Antique dealing is always a friendly business, with endless opportunities to learn something new, great prospects and always that golden dream of hitting the jackpot. This month I will look at the structure of the antiques game, and give some advice on the smarter ways to set up.
Every city and most towns in the land, have established traders mostly making quite a decent living in the antiques business.
The Skills Required
In order to know what any given object is worth to a dealer, or a private collector, you need very good knowledge of that area, and the ability to check out the details before you buy.
Many dealers develop an “eye” for quality and sales appea, and buy all kinds of goods, thriving on variety. This can be a big disadvantage.
In my view, specializing always pays off in the long run. Firstly, you can get a reputation as an expert in just a few years, and secondly, you can “plug in” to your own little network of suppliers, dealers, collectors and speciality auctions. Thirdly, you will quickly learn where to go for research.
The largest sectors of the trade, deal in furniture, fine art (paintings and prints) and ceramics (pottery and porcelain). Competition is fierce, and you really must know your stuff if you want to avoid buying stock which nobody else wants, for some good but unobvious reason.
Other smaller sectors include the horologists (clocks and watches), silverware dealers, jewellers, glassware dealers and the sale of early weapons, armour or guns. In recent years, oriental carpets have had a great revival, and have joined the ranks of firmly established specialities.
Then there are the mini-specialities, all of them competitive areas in their own right: dolls and nursery furnishings; pipes and smokers’ requisites; old postcards and greetings cards; buttons; small wooden articles of every description, old mechanical items from musical boxes to balance scales; lace and early clothing. War items are also in great demand.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
The antique trade is run on very informal lines but it’s organized into armies, in which all the dealers are highly independent mercenaries. Here are some guidelines to help you use the system:
All dealers tend to hoard some of their best finds, but the dedicated collectors are compulsively hooked into a particular area. They usually work from home, buying their stocks by placing small ads in local papers, and attending house clearance sales, or auction rooms.
A collector/dealer will be very tight with his or her money, and know the precise value of anything they want to buy. If you get to know local characters and seriously want to sell items to them, you need to equip yourself with as many good sale room catalogues as possible, so you know the value of everything you sell to them.
Other dealers plan their year’s trading around the top-class antiques fairs and tradeshows. The more valuable their stock, the fewer sales they need to make in …