Antiques and collectibles are big business—on eBay, the collectibles category alone had a gross merchandise value of over $2 billion dollars last year just in the second quarter. The e-commerce boom has only fueled the industry—sellers are no longer limited to local audiences, and buyers are no longer limited to local dealers. You can find things that you’d never run across in your lifetime, from people all over the world. Buying or selling online isn’t really that different from buying or selling in a brick-and-mortar store—people want the same type of information and need to ask the same questions.
Pam Wiggins of ChicAntiques.com suggests numerous learning resources for someone who wants to get into the antiques business but knows nothing about it:
• Use the internet—there are lots of great websites, such as Antiques.About.com.
• Read books on antiques and collectibles.
• Join various online collecting groups. Says Wiggins, “You’re going to learn a whole lot in a short period because you’re interacting with other people who are very experienced. They will answer your questions.”
• Attend actual shows and ask questions about items that interest you or that you’d like to learn more about.
Wiggins recommends, “I think it’s a good to…get your footing in one or two areas, then branch out and start learning about other things…There’s so much to learn [that] I think it builds your confidence if you can feel like you know a lot about one thing.” Choose a narrow specialty—don’t try to become an expert in a really broad category like “dolls” or “glass.” Instead, specialize in “depression glass” or “carnival glass”.
How to Get the Best Prices When Buying and Selling
Becoming knowledgeable in an area enables you to recognize a bargain and estimate what different pieces will go for in different markets. When buying, Wiggins suggests, “Don’t be shy about asking for a discount. In the antiques business, it’s not only accepted, but it’s expected, so do ask for that.” People that know you’re buying to resell will usually take that into consideration.
When selling, remember reserves don’t always work well in the antiques business. If you feel confident a piece will bring a good price, you may want to start the bid fairly low. However, if you’ve invested a lot in your wares, you may opt to start the bid with the price you’re wanting. Always keep in mind what the market will bear and look at the completed items to get an idea of what you can expect.
It’s important to have a good photo and description—post shots from multiple views, and if there’s any kind of authentication mark, be sure to get that as well. People will want to know the age, quality, and condition, as well as any flaws that might affect the value.
If a piece is extremely rare or expensive, you may want to consider having it appraised. However, items worth even $1,000 aren’t usually considered worth the expense of a written appraisal. If you have no idea of the value of an item, you can submit a photo to What’sItWorthToYou.com, and for $9.95 they’ll give you an assessment of it’s value and answer your questions.