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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 great.

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 them.

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 area.

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 very far.

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 negotiation.

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 of questions.

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!

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