General Question

Jude's avatar

Some days (like today), I think to myself that I'd love to pack it all in (work) and open up an antique store. What would I need to do to become a successful antique dealer?

Asked by Jude (31977 points ) October 12th, 2010

Bueller?

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9 Answers

Nullo's avatar

First of all, a good eye for antiques. Then you’d need to identify your supply of antiques (the nice old stuff is getting a bit scarce; since it lasts so much longer than the modern crap, people aren’t getting rid of it).

Presently my mom runs a booth in an antique mall. Her biggest challenge has been finding stuff that people will actually buy, and then pricing it well.

There is something of a food chain at work in the new-to-you sector: Amateur antiquers will browse estate sales and junk stores and put their goods on sale in their stores. Professionals will browse the antique malls for things that are actually antiques and buy them inexpensively. Then they’ll touch them up a bit and turn them around for fat profits. Then it sits in the new owner’s house until it either goes to a junk store or else is sold in an estate sale.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

Figure out what you’d be strongest as finding that is also in demand because a store needs to sell and make a profit for you more than you finding stuff you think is great and maybe will have a tough time parting with. Yours is the dream of so many of us who enjoy antiques, have collected more than we can house/gift and still want MORE :)

Tropical_Willie's avatar

A network ( antiques and collectibles ) and a great memory to price and compare different antiques. You need the network to find and buy antiques.
Also you need to like to communicate with the public ( buyers ).

lillycoyote's avatar

I had a co-worker who did exactly that. She was something of a dabbler, she had a booth at one of the local antique malls and did pretty well and one day she bought a piece of Cambridge Glass for $300 and turned around and sold it for $6000 dollars and decided to pack the whole work thing in.

She was very knowledgeable about glass. I think that it’s probably a good idea to find one or two or a few areas of speciality and narrow it down to those specific areas. I have a friend whose mother was an antique dealer and her main area of expertise was antique toys, though she managed to do pretty well with some other things too. There is simply too much stuff out there to make it possible for you to know everything about everything and you have to be able to “separate the wheat from the chaff” if you want to make any money at it. There are too many fakes, frauds, reproductions out there and too many variables not to specialize, I think. I’m no expert but, for example the same piece vintage glass or pottery, the same shape, pattern and style, and produced at the very same time could be worth $10 dollars if the color is red and $1000 if it’s in peach just because millions of the red ones were manufactured while only a few thousand of the peach ones were manufactured. Concentrating on a few area seems like it would at least be a place to start. I think it can take a very long time and a lot of experience on top of simply just having a knack for it, as @Nullo put it “having a good eye for antiques” I think that really does play a big role in being a successful antique dealer; I don’t think you can underestimate the value of that, ” the good eye” at all.

@Nullo LOL. I like the “food chain” analogy and what you describe seems to be an economic model unique to the business of antiques and vintage collectibles. Generally someone manufactures something, we buy it, we use it until it breaks down or is no longer useful, then we throw it away. The same vintage Fiestaware pitcher could be bought and sold and bought and sold, over and over, cycling and recycling it’s way through garage sales, thrift stores, flea markets, antique shops, estate sales, etc. in perpetuity, or at least until someone drops or chips it, probably making someone at least a little money each time it changes hands.

zenvelo's avatar

When I was young and first contemplated owning a stamp collection store, I was told “be careful, the store is not your hobby.” I never went into that business .

Business requires you to use your knowledge to buy something and then resell it at a higher price, you will be short lived in business if you buy what you “just adore” and can’t part with.

lillycoyote's avatar

@zenvelo On the other, I think antiquing is a business where it can help to “follow your heart.” There’s so much stuff out there that I think it’s best to go with the things you really like, the things you find beautiful and interesting and want to know more about. I don’t think there is a problem with trading in things that you “adore.” Just a problem with refusing to part with them when you are going to make a profit in selling them. As @Neizvestnaya points out, this is the dream of anyone who has as enjoyed learning about and collecting antiques/vintage/retro, it’s not about hitting the road with sample case and sales pitch about the superiority of your company’s ball bearings or widget remodulators, it’s about stuff you adore. But you’re absolutely right. It is a business if you want to make money from it, of course, and people need to understand that. Otherwise it’s just a hobby or a labor of love, or some other thing, but not a business or a way to make a living.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Ah, my heart goes out to you. How about starting small and working your way up? e-Bay might be a good place to start. A friend of mine is a photographer, and he often buys antiques as props for his photos. He then turns around and sells some of them on e-Bay for much more than what he originally paid.

Look for estate sales. So many people these days don’t live in the same city as a family member that passes away. I’ve often thought of starting up a business where I help them out by clearing out the house and taking a commission on what gets sold.

Based upon your schedule, take a part-time job or offer to assist in a local antiques shop to get a feel for running an independent business.

kevbo's avatar

A friend/acquaintance of mine recently did this herself. I don’t know her full story, but a couple of the steps were a) refinishing/repurposing pieces herself as a hobby, b) putting out a call to collectors/craftsmen (and women)/restorers, and artists to gauge interest in creating a consignment gallery, and c) securing the space. She did all this without any formal business training. Currently, she’s working her butt off, but I think she’s happy with what she has created.

You can check out her Web site or contact her here. (Her name is Kelly.)

CyanoticWasp's avatar

Just remember what old restauranteurs tell new ones (because the advice applies):

A restaurant is a great way to make a small fortune… as long as you start with a large one.

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