Buying and Selling Antiques

Man with beard standing in front of a shelf of old cameras
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You don't have to be an antique dealer to get into buying and selling antiques. Many diligent pickers enjoy it as a weekend hobby. Great bargains can be found if you know what you're looking for and use the right approach to buying.

At some point, you may even want to sell some of your antiques, so let's take a look at tips and tricks savvy collectors use over and over again.

Buying Antiques on eBay

Can you buy on eBay and then turn around and sell the piece? You bet! Looking for bargain buys online is a fun way to snag items for resale. Just be sure you do your homework before pulling the trigger. 

The photographs in an online listing will tell you a lot about the item being sold. Take the time to closely examine the photos, and be sure to request more information from the seller if you're unsure or unsatisfied with what they've provided. Look for:

  • Any notable condition issues (even if the listing says the item is in excellent condition)
  • Check for the telltale signs that it’s a fake or reproduction

You'll also want to verify the sellers return policies when you're perusing the listing. If they misrepresent an item or overlook a flaw, chances are good that eBay will make the seller take the item back regardless of their policy. But if they specify no returns, and you're a bit uneasy about the condition or authenticity, send them a note asking about returns prior to making your purchase. 

If the listing seems too good to be true from a price standpoint, take into consideration what similar items have sold for in the past both on eBay and other venues and compare the condition of this item with those. You should also take the time to look up marks that you're not familiar with, and check into the seller's reputation by looking at their feedback. 

What About Selling?

No matter what you're selling, it's very important that you take the right approach. Some of the best eBay selling tips include doing your research before listing and writing a keyword-rich title that will get noticed. You should also provide great photos that help buyers make astute decisions (think of your own experiences — what do you want to see).

If you have an idea of the value of your antiques, you can reasonably set reserves (if you decide it's worth the extra expense) and starting bids as you see fit. Also, if you can, avoid ending the auction early. Remember that the market sets the price for an item and many bidders will wait until the last minute. This means that the offer you receive early on in the selling process may not be your best bet at getting top dollar.

Offline sales are also an option, so don't think that eBay is your only choice. You can take the 'old-school' approach and try to sell your items to an antiques dealer. You might not get the full price an auction listing can generate, but with the right negotiation tactics, you can usually get at least 25-50 percent of what you'd make doing it yourself. 

Consider the work that goes into an online listing as well in terms of packing and shipping antiques. That's another reason to consider selling to another individual off the internet. Resources like Let It Go and neighborhood Facebook selling groups make it easier these days to reach potential buyers in your immediate area.

Fabulous Finds at the Flea Market

There really is something to be said about scouring a flea market, garage sale or antique show for a great find. It's part of the real joy of antiquing and you never know what treasures await you. 

The most important thing to remember is that you can and you should haggle for the best price possible. Flea market vendors expect it and dealers at antique shows should not be offended by a reasonable offer. They might say no or counter offer, but that back and forth is all part of the fun.

Even the garage or tag sale is a good place to make an offer because their goal is to liquidate their stuff. They're often happy to see something go, so don't be afraid to ask for a discount or bundle items together for a few dollars off.

Estate sales offer more opportunities for discounted wares. While they may not take offers on day one, by the second day they're usually more open to considering them. Often professional estate liquidation companies will offer discounts toward the end of the sale, so circle back if prices were initially beyond your budget.

Antiquing on a Budget

Pickers in the know keep a few tricks for saving money in mind. One of the bargain-finder rules is to shop early and to shop late. Selections will be better in the morning, and you'll be able to snatch up any initial bargains. But, the deals sometimes pop up near closing time when sellers just want to get rid of their stuff.

There are many options for collecting items that are both small and cheap. Develop a niche for one of these and you'll have a great excuse to head out to the sales. Plus, they don't take up much room, so you increase your collecting potential in terms of display and storage.

While on the hunt, keep an eye out for those small antiques that go for big money, most often called "smalls" in the business. It's not uncommon to find a fabulous piece of jewelry in the 'junk' box and you'd be surprised the price some fishing lures bring.

You might not hit a win every time, but experience will net skills that antique dealers use to find their treasures. Follow in the footsteps of the pros and have fun with it.