Antiques are not everyone’s idea of making a living. Unless you are an antique dealer, you’ve probably never thought of making money with antiques. For most of us, a piece of antique jewelry or furniture, or any other vintage item, is a tool of self expression, something that we like to keep for as long as possible. However, it is not a bad idea to introduce the business dimension into your passion for antiques.
Tips for Buying Antiques
You may not like to sell antiques as a full time business; but what happens when, due to any reason, you need to sell a particular item? Can you sell it for more than what you paid for it? If yes, you will make some money selling it. On the other hand, if your purchase price was higher than what the item is selling for, it means that you paid more for it than it was actually worth. In other words, you can only make money from antiques if you buy right. Here are a few tips to help you spot the right kind of antiques and buy them at a good price:
- If you know little about antiques or the particular item that you want to buy, never let your ignorance show. There’s no shortcut to building up your knowledge about antiques. Antiques are such a vast area that even seasoned collectors specialize only in limited types and time periods. So, don’t get under-confident if you know next to nothing about what you are buying.
- When you are interested in buying a certain item, do not refrain from touching and feeling it. Pick it up, observe it from different angles, use a magnifying glass to inspect it more closely. Never feel hesitant to pick up, touch and feel anything at an antique store, stall, auction, or sales event.
- The prices of antiques are hardly set in stone. In fact, most dealers keep a margin for negotiation in the price that they quote. The margin is at least 10%; however, certain items can be bought for less than 50% of the quoted price. As a rule, you should always negotiate.
- There are many negotiation techniques that you can use. Before you ask the dealer for the price of a specific item, you should decide in your mind what you are willing to pay for that item. If there’s a difference of more than 50% between what you think the item is worth and the price being quoted, there’s probably no use negotiating. You should be prepared to walk away.
- If you have no idea how much an item is worth, it’s a good idea to make a counter offer of around 50% of the price the dealer has offered. This may compel the dealer to shed the extra margins and make another counter offer that is between the original price and your counter offer.
- Another negotiating technique is to offer the dealer a take-it-or-leave-it price. When you like an item and want to buy it, but the price being quoted is much higher than what you like to pay, you can make a last-ditch effort by offering the dealer one final figure. If he makes a counter offer, you should not budge. Make it clear to him that the price that you have offered is the maximum that you are going to pay.
- As a rule, never be drawn into making an offer for an item before the dealer has told you its price. When a dealer is unsure about the true value of an item that he might have bought very cheap, he might ask the customer to make and offer in order to assess what price he should quote. If the dealer insists that you make an offer and doesn’t quote a price, walk away.
- After you have negotiated the price, never pay with cash right away. Take out your cheque book or credit card. Just as the dealer is about to accept the mode of payment, ask whether there are any discounts if you pay cash. Always take a receipt of your purchase, regardless of your payment method.
- Always buy antiques from reputable dealers. In the UK, established dealers should possess the membership of either the British Antique Dealers Association (BADA) or the Association of Art & Antique Dealers (LAPADA). Although the antique sector is unregulated and you should not expect any guarantees, shopping with an established seller will make sure that you are not sold something fake. You can also find the provenance for most of the items that these dealers sell, which makes your purchase somewhat secure.
- Never buy antiques with the aim to sell them. Instead, buy the ones that you like and would be happy to keep for years to come. In the world of antiques, certain items can become more valuable as years pass.
- Always try to buy the furniture in its original color and built. Check for restoration marks, such as machine work or circular cutting. You must ask the dealer whether the piece has been repaired or restored. Original Georgian and Regency desks and drawer-chests are a good investment right now, if you are looking at a 10-year timeframe.
- Look for rare and unique items. Try to pick up pieces that look out of place in a particular stall or store, such as a brass candle stand in a furniture store. Go for something quirky and noticeable, an item that you’ve never seen before. For instance, this unique 1901 Gustav Stickley plate rack was assessed at $4,000 to $6,000.
If you memorize the above-mentioned tips and follow them whenever you are buying antiques, chances are that you wouldn’t be overpaying on your purchases. The antiques that you buy at their correct value or slightly below that are likely to become more valuable as time passes. There have been cases when an item bought for a few hundred dollars has been sold for a few thousand. You never know when you may get lucky!