The Best Places To Buy Antiques & Collectibles

turkey plate  The Best Places To Buy Antiques  Collectibles
Where Are The Best Places To Buy Antiques & Collectibles?

You'll get different answers from different dealers when you ask them where to buy them, but I have a suspicion it's more personal preference than anything else. I say that because almost all dealers do the same things:

Estate auctions
Yard sales
Estate tag sales
Buy from other dealers
Flea markets
Shows and fairs

You can get some great buys at any of these places and you can get tarred and feathered as well. The rule is be careful, buy with knowledge and don't believe anything you're told. Well maybe 3%, but no more!

We'll take these on one at a time.

Estate Auctions
I have to admit these are my favorite. They're fast paced, get-out-of-my-way action that people either love or hate. With the loud speakers blaring, the pushing and bumping, the bad food and the items coming at you fast and furious, you don't find many people there who haven't made their minds up whether they like it or not.

To the uninitiated the whole affair looks insane. And yet there are all those people oblivious to their weirdness shaking numbered cards in the air with one hand and looking at some strange item on a wagon with the other. I've taken friends to these affairs who try to avoid me now like an Amway salesman. I guess it scared them. Me, I'm in my element there.

Here are a few fundamentals to remember about auctions.
1. Get there early to give yourself time to check out the items. I can't tell you how many times I bid on something without previously looking it over closely and got burned.

2. Always have your price books and other related material in the car. This will come in very handy on questionable items you hadn't expected to find.

3. If you want to bid on an item make sure you get the auctioneers attention. Don’t lay back to see how high it will go for. He'll say "sold" before you know what happened. If you are interested in an item at any price, get in early and the auctioneer will always look back at you before he sells it. You can always say no, but at least you're in control of your bidding and you won't lose an item because you weren't "in."

4. Don't get caught up in "auction fever." Make your mind up beforehand on what you want to pay for any item and then stick to it. There is nothing like paying too much for something you wanted to take the shine off of it.

5. Know your auctioneer. They are all as different as snowflakes. No two are alike. Some are better, more honest and reputable than others. I recommend attending an auction of any new ones without buying a thing or very little. See how he or she works a crowd. Are they quick to pull the trigger or do they find it painful to say "sold", knowing there might be one more dollar to be made.

Here is a tip: Start the bidding out if you see the sweat breaking out on his forehead because no one is opening the bid on an item. It doesn't have to be much, just a dollar to get it rolling for him. He will thank you by closing a few items you really want your way with a quick "sold". Call it professional courtesy or whatever, it works most of the time. There's no better friend at an auction than the auctioneer.

Other than these fundamentals of auctions, plan to spend a long time there. This I admit is the single biggest drawback to attending auctions. But if you learn to like them as I do, they can be entertaining as well as profitable.

Yard Sales
Ever meet someone addicted to these? It's sad, isn't it? By all other accounts these are perfectly normal people and yet come Friday and Saturday they're up at dawn out the door and eagerly anticipating buying someone else's discarded junk. Strange behavior indeed.

I guess I have to fess up here. I've done a lot of these myself. Again the biggest drawback is that they are time killers. But if done right, they can provide some of the most profitable Saturdays you've ever had!

Some rules of engagement are:
1. Pick only neighborhoods in the oldest richest part of town. In St. Louis, which is close to where I live, my wife and I head for the old Italian south side or the old Jewish west county section of town. Places where strong traditions have kept family treasures in the family for generations. Then some ungrateful young married couple or some older couple cleans out their basement and unknowingly sell things of value. It happens literally every weekend.

2. Chart or plan your route for maximum efficiency. The best buys are had early in the morning before the other "pickers" have gotten to them. Pick up the paper Wednesday or Thursday and go through the yard sale adds with a city map and make your route up. Don't forget to include good restaurants on the way. Now you've got a reason to eat out. Finding bargains takes lots of energy.

3. Don't ever pay what they are asking. Remember, the reason they dragged it up from the basement was because they thought it was junk or they were just sick of looking at it. This is truly a motivated seller. I always offer half what they are asking and sometimes they take it!

Estate Tag Sales
These usually happen when someone is going to move and they more often than not hire a professional appraiser to "tag" all their items for sale and then take on the responsibility of running the sale. These sales last for 2 to 3 days and sometimes longer. Personally I find them boring with few bargains to be had but some dealers do quite well at them.
Some things to know are:

1. The best buys are almost always the last day of the sale. Few tag sales will discount their first day.

2. Go the first day early and leave offers on items of interest. Chances are, they'll laugh you to scorn but if it doesn't sell by the last day, they'll be digging your business card out of the trash to see if your offer still stands.

3. This last technique is my favorite. If you find something you really want, go make your lowball offer directly to the home owner. They are the ones walking nervously around watching all the Cretans handle what was only hours earlier their personal things. The person running the tag sale won't like it but "tough titty" said the kitty. If the home owner says yes, the professional tag appraiser can help you load it. Nothing like adding a little salt to the wound.

Buy From Other Dealers
As I mentioned earlier you can't know everything about this business. So take advantage of the weakness of other dealers who unknowingly have prices to low (and don't forget to ask for a discount). Almost every shop and mall has the same phenomenon. There will be an item price well over book value and right next to it is something under priced. Jump on it Leroy. Only remember the adage "if it's too good to be true, it probably is." Make sure it's not a repro, chipped or flawed in some way that greatly reduces its value. Here again, knowledge is king.
Know what you are doing. There are just as many dealers who act dumb as there are who really are dumb.

I personally like this method of buying collectibles because it's like the famous bank robber who when asked why he robbed banks replied, "that's where the money is." Well antique malls have antiques and there are bargains in most of them if you know what to look for. Take your price guide along for good measure.

Flea Markets
If I had to pick one place where the most shrewd people ply their trade it would be flea markets. Don't let the bib overalls and nice old granny fool you. They'll cut your heart out and feed it to you on a platter. Simply put, these people know what they are doing. I have the highest respect for these hardworking people. Don't let the "aw, shucks" demeanor throw you off. It's there by design.

That's not to say good bargains can't be had, but in the down and dirty arena of flea markets only the strong survive.

Some things to know:
Reproductions, reproductions and reproductions. More of them are bought and sold here than in China where most are made. I've seen brand-new cast iron toys soaked in salt water and lye for days and then baked in the sun until done. The rusted finished product looks a hundred years old except for the phillips head screw and the rough casting.

Always haggle. They expect it and have priced everything accordingly.
''Where they're from". I like to know that because I believe a local that sets up week after week is less likely to rip me off.

The best buys are early and when they are getting ready to pack up and leave. The reason is obvious: they would rather sell it than pack it back and forth again and when it's early they're usually anxious to make their first sale.

Shows & Fairs
Antique shows and fairs bring the highest dollar for dealers, with the possible exception of eBay. I know dealers who do nothing else but buy from estate auctions and sell at antique shows. It's a tremendous amount of work, pulling a trailer of furniture and other miscellaneous items across the country, but the profit is worth it. At least to them anyway. I haven't had much luck buying at shows and fairs but they are a great place for an education. A lot of the dealers are passionate collectors as well and are only too happy to share their love of collecting. These people tend to be extremely knowledgeable about their area of interest. I recommend them on that basis alone. Also you'll find some of the finest quality, though pricey, antiques and collectibles anywhere.
You're not going to drag junk across the country to sell. It's a good place to get a good look at some quality items.

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