How To Be An Antique Dealer Part 2
How To Act At Antiques Shows
This is part two of a series on how to be an antiques dealer. Part one explained the best way to start an antiques or collectibles business. In this article, I will introduce you to two pests, and show you why being a friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable dealer at antique shows will pay off in the long run.
Are You Friendly, Helpful,
and Knowledgeable Antique Dealer?
Or are you a pest?
I went to a toy show recently. Just hanging out selling trains, socializing with other collectors and antiques dealers, and trying to find something to spend my money on. I failed to spend any money, but otherwise it was a good day.
Here's some advice on being a better antiques dealer.. .
Dealers Who Share Advice And Knowledge Build Relationships
At many of the shows people come up and ask me for advice. They have questions about trains they are considering purchasing, and seek me out because I've been a dealer at the shows for decades.
Talk about an ego boost!
Over the course of the show, I helped a few people make decisions.
One person asked me if there were supposed to be holes in the top of an item. This newsletter isn't about toy trains, and I doubt many of you care, so I won't go into the technical details, but there are supposed to be holes.
Anyway, the man was asking about the holes because someone else had told him there were not supposed to be holes. (I will call this advisor the pest from now on.) The dealer didn't know enough about the item to answer the question, and getting advice from an outsider seemed like a good idea.
After this happened, I watched the pest. This individual was going around the show giving lectures. In all cases the pest did nothing more than spout information from books. Worse than that, he'd interrupt conversations between dealers and shoppers, and probably ruined a few sales.
The pest doesn't have a lot of trains, and hasn't spent years examining and studying them. His only qualification is he has read some books. (Note: Since the original version of this article was written 7 years ago, I've watched this pest. He doesn't seem to have any friends at the shows, rather he has people he forces his "knowledge" on. He doesn't attend many shows anymore maybe because we tend to ignore him.)
It was like looking into the past. Not a vision I liked either.
You see, I used to do this same thing back when I first became a dealer. Walk up to people talking about items, and interrupt with a lecture spouting my book knowledge.
In fact, I was probably more irritating than the pest because I was a teenager. After all, everyone knows teenagers think they know everything!
Anyway, we all have our dark secrets, and now you know one of mine.
I used to be a know-it-all.
Actually, I didn't know it all. Looking back, I just wanted to fit in. I must have decided the way to fit in was to exhibit my "superior" knowledge.
Back then, I had very little actual hands on experience as a collector or dealer - just what I'd read. (Today I know much of what the books say is wrong, but that's not relevant to this discussion.)
Over the years, I have stopped giving unsolicited advice. And, I never give lectures unless I am asked to speak in front of a group. Even when I speak in front of groups, I try to share my experience rather than expound on my knowledge, and I also consider the interests of the audience when tailoring my speeches.
Because I am not forcing myself on others, I have gained respect. Today people seek me out for my advice.
We all know people like the pest. For me the big turning point was learning to listen. It was learning to give people JUST the information they wanted.
Knowing How Much Information To Share Is Vital
I'll give you an example from Saturday. I was asked about the originality of an antique toy train. I could tell from the description it probably wasn't original without even going over to look at it, but I told the shopper I doubted it was real, and had never heard of the variation he was asking about.
When I did go over and examine the piece, my opinion was it was not assembled correctly. Therefore it was not original.
The questioner was not interested in learning how to tell an original from a fake. He was only interested in knowing if the piece was original.
Rather than give him a lecture on the evolution of the item in question, I pointed out a few glaring inconsistencies as a basis for my decision, and left it at that.
The pest came up while I was looking at the item, and seized on one of the inconsistencies I mentioned, then started in on a lecture about type I and type II wheel sets. While I understood what the pest was talking about, this meant as little to the shopper who asked the question as it does to you.
As I was walking away someone commented on the pest's actions. That got me started thinking about how I used to behave, what had changed, and how these changes effect me today.
How To Shut Pests Down
At a recent show I was talking with a woman who had a 1926 era Lionel train locomotive when a pest came up and started spouting his book learned opinions. I let him babble for a while and then asked him how many of that specific train did he own. He said he owned none of them, but he'd read a few books.
I whipped my photo album with pictures of my collection out and said, "I have three of them. See." and then turned to the woman and let her look at the photos so she could see them. This captured the woman's attention and the pest walked away because he wasn't getting attention.
Today, I am accepted within the dealer community more than I ever was before. Years ago, I started saying hello to everyone I saw at the shows and using first names when I remembered them. I think that was a big step. Just being friendly.
I started treating people at the shows differently, and stopped seeking validation based on my knowledge. I concentrated on being friendly and helpful when asked.
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Let me tell you another dealer horror story. . .
I saw two men fighting a few months ago at a train meet. They were not hitting each other, just arguing and cursing at each other.
One of the men is a major pest. The man asks for advice, then gets upset when the advice is not what he wants to hear.
He is playing the same game I used to play, but rather than just going into lectures, he baits people into making statements he disagrees with so he can argue with them. (He knows very little, and is quite good at creating arguments about nothing important.)
This foul-mouthed argumentative pest has gotten quite a reputation within the local train community. His prior victims ignore him, and his tirades against his new victims are getting worse.
This man is obviously seeking acceptance and validation, and getting ostracized for his behavior. He has no social skills.
It's just sad. Heartbreaking really.
(This man was thrown out of the train club for stealing a few years later. During his arguments his wife was stealing things from other dealers.)
The Joys Of Being An Antiques Dealer
One of the joys of collecting is the fellowship of other antique collectors and dealers. It's being a part of a group of people with similar interests. Because we are social people, we need this fellowship.
How we act within the group determines how other dealers react to us. It adds much to the enjoyment of our collections.
Also, being friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable will help you add new and interesting items to your collection or for resale.
Antique dealers will seek your advice when they have unfamiliar items for sale.
This puts you first in line to buy items. For example, I sold a box of trains to a collector Saturday morning without even offering them to anyone else. I don't know if I got top dollar for the box, but I knew what I paid for them. I also knew he would enjoy them.
He got some trains he wanted, and I got some cash. We both walked away happy.
This article has really been about networking. Just as others seek me out for advice, I seek the advice of specific individuals. I look for friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable people.
I made a decision years ago to seek out these friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable people. I made a decision to be a friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable dealer.
Articles in this series on Becoming An Antiques Dealer:
Additional Articles about Antiques Dealing:
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