Antique Sign

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Frequently Asked Questions...

I would like to start going to auctions for storage units, as well as being an antique picker. Any advice?

I would like to start going to auctions for storage units and also, I would like to get into picking for antique. Then one day have enough stuff to where I could open my own antique store! I'm wondering if anyone has advice for me on how to start, where to look, and any other information would be greatly appreciated. I have a very big love for antiques and I want to be able to share my finds with other people. I love the idea that I can have in my hands something for the 1920's and be in the 2011. I wonder who all has had the item, where it's been in it's time and how did it get the little markings, rips from, etc. It's amazing. I might be young, but I know what I like. :)

Best Answer...


I'm not in this business, but I may be able to offer some advice.

1. Specialize in a particular type of antique. You could specialize in furniture, antique signs, Coke collectibles, comic books, anything at all. But don't try to do it all. You will quickly run out space and cash.

2. Learn all there is to know about your area of specialization. Get to know the manufacturers, the markings, the styles. Learn to identify pieces in your specialty without the use of guidebooks and valuation guides. When you can see something in a dark garage or basement and know at a glance it's something you are interested in and the value, you will take fewer risks on unknown merchandise. If you don't know your items, you will waste money on fakes, misidentified pieces, and poor quality items.

3. Learn who the major collectors are in your specialty. If you plan to sell, there are probably a few people you will need to have in your database who you can always call when you have something. The more potential buyers you have, the easier it will be to sell.

4. Don't wait to start selling until you have enough pieces to open a store. You will quickly blow out of your money. You need capital to operate and you don't have capital if all your money is tied up in inventory. You can't buy new pieces if you don't have money. Besides, you are a dealer - not a collector. Don't fall in love with anything you buy. You may not be willing to part with it. Instead, buy pieces and try to turn them around as fast as you can. Make sure you put some of your profits away so that you have enough cash on hand to open your store. You can start your inventory with pieces that haven't sold, but don't intentionally keep pieces while you gather enough inventory.

5. Know what your total cost for each item is. Not only do you need to keep records for how much you spend on the item, you also have to build in additional costs. You may need to spend some money getting it fixed up. You may have to spend money on advertising or marketing. Listing an item on eBay or in the newspaper, for example, will cost money. Picking up and delivering the item will cost you money. Know how much you will have to spend on an item in addition to the acquisition cost. That way you will know how much you can sell it for and still make some money. Eventually, you will need to figure in the cost of overhead - rent for your store, salaries for employees, etc. And don't forget to build in some profit for yourself. And remember, if you spend too much money acquiring the item and getting it ready to sell again, you won't many any money from it.

6. Be willing to walk away from an item if you can't get your price. If you fall in love with the item, it will be harder to walk away, but if it doesn't feel right - if the price is too high - you could risk losing money. There's nothing wrong with walking away. You may be sad for awhile, but you will feel much better knowing that you have capital to keep buying items.

Most of these tips can apply to any business, and, as I mentioned, I don't really know antiques, but hopefully there's some stuff to think about.

I would also go to the library or a bookstore and see if there are some books that may help you figure out how to do this. There are definitely books on antique values - price guides, etc. Be sure to buy copies of any books you will need to have on hand to accurately buy and sell in your specialty.

Good luck!