Antiquing has become one of my favorite hobbies. I love browsing thrift stores and my local antique mall. In fact, I rarely miss the monthly antique show in my town. This year I am planning to attend the Brimfield Antique Show in Massachusetts in July. I’m sure I will post all about it.

Since I have been collecting for years, I have not only learned what I like, but I have learned the value of an item. Attending shows, reading journals, perusing Ebay and Etsy will help you to get a feel for the value of an item too.

Still need a little help? Are you ready to buy? Here are a few tips to help make navigating the antique world a little easier.

Art Deco Compact from the 1920-30s

Become an Expert

Try to learn as much as you can about the items you collect.  For example, I collect compacts.  I have learned the different makers, where to find their marks, and how to age an item.  I have learned to identify if an item is enamel, hand painted or silver and I have an idea of rare variations.  Becoming an expert help you to pay a fair value for the items you acquire.  It also helps you avoid accidentally purchasing a reproduction or forgery. 

Don’t be Afraid to Haggle

– Prices of antiques are rarely set in stone.  Most dealers have some wiggle room so don’t be afraid to haggle.  Be polite but don’t shy away from asking for a better price.  If you can’t agree on a price, it is ok to walk away.

Broken Delft Plate

Look for Damage

There are times where damage to an item is not easy to spot. Unfortunately, some dealers are not up front about damage to a piece and some repairs are too good for a novice to see.  Make sure that you look over an item carefully before purchasing.  Always ask about an item that you are interested in.  Don’t be afraid to ask if the item has been repaired or refurbished in any way. Dealers may not reveal damage to a piece if you don’t ask. 

It’s Ok to Touch

Always handle an item you wish to purchase.  If it is super fragile or hard to reach, feel free to ask the dealer for assistance.  Pick up the item and look at it from all angles.  For smaller pieces, the makers mark may be on the bottom or inside the rim.  Feel free to pull out your magnifying glass or to ask to look at it in a better light.  Dealers want you to purchase from them, so they are usually happy to let you examine an item you are interested in. 

Always have cash on hand

Cash is King

While you want to be discrete about how much money that you have or that you are willing to spend on an item, know that dealers prefer cash.  Often, they will not charge you tax on cash items or they will take an additional 5% off to match the credit card fee.  Have an idea of what you are willing to spend before you start to negotiate.

Get the Providence Before you Leave

The dealer may be your only connection to the history of a piece.  Find out as much as you can from the dealer about where a piece came from, where it was made, what period it came from, and who the maker is.  Any tidbit is valuable to you as a buyer.  If they give you a written receipt, have them write as much as possible on there.  If not, take good notes…don’t count on the fact that you will remember later.

Get to know your shop and its owners

Make Friends with the Locals

Having a relationship with a dealer that sells items that you collect can be invaluable.  I try to frequent the same vendors on a regular basis.  I remind them of the items that I have purchased from them before.  Several dealers know the items I collect and will call me when they acquire something that I might be interested in adding to my collection. Also, they are more willing to give me a great price because they know I will return.

Have Fun

To me, antiquing is all about the thrill of the hunt.  There are times, that I go to my local antique mall and purchase something amazing.  Other times, I may leave empty handed.  Buy what you love and what makes you happy.  If you purchase for the love of it, it removes the pressure of buying to make a profit in the future. 

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