Learn to buy and sell antiques and collectibles

How To Be An Antique Dealer Part 4

The Tools of A Successful Antiques Dealer

This is part four of a series on how to be an antiques dealer. Part one explained the best way to start an antiques or collectibles business. Part two explained how to act at antiques shows. Part three covers 7 habits of succesful antiques dealers. This article considers dealer attitudes.

Many antiques dealers make their lives much harder than necessary. They just don't have the tools to really succeed. Most of them are blissfully unaware of their shortcomings and don't even realize they are loosing potential profits. Others know something is wrong because everything is difficult. It's an uphill battle.

These two tools can help you succeed in your antiques and collectibles business. To make this more interesting I'll share some examples with you.

I make an annual trip to Prescott every summer. Itís a chance to get out of the 110 degree weather, buy and sell some trains, and socialize with other train collectors.

The club that puts on the show does a great job, and most of the people who attend have a good time.

I say most people, because some people just donít get it. That brings me to the first tool of success. . .


Sure this is business, but if you cannot allow yourself to relax and have some fun, you might as well get a day job. For many people this is an extension of their hobby. Being so serious takes a serious toll on their enjoyment.

I am amazed at the number of dealers who have a bad day when sales don't meet their expectations. They get all bitter and bitchy.

This is a good show and sales always meet my feeble expectations, but I go to have fun. After all I could sell the stuff on eBay. I go to socialize and have fun.

Check your attitude at the door and have some fun. You will live longer.

The second tool of success is Knowledge.

I saw a guy at the show trying to sell an item he bought from me three years ago. Actually, he bought two thinking he could sell one at a profit and get most of his money back. In order to try lowering his cost on the item he is keeping, he has tied up $200 for three years.

He is caught. He bought the items from me for their then current value, without knowing that the bottom was dropping out of the market. In fact, prices have continued to drop, and I would price a similar item today at half what he paid.

But he is still trying to get 1.5 times what he paid for it.

That sounds confusing so let me say it in dollars. In 2001, he paid $400 dollars for two items he thought were worth $600. Today the same items are worth 100-125 each, and he is still trying to sell one of them for $300.

This is a lack of knowledge. Plain and simple. The man is not aware of current values and trends in toy train prices.

This works the other way too. I bought an item for my collection at the last show for $75 from a dealer with a full time business buying and selling toy trains. Itís easily worth $300, and might even be worth $400.

I am not selling it, but it proves the point. Knowledge is powerful. I would have paid the seller $300 for it, if he had asked for that much. He lost money because he didn't know what he was selling.

Knowledge is power.

How To Get Knowledge

Knowledge is only learned two ways.

  1. By doing things yourself, then looking back to assess the results
  2. By learning from others.

There is no other way to gain knowledge.

The best way to learn something is by learning from others AND doing it yourself while paying constant attention to the results.

Here are some easy ways to improve your knowledge

  1. Get price guides, and read them.
  2. Spend time looking at eBay auctions. Completed auctions too.
  3. Subscribe to magazines and newsletters within your area of expertise.
  4. Visit with other collectors and dealers and build relationships with them.
  5. Decide what kind of risks you are willing to take and start broadening your focus.
  6. Do eBay consignment sales - they are a great way to learn about items. I donít sell single items on consignment, I only do collections on consignment. When you sell a collection of items, you get to handle the items, and see exactly what they sell for. You get paid for learning.
There are two tools of success. Check your attitude, and build up your knowledge. This is the only way you can succeed.

Articles in this series on Becoming An Antiques Dealer:

Additional Articles about Antiques Dealing:


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