A New Way to Look at Antiques - Think Marketing
Subject-matter matters. A few years ago, when I imparted my theory on how to evaluate antiques (and hopefully help a few people make some good buys) I discussed insider tips concerning artistry, age, workmanship and condition. Now, due to the internet, a multitude of successful new antique and auction businesses and a tremendous influx of hungry customers world-wide, there's a significant new aspect to talk about: target market purchasing. Delightfully, you are going to discover that ferreting out antique treasures in your back yard is easier than ever. Because, instead of concerning yourself only on the difficult intricacies of the antique, you are going to focus on its historical interest and the likely buyers such an object might attract: Who are they? Do they constitute a large and competitive market? What do they do for a living? Do they have money? This is knowledge you already have!
Let's pretend you and I have just walked past a Realtor's SOLD sign and up a long gravel driveway. People and price-tagged antiques are strewn-about everywhere, even in the yard. The sign on the Victorian mansion reads: MOVING-EVERTHING MUST GO. Let's dig up a treasure.
Using passé-purchasing criteria, you are already intimidated. There's a drove of well-known dealers here including Mrs. Belinda Ficklebury who knows everything about everything. "We can't make any good buys here!" you say. Sure we can. By employing our new way of looking at antiques, according to subject matter.
There's a basketball on a table. It looks like one of the ones your grandfather played with. Laces are sewn into the leather. It's ugly, deflated and not even old by antique standards. Instead of checking the $20 price tag, Mrs. Ficklebury darts past the brown thing faster than if it was a skunk. Do you buy it? "No," you say, "not by traditional standards." But, let's consider what it really is-a basketball. Historically, it dates early in the game's history and is hard to find today. That is subject matter undoubtedly important to some people. Who plays the sport? "Rich basketball players who collect what they like. SOLD!" you say.
Let us suppose the price is $100. Risk is greater. You need to know more so you inspect the ball for a faded signature. Something vaguely reads "George Mikan." He's a famous center from earlier days. In fact, you find out from the family that one of their ancestors once worked as a trainer for his team, the Minneapolis Lakers. This is really important subject matter. Who would buy such a thing? "Rich basketball team owners who have even more money and less sense their players. I'll take it!" you say.
This year, try looking at antiques and the business in general, differently. Question objects that look antique but not old and regard that which looks old but not antique. Ask yourself, what is different and interesting about items you come across. If it is a photo, say, "A photo of what?" If the subject is universal, consider passing it. If it is specific, consider purchase. Houdini, hot dogs, fishing, flying, Civil War, General Store-each of these scenes attract specific buyers. Corkscrews, cotton things, buttons and bulldozer toys: these, and thousands of similar antique categories are now attracting not just collectors but collecting clubs worldwide. Interesting specific subject matter and target marketing-put those two elements at the top of your inspection list this year and you might well end up there yourself.