Are you a budding antique collector wanting to learn some tips for buying antiques? If you’re new to the game there are some things you need to learn to be successful and some mistakes to avoid. We have some tips to help you learn to spot good deals and learn the proper etiquette for antique shopping.
Why Buy Antiques?
People shop for antiques for different reasons. For some, they like to buy things that will increase in value the longer they hold onto it (think Beanie Babies and Hot Wheels cars of the 80s). Then there are those people who like to shop for exotic items like antique rugs (Persian, Egyptian) or jewelry like poison rings and locket pendants. Some people like to shop for antiques because it is a form of recycling or getting more use from an item. Like finding an old dresser and sanding it and re-staining it to use in a teen’s bedroom. Think of it like rehabbing or repurposing furniture.
Difference Between Antiques and Vintage Items
Typically, items that are 20 years old are considered “vintage,” and anything 100 years and older is antique. Items pre-dating the 1940s that are still in good condition may be a little pricey, but worth it depending on the items and if it will increase in value over time. The word “collectible” can refer to both antiques and vintage items.
Top 10 Antique Buying Tips for Beginners
1. Always Try to Negotiate
When buying from a shop or private owner always ask about price and try to negotiate for a lower price if possible. The seller may have a bottom price they will not go below but the idea is to start a little lower than what you actually expect and let them talk you up. This will not work at an auction house as they have a different pricing structure.
2. Always Ask About the Condition of an Item
To avoid buying items that may have lost value due to changes or modifications, always ask about the item’s condition and its history. It may look great on the outside but may have been damaged and repaired at some time. Unfortunately, this may affect its resale value. If you buy it and find out later you made a mistake you are stuck with it. Antique shops do not let you return items. You bought it, it’s yours.
3. Inspect the Item Carefully
Handling an antique can tell you a lot about it. While holding it inspect it for damage and to make sure it is the right size and weight. Look for anything out of the ordinary that might indicate it is a reproduction.
4. Do Your Research
When looking at antique rugs the more knots it has, the higher its value is. Small, tight knots are a sign of quality. Know the different types of rugs and how to tell the difference between them.
Know the difference between silver plating and sterling silver when it comes to teapots. While the two may look the same, sterling silver will last longer and retain its resale value. Looking for an antique poison ring? These items from the 16th century may be hard to find in local shops. You may have more luck looking in auction houses and online collectors. Pieces of jewelry from the Renaissance era would be a great addition to a new antique collection.
5. Don’t Offer Cash Upfront
You may get a lower price by offering to pay cash. Once the price has been agreed on and you are ready to pay, pull out your credit card and then stop and ask, “Is there a discount if I pay in cash?” Some sellers will often discount an item for a cash sale.
6. Always Ask for a Receipt
This is proof that you paid for the item and that it belongs to you. You may need this as evidence if the item is ever lost or stolen. It should include the following information:
* The age and value of the antique
* Any changes or modification (repairs)
* The seller’s name (or business name), address, and phone number
7. Look for the Items That Stand Out
The rare finds are often the best bargains. If you look in out-of-the-way shops and places where you wouldn’t normally find such things you may be surprised. For example, you can sometimes find very delicate fine china teacups in vintage or second -hand stores and other items that don’t typically belong there. The sellers acquire them from other places and will often discount these items to get rid of them because they don’t fit their inventory.
8. Become a Patron of the Local Auction House
Auction houses have the most interesting stuff. They will have a catalog of items that will help with your research. It is helpful to go a few times and just look around or observe what goes on at a sale. That way you also get to see the item up close and maybe even hold it for inspection. Auctions are great places to learn how to bargain hunt., If you get good at reading people you’ll know when to bid and when to stop. There is a fine art to bidding and learning it will serve you well.
9. Know What Originals Look Like
When it comes to valuable antiques, there are forgeries and reproductions so good that they fool the experts. That is why you need to research items you’re interested in buying to know what they look like and any flaws in manufacturing that would identify them as originals.
10. Get an Appraisal
It is always advisable to get an appraisal or second opinion on an item if you are unsure of its value. While you cannot take an item to have it appraised you can photograph it and take the photo to a professional for their opinion. If you have a good, clear image they should be able to tell you if it is an original and its value.
Common Mistakes New Antique Buyers Make
1. Not researching an item
2. Not getting an appraisal
3. Not recognizing an item that costs more than it’s worth
4. Not knowing how to haggle correctly
5. Not respecting the seller
Always take your time when shopping for antiques of any kind. If you’re not sure about an item walk away and return when you have more information about it. Nobody likes spending money to find out later that they made a mistake and paid more than they should. Invest a little time in the beginning and know what you’re looking for and what the average cost for it is. You’ll know if the price is right if you’ve done your research.