Collecting antiques can be a fun and rewarding hobby on many levels. It doesn’t have to be a hobby that breaks the bank. Not all antiques belong in the British Museum & there is much more to the hobby than buying low and selling high.
Collecting antiques is a lifelong hobby for many. People collect an innumerable number of different items and no two people I know collect the same thing. I watch people everyday walk by my store without stopping in because they see the sign that says antiques and they assume incorrectly that everything in an antique store is expensive. This just isn’t true. Especially within the last several years.
Sure, I have some items that are offered in the store that cost more than others. You might say some are expensive. The prices are determined by cost, rarity and condition as well as other factors. Some things just cost more. However, there are many items in my store that are very affordable and a great value.
Bargains can be had anywhere and many times when you least expect them. In the past I have shopped flea markets and thrift stores and found many valuable items. Garage sales, estate sales, and auctions can also be surprising venues. To take advantage of them in the past, you had to have amassed some amount of knowledge about antiques and collectibles. Now, everyone can be an “expert” with their phone. All you have to do is look it up online.
Ah, ha, but there is a catch. The sellers are all doing the same thing now. Before the items go out to the yard for the sale, before the thrift store adds the items to their general inventory, everyone looks them up online. The trouble with this is that people usually use the highest price they see as a reference and tag their items the same.
This doesn’t work for either party. The high price online could be just a fishing expedition. The seller may not have known what their item was worth so they just marked it high to see what happens. Some antique dealers will say if it sells too fast, the price was too low. When using an online source for pricing info, use the sold prices. This tells you what similar items actually sold for. Also, take location as well as the date of the sale into account.
Two similar items will sell for two different prices when offered in say New York City vs Titusville, FL. Use this info to your advantage when shopping at flea markets or thrift stores. You can talk about their price and show them a range of lower prices for the same item and then make them a fair offer and they might just take you up on it.
Also you might get a better deal on an item if you select several items to purchase at one time. Some would call this “bundling”. This also brings up the art of asking for a deal. Haggling is a fine art that takes some time to get right. Some stores, or sellers love to haggle, others not too much. Try to pick up on cues from watching people deal in different ways and see what works. Just try not to offend and if you make an offer and the seller accepts, you need to complete the deal and buy the item. Don’t leave them hanging saying, you just wanted to see how low they would go. You probably won’t get another chance with this seller.
Also if you frequent a store or booth often, you will get a feel for what items have been hanging around for a while. Some sellers will take a lower offer if the item seems stale, and they are looking to add new merchandise. They will sometimes accept making less on an item that’s been there a while or even sell it at cost to move it along. This will take some luck as if you wait too long, some other buyer may be watching the same item and make their move first!
To know a deal when you see one, know your items within your chosen subject matter. For instance, if you have decided to collect vintage battery operated robots, you have to do your homework. You need to learn the manufacturers, the countries they originate from, the years they were produced, the variations of each one, and the pricing trends from researching online auctions and using price guides when available and current.
All this homework will put you on top of your game when you are out looking and you will recognize a good deal when you see it. Also consider that if you are buying for your collection, you may also consider buying an item in less than perfect condition, planning on trading up when a better one is available. You may also find you may be willing to spend a bit more, since it is going into a long term collection, rather than trying to flip it in a sale.
There are some real bargains out there for someone who is patient and persistent. I have bought many items over the years that I acquired for a bargain price. Sometimes you have to buy a small grouping or collection to get that one choice item, and then sell off everything else.
If you take the time to put in the work, there are rewards out there waiting to be found. One example is a serigraph I bought at a thrift store for less than $40 that turned out to be worth several hundred dollars. It also turned out that I like it so much, I don’t want to sell it.
This is all part of the hobby. Enjoy the process and when you do find that special item at what seems to be an amazing price, you will enjoy the satisfaction of adding that item to your collection all the more sweet. Good luck and happy hunting.
Visit our contributing author, Ed Kindle at Five Katz Antiques.
OPEN M, W, F & SAT at 4509 S. Hopkins Avenue in Titusville, Florida.
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Hi I'm Kathy, owner of Vintage Finds Magazine. I hope you enjoy these vintage shops and markets.