How To Start An Antique Business On A Shoestring Budget

Learn how to start an antique business with a minimum of investment capitol.

The business of buying and selling antiques is a wonderful experience for anyone with a spirit of entrepreneurship. And surprisingly enough, it takes far less investment capital than one might think.

For many, "˜antiquing' begins as a hobby that can quickly evolve into a passion. Many collectors develop a true "˜love' for certain, collectible items. All antiques have a story and often times, the story is far more important than the item was in its prime. It has often been said that "there's a collector for everything and something for every collector." Therefore, the entrepreneur can safely assume that there's a buyer for everything under the sun. But how does one find these buyers? What of start-up cost and overhead? Should you advertise? And how does the "˜collectible' market compliment the antique market? As with every new project, you need a plan. Let's examine some ways to break into the antique and collectible business with a minimum of investment.

First, you should do your homework. Most new antique dealers wisely begin with a modest inventory, selected after first testing the local markets. You need an idea of what sells and what doesn't. Now, keep in mind that just about everything will sell, eventually. But you need a product that's fairly accessible and moves quickly. Where do you find such a product? For starters, check your local newspapers and find auctions in your area. Household and estate auctions are excellent sources of information on the relative value of an item in your area. Pay close attention to the numbers of people that bid on a particular type of item. Glassware may be a hot commodity in your area. Or it may go "˜dirt cheap.' You need to be aware of the local supply and demand before you settle on a given item line. This doesn't mean you should restrict yourself to only a few items. It just means that by keeping you inventory to a few product lines, you can become more knowledgeable in less time. And to the antique dealer, product knowledge is everything.



Local estate sales can also be a valuable source of both knowledge and inventory. But be wary of first day prices. Most estate sales last two to three days. The first day, most prices are inflated and will gradually decrease as the sale progresses. Don't let personal tastes interfere with your sense of business. If you pay that first day price, you're likely paying retail. A dealer who buys at retail market prices will quickly go out of business. You need the bargains, even if means settling for a slightly less desirable item.

Arm yourself with some much needed expertise by visiting your local bookstore. There are some excellent price guides available, many with hints on how to spot forgeries and fakes. One note on this subject. When looking at the price guides, remember that they are just that: a guide. Nothing is ever written in stone and you may find a wide disparity in regional prices. Abingdon pottery is extremely popular and moderately expensive in the Northeast U.S., but is found at "˜give-away' prices in the Midwest. Know your market.

You've got some inventory at this point and the question is where do you find the buyers? The finest antiques in the world are worthless unless you have a buyer. One solution is "˜flea market malls.' Don't be mislead by the name. Flea market malls are viable outlets for both antiques and collectibles. They come in all shapes and sizes, some dealing only in upscale items while others are more modest in inventory. There are some tremendous advantages to these outlets and it may be worth your while to do a little investigating. Most malls rent out space to vendors, allowing the vendor to arrange the displays, attach prices and leave instructions for negotiations. The mall will handle the actual sales then pay the vendors on a regular schedule, such as weekly or bi-monthly. This leaves the vendor free to search for new items to dale. So malls charge a small commission in addition tom the rental space while others charge nothing but the fee for the space used. Check around for the best deal in your area.

Another option is the internet. There a host of online auction services, featuring regular, dependable "˜shoppers.' The buyer is only a click away with such internet powerhouses as Ebay.com and Yahoo Auctions. These companies actually act as a broker, allowing you to set a minimum price on your item, then posting the item along with pictures and text descriptions. This is by far the most "˜overhead free' method of getting into the antique business . Whichever method you choose, remember, there's a buyer for everything. You just need the product.

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