The values quotes are often a bit wide of the mark but they are great for just looking at objects which have been identified. Eric Knowles wrote a great beginners book called Discovering Antiques, I think this costs less than £10.
If you are looking at dealing in ceramics I suggest you invest in a marks book. Goddens is the best for British Pottery and Porcelain marks. For Precious metals and Jewellery you need a hallmark book such as Bradburys Book of Hallmarks.
Clearly I am going to recommend www.antiquesavenue.com as a source of information. eBay can be great for finding the price an items actually sold for by using the completed item price search. I use Google a lot both to search out specialist websites and to look up individual items. For example type in Vintage Jewellery and you will find antiquesavenue quite high up . Type in “antiques blog” or “vintage jewellery blog” and up comes this site.
Want to talk to Antiques Dealers on-line. Both Facebook and Twitter have active antiques communities. You can find me on face book as Anne Haile and on Twitter as AntiquesAvenue. On both social networking sites you can find other dealers who are looking to learn and to share knowledge. On twitter try following #antiques and on facebook look for groups / pages with antiques in the title. This equally applies to specialist areas just replace Antiques with the specialist of your choice.
As mentioned above you can now find other antiques dealers and enthusiasts on line. Those you meet in real life may well prove to be more useful and can become great sources of stock and knowledge. You can get to know other dealers by trading with them regularly, its easy to start up a conversation with a dealer if you have just bought something from them at a quiet antique fair. Hang around at real life auctions week after week and you will start to see familiar faces and get to know folks in the trade.
A big Mistake
I have known many people make one fatal mistake when starting in the antiques trade. They do not put their business on a legal footing. Trading on the black market is not the way to go if you want to grow your business. By setting yourself up as a proper business you can grow, failure to do so means that you stay very small. You can only take cash if you dont have a bank account for cheques or paypal payments and only taking cash can be very limiting. If you are selling items for more than a few pounds you need to be able to write out a receipt if you are asked to.
Talk to the tax man and trading implications for you. Learn how to do business accounts or get an accountant if necessary. I have seen so many traders who can only stick at the lowest levels of this wonderful business because they live in fear of the tax man.
That’s a few pointers before you start your career as an antiques dealer. Next week I will be talking about finding stock and about how to learn antique and vintage jewellery.
Do you love antiques, vintage or retro and like to be involved with it full time? Would you like to quit the rat race or make a little money on the side? Many dream of setting up their own antiques business selling either real antiques, or vintage / retro pieces, I certainly did. These days I find myself regularly asked about becoming an antiques dealer. How do you give up the day job and trade in old stuff all day? Well now I’ve decided to let you in on a few secrets about the trade and how to deal in antiques gleaned over many years in the business.
Antiques are technically over 100 years with vintage and retro being newer but not new. For the purposes of this series of articles I will talk about antiques and the antique trade but everything here is equally applicable to selling antique, vintage and retro items unless I specifically say otherwise.
Why is the antiques business different?
The Antiques business is difficult to learn and find advice on. Stock is more difficult to obtain than simply nipping into your local wholesaler or ordering over the Internet from China. Have you noticed how most antiques dealers do not go straight from school or university into the trade?Unless you are lucky enough to have an antiques dealer for a parent it is most likely that you will have had a long career before hand. Most of the suggestions and advice given here apply no matter which branch of the antiques or vintage trade interests you. You may wish to be a general dealer, Specialise in furniture , pottery , glass, Victorian Antiques or like me in antique and vintage jewellery.
There are one or two books on the antiques trade but not many, there is no given career path. Antiques Dealer is not a job you can find a vacancy advertised very often and the trade does have a slightly doggy reputation to be overcome.
How to start your own Antiques Business
Over the coming weeks I’m going to cover all aspects of starting and running your own antiques business including:
Things to consider before starting , the different types of dealer and specialising
Organising Stock and Care and Repair
Car Boot Sales / Flea Markets. Real life Auctions, Antiques Fairs and Antique Centers. Ebay and your own Website
Packing and Posting Antiques
Money and Profit
Networking and why other dealers are important
You many notice that I have not included running your own physical shop. This is because its the one way of selling antiques I haven’t tried. If any reader with relevant experience wants to write a blog entry for me on this topic I will be happy to publish it here.
So you might be asking what qualifies me to write about becoming an antiques dealer and why I would want to do this . Let me tell you more.
Once upon a time in the last century I had what I now call a proper job. Actually in the overall scheme of the world it was a glittering career in corporate IT. I had huge responsibility for money and people and spend much of my time travelling all over Europe, living on expenses and earning a huge salary that many years later I can only dream of. Sounds glamorous and exciting? Yes I had the Corporate executive job title and perks in household name companies you will all have heard of but I wasn’t happy. I spent my weeks slaving at work and my weekends spending the salary to compensate myself for having to be miserable during the week. Sound familiar? I know there are thousands of you out there just the same.
By my early 30′s I began to realise that earning as much as I possibly could was not going to make me happy, the glittering career is not everything. I felt that it was all pointless and that I needed to get out. My hobby was antiques ( I had been fascinated by old and interesting stuff since I was about 8 years old) and antiques was what I wanted to do.
Now as I mentioned earlier becoming an antiques dealer is not something you can go on a course for or where there is a defined career path. This is something that I had to work out for myself and it took me about 12 more years before I was in the position to resign my career and make the full time leap of faith into antiques. During those 12 years I spent nearly all of my spare time working towards becoming a full time antique dealer
This series of articles will be based on the experiences of those 12 years and in the 10 years since I finally did move full time into antiques. I’m going to tell about what worked for me and what didn’t. Where I made money and where I lost it. Where time was well spent and how to waste months for no progress. You may wonder why I’m telling all this. Am I not creating my own competition? Maybe but one thing about my competition is that they are vital for my business. We need each other which is why I have dedicated a chapter to networking.
I hope you find something of interest here and if you too are thinking of entering the antiques trade do leave a comment and tell how you are getting on.
This is the final part of my guide to dating you antique pottery. Here is a look at manufacturer Trademarks and how to decipher them.
If you are planning to decipher lots of backstamps you will need reference books and websites which can help – I will list these in the next post. Before these websites and books can be of any help you need to read the backstamps.
Backstamps come in several varieties: hand painted under or over glaze, printed under or over glaze, incised, molded and impressed are just a few which spring to mind. It is useful to tell the difference as any one manufacturer may have used different methods at different times in their history. For example
Derby have hand painted backstamps in the Victorian era and printed ones nowadays.
How to date a pot from the marks on the base?
There are a wide variety of potters marks placed on the bases of pots. Just try turning a few over and see what you can find. You can buy books and find internet sites which help to trace the manufacturer and date of manufacture from these marks ( more on this later) – in the mean time here are a few ideas which should help without the need to go any further.
The Word England was placed on the base of pots as the country of manufacture was required by the McKinley Tarriff Act from 1891. Pots with England on the base will date after this time. This was upgraded to Made in England circa 1920
Words like “ Ltd” after the company name and the word “Royal” or a Royal Coat of Arms will mean that the item is Victorian at the very earliest as would a pattern name on the base of your pot.
Oven Proof, Microwave Safe and Dishwasher Safe are all later 20th Century inovations a Bar code on the base would never be found pre-1970s.
Bone China, Fine China are both 20th Century and I am told that Great Britain is a mid 20th century term.
Do you have any more general rules that I can add to this list?
Part 3 of “How old is my Pot” will cover looking up the date from the manufacturers trade marks
You can now study for a Degree in Antiques Auctioneering. This course is being offered by the University of Wolverhampton who say: