New ABC's of Antiques
This week, Antique Talk presents 26 brand new ABC's of Antiques.
Always travel with the following: a checkbook, cash, ID, a powerful flashlight, antique references, a jeweler's loop and business/collecting cards.
Bring a friend along. Antiquing is more fun and profitable when you can draw on another's opinion.
Cruise the backcountry. Some of the best antique bargains can still be found off the beaten path.
Don't be afraid to ask questions. Is that your BEST price? Are you offering a written guarantee? Is there any history or provenance available? Where did you buy it? Are there any repairs or restoration I should be aware of? Can you recommend any auctions or top dealers in the local area? What's your freshest and favorite antique in stock right now? What is the meaning of life?
Employ emotion first, common sense second and caution third.
Find a trusted dealer or two and employ their talents. The most discerning American antique furniture dealers in history, Israel Sack, states in one of their references; "those same people who can least afford to make a mistake when purchasing quality antiques are also the ones least likely to pay for expert advice."
Get a van. I was in a New Jersey shop last year, contemplating the purchase of several neoclassical (circa 1820) pieces. "Just got them out of a house," the dealer said. I believed him. The furniture was so grungy and tattered it looked like he was purchased from the Adams Family. The price and associated risk was high. If didn't have my van sitting out front, I would found a reason to pass on a great opportunity. One piece eventually netted a profit in excess of $20,000-all because I don't own a Corvette.
Hear no evil. In subjective businesses like antiques, disparaging words are too often heard. Knocking down has always been easier than building up-it's physical law.
Inspect carefully. Even seasoned dealers tend to set this golden rule aside when their emotions get carried away.
Just do it! If you enjoy watching the Roadshow and similar programs on TV, then you'll really enjoy scouting for antiques in real life. Like fishing, storm chasing or panning for gold, you don't have to find a winner to be a winner. Just getting out there is half the reward.
Keep is simple. The most useful skill toward being a strong antique collector is a good eye.
Learn about computers-and the Internet. It's not the future, it's the present.
Make the most of inspection. The number of experienced dealers and collectors who spend the majority of auction preview time talking with friends and not inspecting antiques is staggering. Even if you are not in position to buy, looking closely is a free lesson. Later, it will make the sale more interesting.
Nickel and dime Not. If a reliable dealer offers you a great price on a great piece-pay the man. In the long run, you'll likely prosper.
Only spend what you can afford. Going way out on a limb is fine for hungry green tree snakes, not people.
Put your money where your mouth is. Guests love to muddle around in kitchens and dining rooms-good places for a creative antique or two.
Question that which looks antique, but not old.
Regard that which looks old, but not antique.
Sell. One of the best ways to afford antiques you want the most is by selling for a profit those articles you like the least.
Teach. If you know something about Seth Thomas clocks, write an article. If you have a good theory for decorating, tell your tale to others. People have never been hungrier for a good antique story than they are right now.
Utilize your newspaper. Tag sales and antique fairs make for good early morning antiquing. Qualify the most promising opportunities by carefully reading the classified section of this paper every day. Posting an occasional specific ad can also prove rewarding.
Venture into new waters. Amongst the most successful antique dealers and collectors are those who specialize in a specific field, honing their knowledge and prospecting efforts. That said, a hungry trout fisherman best learn to appreciate bass once in a while.
Watch TV: The History Channel, House & Garden, A & E, etc. Thanks to cable, today you can learn about old days and old ways, as long as you watch what you watch.
X-it: Any shop that boasts it pays the most. If you are looking to sell your family heirlooms, remember, words come cheap.
Zero in: When shopping a huge venue like Brimfield, it's helpful to imagine one specific type of antique you'd love to find freshly unpacked on some table. By even imagining what figure I'd happily pay for it, I find my concentration, and therefore my good-luck, seems to improve.