Antique Buyers Guide
Buying antiques is different than any other hobby. Not only
do you invest money into (hopefully) valuable items, but you
learn about their history and, in turn, U.S. and global
history. A trip to an antique mall can be a fascinating journey
into the history of artisans in this country and others.
This hobby can be a real education and understanding that,
you need to know that research is involved to minimize the
risks. You should do some research on any in which you are
planning to invest a significant sum of money. Most of us are
acquainted with the Latin phrase “caveat emptor.” It translates
to “buyer beware.” Though often applied to other circumstances,
that mantra is particularly wellsuited when applied to antique
purchases. Sellers often lack details regarding the items they
offer (especially in those wonderful situations when real
bargains are a possibility).
One often does not have a reference library at their
disposal when they stumble upon a potentially amazing addition
to their collection. Sales are usually made with a strict “no
return policy.” As such, an antique buyer must arm himself or
herself with great information prior to making a significant
purchase. The risks of doing otherwise are simply too
In addition to researching your purchases, you should
carefully select the dealer you are going to purchase from.
There are some guidelines to follow when evaluating the quality
of an antiques dealer. First, you should look at the quality of
the merchandise. Someone with high quality merchandise
obviously knows what they are doing. They have the knowledge
that is necessary in finding and caring for desirable antiques.
Additionally, this shows that they are serious about being an
antique professional. They have taken the time to learn about
the items and only invest in quality.
Secondly, you should search for a dealer whose primary
business is dealing in antiques. Often times, shopkeepers may
have a small section of antiques and fill the rest of their
shop with newer items. It is more desirable to purchase from a
shop that is full of antiques. Also, purchasing from someone
who has a shop rather than someone who has a few items for sale
is a better choice. If the antiques dealer has taken the time
and the effort to establish a physical location for their
business this speaks to their longterm intentions. These
shopkeepers have made antiques their business and are committed
to selling high quality items.
Additionally, you should ask more established antiques
collectors for recommendations to their favorite dealers. Since
word of mouth is the best advertising for antiques dealers is
often best to follow the advice of a more experienced buyer.
Excellent antiques dealers will have a reputation that precedes
Keep in mind that there will always be one or two people who
don’t like a particular dealer. Do not to let individual
opinions make a difference in your opinion of a dealer. Look
instead at the widespread opinion of a particular dealer or
store. Now if you have three separate sources that have had a
bad experience with a dealer that is a different matter.
Finding antique shops and antique shows can also be a problem
for the beginning antiques collector. Fortunately, since
antique shops have unique items they are less likely to compete
with one another. As a result they often have shops next to
each other creating a little “antiques district” in a city.
Unlike other retailers, antiques shops encourage their
customers to stop by other antiques shops and will often
provide maps and other free literature about shops in the
There are many popular newspapers, magazine and newsletters
that can guide you to antiques shops and shows. Most of the
time these publications are regionally based and cover the
state or county’s antiques market. The Antique Trader and
Antique Week are two national antiques publications.
Negotiating with antiques dealers can be an intimidating,
but necessary, part of collecting antiques. The approach you
take when negotiating with dealers makes all the difference in
the reception that you will get. If you start out by attacking
the dealer or the piece in question your negotiating won’t go
On the other hand, a lighthearted, fun approach will produce
the friendly banter necessary for a good negotiating session.
If you stay friendly and simply ask if the dealer can give you
a better price, you will more often than not have a successful
Even though negotiating is fun, set your limits wisely. If
you can’t get the item’s price down into your range, its best
to walk away rather than pay more than you can afford. Above
all, get to know the people behind the antiques and ask a lot
Antiques dealers are in the business because they love
antiques. They enjoy informing other about their latest finds
and talking about great deals. If a dealer likes you and enjoys
conversing with you, this can mean they will offer you better
prices down the line.
Shopping for antiques is one of the most enjoyable aspects
of the hobby. However, purchasing these collectibles can be
akin to navigating a mine field. One must be knowledgeable
about the items they are seeking and should take all due care
to buy from a quality and wellregarded dealer. Knowledge is
power, and that power can transform “caveat emptor” from a
warning to a rallying cry!