Archive for Trading Antiques
Everyone loves a bargain but how can you spot a real bargain when looking for vintage jewellery? Heres a few tips for seeking out a real piece of jewellery from the past at a special price. Spotting a genuine bargain does not mean looking for the cheapest piece available. A cheap old brooch can be purchased for no more than £5 but that does not mean its a bargain if it will never be worth any more.
Gold and silver jewellery is very expensive at the moment compared to the past due to the high price of the metals involved but if you hunt carefully there are still pieces of vintage jewellery about which are real bargains . These are pieces which are not high fashion at the moment but may become so in the future. I have several ideas about pieces which are undervalued at the moment and so are real bargains. This article will be looking at bargain vintage brooches.
The gold bar brooch
Bar brooches are not as fashionable as other brooches. Todays fashion would be for figural brooches in the shape of an animal , bunch of flowers or a stylish geometric art deco brooch. The bar brooch is long and thin and is usually set with a central decorative piece such as a gemstone. These brooches original from the early 1900s and are normally found made of gold or silver. It is gold bar brooches that I think should be snapped up. They have little weight for their large size as they are long and thin. Due to the lighter weight the gold bar brooch is cheaper than a circular or figural piece. Imagine a real gold antique brooch for less than £40, they are about if you know where to look.
Here is just one example of a gold bar brooch you can find in AntiquesAvenue’s Victorian brooches section:
This antique brooch is made of 9 carat gold and set with a central amethyst glass stone. This is a very smart piece of Jewellery which would look good on a business suit or similar, I include a picture of what it would look like on emerald green as an example.
This is a genuine antique brooch dating from the Edwardian era in the early 1900s. It fastens with a simple C catch and measures about 4 cms long. What a bargain for a genuine piece of antique gold jewellery.
Vintage brooches in bulk
As with most things in life you can get bargains if you buy in larger quantities. I do occasionally offer collections of vintage brooches which are at a bargain price per brooch. Another option is to go to auction and buy a whole lot of brooches, each one will be much cheaper than if you buy it individually. Another way is to ask the dealer for a discount if you buy several at once. For example my prices are fixed for just buying one or two items but ask nicely and buy more than three pieces at once and I would normally be able to offer you a small discount.
A third are to look for bargain vintage brooches is crfatsman made pieces. Jewellery. These are pieces of vintage jewellery which have been lovingly hand crafted and have taken many hours to make. Originally these pieces would have been quite expensive when purchesed new . Now they have become vintage and have passed between several owners their original value and cost has been forgotten.
It is possible to spot craftsman made pieces buy looking carfefully for the signs of handmade piece. Here are a two clues to look for:
- signed on the reverse even if you done recognise the signature. Here si do meqan signed rather than with a mass proiduced manufacturers mark.
- Made from silver or enamel, these tend to be the craftsmans materials of choice
Its not always easy to find the vintage jewellery you are looking for, even on sites like mine where items are organised into categories such as cameos, vintage brooches or stick pins. The search box provides a useful tool when you are looking arround and with almost 2000 items there is a lot to choose from. Here are the top 30 searches where I dont have a category for the items this year on www.antiquesavenue.co.uk - I have the statistics from Google in case you wondered how I know . Its been fun putting together this top 30 searches so at the end of the year I will compile a top 50 Jewelelry items actually purchased during 2010
No Surprise here
2. Opal Ring
Now it was a surprise to find opal ring at no 2. Opals are beautiful and one of my favourite gemstones but they are quite soft and not the most suitable stone for a ring as the surface wears easily. I personally would prefer and opal bracelet – you can still see the opals whilst you wear the jewellery but they will not get damaged so easily.
Now this is interesting, antique to me means pre 1920s but charm bracelts in the form we know them today were not really common until after this time. Charms were of course made in large quantities but they were not often seen hung in quantity from a silver bracelet.
An all time favourite
The Victorians often worn a matching pair of bracelets, one on each wrist. I think this would look great today too.
A favourite gift. Most of the pearls you see today are either costume jewellery or cultured pearls. A good cultured pearl necklace is probably the best option as a lasting gift or glass costume jewellery pearls to wear occasionally.
The gift of parted lovers – Mizpah : may the Lord watch between me and thee when we are parted one from another.
Popular in the 1960s and 1970s and back in fashion now. Gold charm bracelets can be a great way to build a large piece of gold jewellery over time.
These are often purchased as gifts. I find men buying them for their wives on the birth of their first child .
10. Monet Jewellery
A surprise to me , I didnt know Monet Jewellery was that popular. I must look out for more.
Rose gold has a lovely warm pinky/ red colour created by the addition of copper into the gold . Normally nine carat gold. This type of gold jewellery is often from the early 1900s.
Everyone loves a bargain. AntiquesAvenue has a sale section, not much in it at the moment but watch out in January I have something special planned
For the “old” part of “old, new borrowed and blue”. How about an old and blue piece of jewellery to fill two of these at the same time?
A favourite gift from wives to husbands and also bought by work colleagues for men. I know because my customers tell me so.
15 Fob Spinner
Fashionable this year following vintage Theme films such as Alice and Sherlock Holmes where gents wore waistcoats and pocket watches
Are these sought after because they are cheaper or due to the romance of vintage I wonder?
The popularity of vintage engagement rings has rise in the last few months, since about June this year. Now that Price William has given his bride to be a vintage engagement ring I expect that these will be in greater demand than ever.
A perennial favourite. These are quite collectable, especially antique sentimental brooches such as Name brooches and floral brooches or even silver brooches with locket backs
Now I think this search comes from our friends in the USA. In the UK I see these charms referred to as moving charms rather than articulated. These charms are ones where they are hinged or linked together so that the parts move whilst you are wearing the bracelet.
20 Silver Ingot
The 1970s jewellery icon . A silver ingot with large hallmarks. I remember them from when I was a teenager, wanted one at the time but couldn’t afford it. Now I can afford one I wouldn’t want to wear it – typical.
A smart choice for gentleman to go with a smart suit on a posh evening out.
I am surprised that this search was not much higher as enamel jewellery always seems to sell well. One of my personal favourites.
These are getting harder to find as they should be in pairs and the two have often become separated. Dress clips are meant to be worn on a neckline one on each side .
Now I have written about butterfly wing jewellery before. It ahas a lovely blue iridescent colour. I worry about where the butterflies came from although I am told they live a natural life and are collected after they die. This sort of jewllery is quite fragile and is ruined by a drip of moisture.
Another surprise – why is this not higher? Nearly 50% of the jewellery I sell is vintage silver.
Great fun for a party night or wearing to the office.
Lots to choose from but getting a bit expensive as the price of gold goes up.
Note to self – buy more of these , not something I often have in stock
29 Large brooch
Oh yes, a statement piece of jewellery. Something to provide a talking point or to liven up a dull out fit.
Dating from the 1830s to 1901. There is such a huge range of Victorian Jewellery available at reasonable prices. Antique jewellery from the Victorian era can be found from about £30 to many thousands of pounds. AntiquesAvenue has an antique jewellery section with lots of Victorian Jewellery.
If you are going to run your own on-line antiques business then packing and posting is a chore you need to become expert at. I’ve spent over 10 years packing items and in that time have sent over 15,000 items so hopefully I have learnt a few valuable lessons along the way. This article discusses smaller antiques and collectibles including packing and posting glass, china and antique and vintage jewellery and are particularly relevant where the parcel will weigh under 2 kilos.
Packaging your antiques
Your packaging needs to balance cost, weight and time to pack against the security of your item. The package has to be as small and light as possible to minimised posting costs and the cost of the packaging itself. At the same time is is false economy to use packaging which does not keep your item secure in the post as if your precious antiques break along the way you will have to refund your customers.
One general point, the packaging you use should be in good condition. Dont re-use boxes and bubble wrap if it is worn and tired as it is not as effective in protecting your wares. A return address on the back is sensible as the occasional undelivered package will find its way back to you.
Pottery, glass and other breakables.
The Royal Mail recommend double boxing of all china and glass using at least 2 inches of bubble wrap between the two boxes an all over the actual item. This is expensive in packaging and can be quite costly in packaging. Over the years I worked out that you need to have a single box which is at least 2 inches larger than the item on all dimensions. The item should be wrapped with a few layers of bubble wrap and then make sure that the space all round is well padded with bubble wrap too. The item should be packed quite tightly giving no space for it to move.
If you are packaging a large and delicate piece such as a figurine or a coffee pot with a delicate spout then I recommend that you do go for the double boxing option.
Where you have two or more items to send in the same parcel take extra care. Every pioece needs to be individually wrapped and these pieces must not touch each other or breakages can occur. Be especially wary of cup and teapot handles and give them extra packaging and space.
Jewellery and other tiny objects
I pack my antique and vintage jewellery in small individual card jewellery boxes which come with wadding inside to pad them. Inside the box each piece is in its own small grip lock pollybag. If necessary I pad the space between the jewellery and the top of the box with bubble wrap . This box then goes into a padded bag or Special Delivery envelope depending on the value of the item.
I use the Royal Mail for all my items . If like me you have large quantities to post you can get an account with them saving the need to add stamps to every package . Details of Royal Mail business accounts are on their website.
Ceramics and glass are not insured against damage in normal post and so you either need to pay for the insured Special Delivery or take a chance that your packaging is good enough. Pack well and you will get only the occasional breakage.
I recommend that you use at least recorded delivery. This covers you for loss up to about £30 and you get a signature when the item is recieved. This way your customer cannot claim that the item has not been recieved when it really has. I would use this service for cheaper vintage costume jewellery for example.
For more valuable items there is Special Delivery where the items are guaranteed for next day and can be fully insured.
The post office will scan in the recorded and special delivery numbers and print these out on your receipt so that you have proof of postage. If any item goes astray or is delayed you can enter this number into the Royal mails “track and trace ” system and hopefully find the parcel.
You need to add a few extra stickers to your package going overseas. Presumably you will be using airmail, surface mail takes too long and there is therefore an increased risk of damage. You package will need an ”Air mail” sticker and unless it is large a “Small packets” sticker as well ( you can hand write this if necessary). For packages going outside of Europe you will also need a Customs form available from your post office. I recommend that all small items are sent for by ” International Signed for”. This service is insured and gets a signature from the customer upon receipt. You can also use the tracking number on several international postal service sites. For example if sending a package to the USA the USPS website allows you to insert your Royal Mail tracking number and follow up the status of your parcel.
Other postal services
The Royal Mail is not the only delivery service you can use but is probably cheapest for parcels under 2 kilos. For larger items there are lots of courier companies who will allow you to send single items or regular consignments. Take a look round the Internet and compare the options to suit your needs.
Your own antiques business, selling stock part 11- online sales
In the previous part of my guide to running your own antique or vintage business I talked about selling your stock through off line venues. Today its the turn of on-line venues 1. eBay, 2. setting up your own website 3. Other options.
I’m starting this section as it is probably the best place for a would be on-line antiques dealer to start selling their pieces. For general antiques and collectibles the main place to sell is on eBay. I sold antiques, collectibles and vintage jewellery through eBay for almost 10 years and although it was very hard work I did manage to make a living that way. This is not going to cover the mechanics of how to sell on eBay but more when eBay is suitable for selling them and what to look out for .
What is ebay good for:
- Selling just a few items ( selling a lot is time consuming but quite possible). At one time I was running up to 60 auctions a week this really was a 7 day a week effort,
- Selling very rare collectable item ( if you get it right the price can still go very high)
- Selling smaller items ( you can post worldwide)
- Named brand items eg Antique Wedgwood or Limited edition collectables
What eBay is not so good for:
- Every day run of the mill stuff such as grannies old plain china tea set ( car boot or local auction house for that)
- Lots of big items ( you will spend all day packing – I know I’ve done it)
- Technophobes – you need good photographs and you must be able to use e.mail, a website and still need a paypal account
- If you need the money immediately – auctions take a week and then you have to wait for the buyer to pay and for paypal to send you the money
- If you have no time to spend on the selling process
What to look out for:
- Practice selling and build up some feedback before you auction off your best moorcroft vases or anything valuable
- Good Photographs sell you item and write a good title for it
- Make sure the buyer pays you before you post your antique and check that paypal has cleared the payment for shipment
- Pack the parcel as if someone was going to play football with it – you dont know what is going to happen in the post
- Send the parcel by registered Post, Special Delivery or International Signed for service to make sure that you are covered against the parcel going missing and fraudulent buyers.
- Research which category you are going to advertise your item in – look through the Antiques, Collectibles and Pottery, Porcelain and glass sections to help you decide which gets the most adverts for similar items
2. Your Own Website
Given eBay a try for a while? Mastered all the on-line selling skills necessary? Feel you are ready to tackle the Internet on your own? Want to own a site like antiquesavenue.co.uk? This is a great opportunity for those who have a defined area to sell in such as Antique jewellery , art pottery, antique furniture, postcards or linens.
There are plenty of companies around who will sell you an off the peg web shop or build one for you. If you ask me the best way to start is to buy an off the peg site as you can expect to pay set up fees and your first months running costs for less than £100. Running costs for a basic shop are about £25 a month . Sounds easy and it is easy to set up a basic shop if you have mastered all the skills necessary for on-line selling. You will also need:
- Your own domain name . Choose something which reflects the items you sell. AntiquesAvenue was chosen many years ago when I was selling general antique pottery, glass and antique Jewellery. Now I have specialised it may not be so appropriate but at least it doe have the word antique in it and is a much better name than Anneshop.co.uk for example.
- A merchant account for accepting debit and credit cards. You can start without this but accepting credit cards will get you more orders and is really expected by customers today.
Setting up the shop is just a small part of running your own site. You now need to attract customers to your site. If you have a large customer database of existing customers you can mail them otherwise you need to advertise your site. The main way of advertising webistes on the interenet is to use the Internet search engines and in the main search engine is Google. There are two types of listings on Google : paid for and free listings. When you first start out you may consider buying adverts from Google as it takes a long time and a lot of skill and effort to get onto the first page of google’s free listings so that you can be found. The art of getting onto Google first page of free listings is known as “Search Engine Optimisation” or SEO for short . If you are thinking of opening your own website I suggest that you consider learning about SEO or consider paying an outside company to do this for you. SEO is complex and one of the reasons I write this blog is to help with the SEO of my web shop www.antiquesavenue.co.uk .
Other ways of finding on-line customers are through the social media such as facebook and twitter.
3. Other options.
There are other options for selling on-line. For example I could sell through this blog by adding paypal buttons or setting up a post about an item and asking interested people to contact. Alternative websites to eBay exist but I have never had much luck selling on them. Probably the best is Etsy for vintage clothing and jewellery and if your stock is attractive to American customers try Ruby Lane. I tried eBid but never had any success there myself. Before paying your money research to see if there are lots of items like yours on the site already and try and find out what is actually selling. Some of these sites will sell you a slot but they dont actually have many visitors who will buy.
Whichever on-line selling channel you try you will have to be comfortable spending many hours behind the keyboard and I know that is not for everyone. Me – I love it . AntiquesAvneue.co.uk is going to the next level before the end of August with my own customised shop rather than just a basic one which I have modified myself.
Your own antiques business part 5 – selling stock
Selling your antique or vintage items is such a vital part of your antiques business that I am splitting this part into 2. Today I am going to talk about selling in real life venues and next time I will talk about selling on-line including eBay and your own website.
There are several real life ways of selling your antiques including :
Car Boots sales,Flea Markets, Antique Fairs, Antiques Centers, Auction Houses.
I’m not covering setting up your own antiques shop as I dont have any experience with this.
Selling at Car Boot Sales and Flea Markets
Suitable for when you have lots of low grade vintage / antique items which you want to move on quickly and cheaply. Car Boot sales are a good place to learn about selling but dont bother if you only have higher value stock. You can get rid of your household junk to help raise money for antique stock.
There is not much difference between selling at car boot sales and flea markets. Check out the local car boots and flea markets in your area. Its worth looking through your local paper to find these and ringing up to find out when they are on, what time you need to turn up, how much do they charge you to have a stall and if you need to book in advance.
Your do not need to stick price labels on your stock for these venues but you should have a rough idea about how much you wish to charge for each item. Take lots of small change and lots of supermarket carrier bags or other packaging suitable for your items. Potential purchasers will sometimes walk away if you cannot give them change or provide packaging.
You will normally have to provide your own table at a car boot sale but many flea markets will provide one for you.
Take care early on of dealers wanting to “Help You ” unpack or ask if they can rummage through your stock before you manage to get it out of the car. The pieces they are after will sell anyway so there is no panic to sell to the pushy ones in the first 10 minutes. I have been know to put my tables out and then lock up the car and walk away for 15 minutes until the initial panic is over. This avoids precious pots being broken or small items being stolen whilst you are looking elsewhere.
I spent many years selling at antiques fairs nearly every weekend and I loved it. There can be a great buzz at fairs, setting up your stall to make it look attractive and then the anticipation of selling your antiques. There are many different types of fairs from single day fairs which cost less than £50 to take a stall up to the largest multi day fairs which can cost Thousands to stand. Some of the larger fairs are date lines and or vetted. Date lined fairs require you to only have stock which is before a certain date. This date varies from fair to fair – check with the organiser they will advise. Vetted fairs have a team of people who will check your stock before the fair opens. They check that the stock for sale meets the dateline of the fair and perhpas that the stock is all labeled with a correct description.
Perhaps before you jump straight in you should visit a few fairs and look for a fair where they are selling stock with a similar price range to yours.
Things to check at the fair or ask the organiser:
When is the fair and how much is a stall. Stall prices will sometimes vary depending on where you have the stall within the fair. Its your choice but stalls with their backs to a wall are always popular with stall holders as are stalls on the ends of a row.
What dates are the fair and what time you should turn up. At most fairs the stall holders turn up two or three hours before the fair opens. If this is the case you should do too otherwise you will not get set up in time.
How much space do you get for your money? What tables are provided and can you hire more if necessary? How many of your own tables can you put out?
What electricity is provided? You need lots of light to make vintage jewellery or glass sparkle and to show up pottery. Take portable lights, a couple of adapters and an extension cable.
Things to take to the fair:
Stock ready labeled with prices. Wrap it up well and transport in strong boxes .
Tables and portable shelves. Clamps to hold the shelves onto the table if you intend to stand the shelves on the tables.
Glass display cases if you are selling antique jewellery or other small precious items
Table cloths, display stands for plates, cups and saucers, books
Packaging from your sold items. A personal note here – I hate stuff wrapped in Newspaper. If I am spending £10 or more I want it wrapped in bubble wrap not a grubby and torn piece of old newspaper.A supermarket carrier bag will do.
A note book and pen to write out receipts and record sales in. Business cards if you have them but you can start your business without these and just write down your name and phone number if asked for your contact details.
Spare price labels, some will come off and you may wish to re-price some items during the sale.
Change, notes and coins.
A hot flask, food and reading matter especially if you are standing the fair on your own as you will find it difficult to leave the stall
As you can see there is a lot of stuff to transport to the fair. I found a trolley invaluable to help with the transportation. You will find most other dealers use one too.
Selling through antiques centers can be profitable and it is something you can do along side standing at an antiques fair or selling on-line. Find out where the centers are in your area and pay them all a visit. In the past I have had stalls in 5 different centers. At one point I had stalls in three centers at once which was probably not a good idea ( see the final paragraph on mistakes to avoid).
Selling though centers you avoid a lot of the personal contact with your customers which you get at fairs. This can be both good and bad depending on how well you deal with people.
Things to find out before choosing you antiques center.
What stalls or cabinets are available and what is the cost options. You will normally find there is a fixed charge and the antiques center may take a % of every sale.
At some centers you just pay a flat monthly fee but are requires to spend some time working in the center each week for no wage. This is a great way to learn about antiques and other antiques dealers, if you have the time its well worth looking at this type of center.
How much space do you get? Are any stalls / cabinets provided or so you need to provide your own?
Ask how and when you get paid . This varies between centers .
Take a look round the centers at different times of the week. Are they busy? Also are they open on Sundays? If not I would consider going elsewhere as Sundays are popular days for trips to antiques center. If centers are very quiet at weekends you will probably not sell much.
Take a look around , are there other dealers selling stuff the similar to yours. This can be good as a lot of the same stock attracts customers BUT can your prices stand the competition.
The center owner or manager is unlikely to be completely open about your chances of selling much in their center. Their job is to rent out the stalls.
Selling through Auction Houses
These days I sell through auciton houses rather than taking my low grade stock to car boots. I dont have time for car boots nowadays and selling through auctions is a quick and easy way to off load stock even if it may not be the most profitable. I have written extensively in the past about real life auctions , look here for my guide to selling at auciton
A few mistakes to avoid
We all learn through experience and in these articles I am trying to pass some of mine on . I’ve made quite a few mistakes in the past, I hope this helps avoid them.
- Do not try and do too many fairs or take on too many stalls at antiques centers. Rents are costly and you can only sell each piece of stock once. If you price your stock relatively cheaply it will sell quickly and you do not need to have so many selling venues and are not paying out so much rent. At one stage I had stock in three centers and was standing an antiques fair most weeks. The rents I needed to cover were so high that I had to price my stock quite high and then it was not selling. It took me several moths to realise the problem and the solution. I dropped down to selling through one center and only taking a stall at the most profitable fairs. At the same time I dropped the prices of my stock a little. I managed to sell almost the same amount with vastly reduced overheads and made more profit for less effort.
- Watch you stock there are thieves about and they will try and distract you.
- Label your stock well, you do need to know how much to charge at a fair and you may not get paid for sold stock in a center if your name is not on the piece.
Next time I will look at selling on eBay and setting up your own website.
Your own antiques business part 4, Organising stock, care and repair.
Stock is at the center of any antiques business. I once knew an old dealer who said that cash in the bank was no use to him at all, having the right stock was far more important. Personally I wouldn’t go that far but you do need lots of stock to have an antiques business. Once you have purchased you need to prepare it for sale which involves:
i) Get it in a fit state to sell ( care and repair)
ii) Organise it so that you know what you have for sale and what you have sold.
To my mind this is one of the most tedious parts of being an antiques dealer but I have learnt the hard way that it is entirely necessary.
Care and Repair of Antiques
This may well become a whole series on its own, today I am just going to introduce the subject or care and repair of antiques you wish to re-sell.
Hopefully most of the items you buy for re-sale will be in excellent condition and at the most need a light clean. Nice clean stock will sell better than grubby pieces especially if you are selling on the Internet where dirt looks really bad in photos. Buying damaged goods for re-sale is probably best left for those who intend to go into the restoration business and sorry there is not much I can tell you about this but there are plenty of specialist courses which can help.
So I suggest that you clean but do not restore your antiques for resale. Cleaning means just removing excess dirt not necessarily making it as shiny as possible. You do not want to remove Patina which is often seen as desirable. For example a really black piece of vintage silver jewellery can be given a light clean but if you use silver dip it will look very bright and too new for many collectors. Some materials such as Bronze can actually be ruined by over cleaning.
Do take the time to learn how to clean your antiques properly, water can ruin some pieces but for other antiques such as glass it may be the ideal way to clean.
Learn what restoration and over cleaning of your chosen material looks like and try not to buy these pieces. A practiced eye can spot restoration on ceramics, jewellery, furniture and other antiques.
Once your antique is nice and clean you need to store it properly until you sell it. Damp cellars have ruined plenty of paper goods. Ceramics need not to be knocked or dropped ( I once let a Royal Worcester vase I had paid over £100 for roll out of the back of my van).
Over the years hundreds of antiques will pass through your hands. From my years as an eBay dealer I have almost 10,000 feedback and since not every purchaser leaves feedback this gives some idea of the numbers involved if you choose smaller items to sell.
The best way ( and one required by the Tax man I think) is to allocate a sequential number to each item. You could start each year with a letter if the numbers are going to get large. As most of my stock comes from auciton I allocate a number to each invoice and then a sequential number for each item within this. The item number is attaches to each piece of stock.
A word here about sticky labels, in general these are not a good thing to attach to your stock. Sticky labels often leave marks or pull the paint when they are removed. So called peel-able labels tend to peel themselves off and you loose your stock numbers. This also applies to sellotape which I have sometimes seen used to attach a price label. Better are labels with string tags which you can use to tie on. Jewellery and small collectables can go into grip lock bags and a sticky label attached to the bag.
I keep my stock in sequential order so that when piece is sold I can find it easily. Selling on the Internet only these day this works for me but if you sell from a venue where you need to display your antiques a different system will be required. Once you sell the piece remove the stock code label and stick it in your sales book or write down the number. Believe me you will never remember what you have sold after the end of a long day at a busy fair.
Whatever you are selling you will need to find a good way of organising your antiques, labelling them with a sequential number and making sure you can find your stock when you need it. How frustrating for you if a customer is wishing to purchase and item and you have to spend hours searching through boxes to find the piece. Worse still is not to find it at all. Been there, done that, learnt to become more organised!.
Part 3 of Your own antiques Business – How to find stock
This is one of the most important parts on my series on running your own Antiques Business. Finding the right antique stock (and paying the right price for it) is the most difficult skill to acquire when running your own antiques business. If you pay too much for your stock you will not be able to sell it at a profit. If you buy the wrong stock you will find it difficult to sell it at any price. And if you have too few stock items you wont have enough to fill a stall at a fair or antiques center or a website.
I will come to how much you should pay for your stock in the ninth part of this series Money and Profit, this article looks at the venues or where you can buy your antiques.
If you are a regular viewer of TV shows about antiques they will always encourage you to haggle hard when you buy antiques or vintage. Yes you should be able to get a discount off the ticket price but there are good ways to go about this and ways which you should avoid. This series is to talk about running a long term business not about how to grab a one off bargain. When you can hope for a larger disount is if you buy several items at the same time from the same dealer.
For your business you need to get plenty of stock at a fair price which leaves enough room for a profit for yourself. Don’t expect to pay £5 for items that you can sell for £100 or more very often. If you can double you money you are doing very well . Dealers paying £5 for items may well be just looking to sell them at £10 with the occasional lucky break on top. If you simply go treasure hunting hoping to pay next to nothing for an antique worth thousands you will most likely never buy anything.
Running a long term antiques business involves building rapport with other dealers not trying to know every last penny out of them. Ask for a disount and even ask for a little more if you like but that is enough. If you keep pushing you will get a bad reputation and you will not get the first pick of good stock in the future.
Please, Please do not run down a dealers stock to try and get a better discount. Unless you are trying to sell something to them, Stall holders at fairs do not need to know that your Auntie or Grandma has a bigger or better vase, a more colourful collection of vintage jewellery or a whole house full of wonderful Georgian chairs.
At most venues cash will get you a better discount than paying by cheque and plastic is simply not taken by many. Take your own bags and packaging to car boots, antiques fairs, and auctions – you will be glad you did.
Car Boot Sales & Flea Markets
Many vintage and antique buyers start out buy trawling round car boot sales and flea markets . Bargains can be found but personally I find them too time consuming for the amount of genuine vintage and antique items you can find . Local Car Boot fairs and Markets are normally listed in the local evening paper each week. Arrive as early as you can. Find out what time buyers can get in , ring up the venue in advance and make sure you are there on time. The best bargains go early.
A good strong bag with plenty of plastic carrier bags and lots of small change help you no end at car boot sales. Is there stock on the floor in boxes? A quick check in these can occasionally reveal a little bargain or two. Some antiques dealers trade week after week at the same car boot sale, I find they often have one or two nice little pieces at fair prices and are worth getting to know.
Haggle a little at car boots and flea markets if you like but personally if someone is asking £2 for a brooch I know I can sell for £20 I just say “Thank you” and pay up.
Antique Fairs, Antique Centers and Antique Shops
Buying at antiques fairs is similar to buying at car boots but you will be looking at higher quality stock – how much higher depends on the particular fair you choose to attend. If you have chosen a specialist area of antiques to deal in you may well be able to pick up some great bargains at antique fairs. I can and I know several other dealers who find them a good source of stock. With antiques fairs I generally find the bigger the better for buying. Look for the large antiques fairs at Lincoln and Newark. If you have never been to one of these I really recommend that every novice antiques dealer makes the effort.
The difference between fairs and shops is that you will normally be dealing with the owner of the stock at a fair however in a shop or antique center you may well be dealing with a sales assistant who will not have the authority to deduct any more than a 10% discount.
At both fairs and shops look carefully at the price ticket. As well as the price you may see some of the following:
T ( followed buy a number) this indicated the amount of discount . For example T 5 means you could get £5 off the price just for asking
NT means No Trade or no discounts allowed.
A/F means either At Fault or As Found. In either case it means that the dealer knows there is damage to the item and is being honest by telling you so and has normally prices the antique accordingly.
I love real life auctions, they are my favourite way to buy. Not only can you get stock at a price you can make a fair profit on you can learn a lot about stock and get to know other antique dealers. I have written extensively about buying at auctions - Antiques Auction Guide.
For the purpose of buying antiques, collectibles and vintage on the Internet there are just two parts to the Internet. eBay and Everything else.
I have written extensively in the past on buying on eBay so today I will concentrate on the Internet outside of eBay. My favourite way to search for items for sale on the Internet is to use the Google search bar. Type in what you are looking for and hit the enter button. Hopefully you will be presented with a few sites to take a look through. There are two types of site viewable in Google results i) those who have paid to be places on the search results page and ii) those which Google selects for you as being the most relevant to the search term you have entered. The paid for results are shaded in yellow at the top and are in a column down the right hand side. Normally it is best to skip the paid for results and look at those which Google finds to be the most relevant, probably you will too.
For example lets search for Vintage Jewellery . You will find AntiquesAvenue shop very close to the top of the results Google has selected for you. Can you buy antiques and vintage stock for re-sale on the Internet? Well I have lots of trade customers who come back to me regularly to buy stock. If you want to buy quantity I will happily offer you a small discount just as I do for them. Take a look around antiuqesavenue.co.uk select the items you would like to buy and then e.mail me with a list of the titles and I will get back to you with a trade price. Please note you will need to be buying quite a few pieces of antique jewellery or Vintage Jewellery At once as discounts are not available for single item purchases.
Many antique Dealers enjoy bying privately and get a lot of their stock this way. I have tired this and dont do very well this way and so rarely take up offers to puirchase individual items. When you are offered items you will sometimes find that the potential vendor is not really wanting to sell the items at all , they just want to know how much an antique dealer would be prepared to pay. They will almost certainly turn down your first offer. I also find that they will offer the same items to several dealers to try and see who will pay the best price.
Wherever possible try and get a receipt. You will be offered one automatically when you buy at auction and you will get an invoice from eBay. At antiques centers and in shops and from website based shops like antiquesavenue you should always get a receipt automatically as well.
At other venues it is wise to take a receipt book with you or at least a pad of paper and a pen for the vendor to write a receipt on. Where you cant get a receipt you should write one out for yourself;f when you get home. For example at a car boot when you get home list you purchases on a piece of paper writing out how much you paid for each item and put the date and venue on the receipt too.
The receipt serves two purposes, you will need it for your accounts and also it proves who you purchase the stock from It is particularly important when buying stock privately that you obtain a receipt – you dont want to be accused of buying stolen goods do you. If you cant obtain a receipt and are at all in doubt about the origin of the pieces you are buying then I suggest you walk away. I once met a dealer who had been arrested for having a stolen wardrobe in his shop, strange but true.
Wherever you choose to buy your antiques stock - Happy Hunting
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.