Aimee's Tips on Buying Antiques and Collectibles

How Do You Sell An 80-Year-Old Bed Pan?

A dealer friend of mine had all these old broken, wooden parts chairs he was going to burn when a lady driving by spotted one, stopped and said she just had to have it. His curiosity caused him to ask what she was going to do with it. "Well, plant flowers in it silly, isn't it obvious?" was her response. Well Dutch didn't fall off the potato wagon yesterday and he began digging all those chairs out of the trash pile, knocking the seats out and planting flowers in them. He tells me it's the hottest selling item he has. And at every auction, it's always old Dutch who buys all the broken chairs no one else wants.

The old adage "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" was never more applicable than it is to the antique and collectible trade. It never ceases to amaze me what others find appealing and I've noticed that others are not so enamored with my special treasures as I am. I usually don't hold this against them because I've learned that there is no accounting for personal taste.

Fortunately this is the saving grace of the industry -- there are also thousands of others just as intrigued with old inkwells and pens as I am. In fact, some are intrigued to the point that I've sold quite a few for some very heft profits.

After you have been doing this a while you will come to the point where every old item that inadvertently passes your way gets an inquisitive, some would say strange, scrutiny. Those stricken with this disease are all around you right now. You just didn't know what the problem was that they have. They're the ones who you'll see staring at an object for minutes and sometimes hours oblivious to their surrounding, and who sometimes loose all sense of time and space. Occasionally you'll see them led around by the hand of a caring friend or maybe yelled at by an exasperated spouse. You'll know them though because you'll become one of them. It's like that. You don't get into the business, it gets into you. But you'll get used to the finger pointing and the children laughing at you in the market place when you deposit all those checks from those in the more advanced stages of the disease

I said all that to say this: don't throw anything away and don't let anyone around you throw anything away. You see how beneficial the business already is? You've just done your part for recycling. Al Gore would be so proud.

How To Miss A Target At 10 ft. With A Shotgun

When I was a child my dad used to take me hunting for quail. I'll never forget the excitement of having the ground suddenly come alive under my feet with the sound and flurry of a large cubby of quail rising higher and higher in their frenzied escape from sudden death. I say "escape" because I usually shot a whole box of shells by days end and had not one bird to show for it. My dad on the other hand, a game bird hunter of extraordinary ability, would always bag his limit. The difference he was fond of telling me was shooting at one bird at a time instead of just shooing into the fracas of flying targets.

The same is true of the antique and collectible trade. Pick one category out at a time and don't try to learn everything about everything. The industry is too large to learn it all even in two lifetimes. Find something you really enjoy and then learn as much as you can about it. I can't emphasize the importance of this principle enough. Once you feel that you have a grasp of an area you like, then move on and expand your knowledge to another of interest to you.

This was some of the best advice I received form the old timers and has proved itself time and time again. Try not to yield to the temptation of buying something you haven't researched first. Don't put yourself in the position of buying something from someone who knows more about the item than you do. It may seem like common sense to say this but when you think about it the whole antique and collectible trade is built on this situation. But if you think that is pathetic, wait until you see how many dealers don't know what their doing. Hardly a week goes by where I don't walk into an antique mall and find items I know something about either under priced or overpriced. If the discrepancy between the price they're asking and what I know it is worth is great enough in my favor, I'll offer to buy it cheaper (haggling is a favorite pastime of dealers) and usually they'll drop it another 10-20% more. "Why would they do that?" you ask? Because more often than not a dealer prices an item based on what they paid more than any other factor. And doubling the price for retail is also standard industry practice. They're almost always willing to drop it some. To put it another way, I've never bought a collectible without asking for a discount and I've never been told I couldn't have some price discount. In fact, the sticker price of 95% of all items for sale in antique malls takes into consideration some sort of discount. The industry standard is 10%. I've gotten and given myself as much as 30%. And everybody still made money. Amazing, huh?

In the antique and collectible business, knowledge truly is power. Those items I buy in antique malls, I usually bring straight home an put up for auction on eBay. I have yet to loose money on a single item sold through eBay. That's quite a statement I know, but it's absolutely true

So How Do You Get This Knowledge?

Well I've already stated there is no substitute for experience. That being said, let me also say you don't need a lot of money. You can do this most easily by using other people's life time experience. People with a lot of knowledge tend to write a lot of books and publish papers and write articles. It's extraordinary how much you can learn from other people. I've provided a list of the best price guides, web sites and various other sources that are used by a lot of us dealers not too proud to admit there is more to learn in this ever-changing industry. Use these sources only as a guide and not as gospel. It's a fast track with new people coming to an interest of buying collectibles all the time. This can cause rapid price changes both up and down but mostly up.

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