Saturday, June 26, 2010

What It Takes...

I am often asked what it takes to be an antique dealer. There is no specific requirement. You can honestly wake up one morning and say, "I think I’ll be an antique dealer today"…but that is not the best route. I started selling when I was 12 out of my parents garage and caught the bug. And those who have the bug know what I am talking about. The passion of the hunt, the thrill of finding out what it is, and the excitement when you finally sell it. But there is so much more to it.

There are two types of your basic antique dealers, those that hobby and those that make a full career out of it. The “hobbyiest” (as I like to call them) usually have another job or are retired and are doing this to supplement their income/support their collections. As for myself I am a full time career dealer. I do this with my husband and 3 children.

People will tell you that to do this as a full time career is impossible. I am here to tell you its not. As a full time antique dealer I have found that my hand has to be in every aspect of the business. I have owned an antique mall for 12 years, I do antique shows, rent spaces in other malls, conduct estate tag sales, sell on eBay, and I am also a certified appraiser. All you need is a great support system. I have a great husband and children that are understanding and flexible. I don’t know how I could do all I do if my husband wasn’t in the middle of this to help me. We never know what our day/week holds. One call and we’re off to look at an estate, buy something, or to do an appraisal. This is a job of service and if you can’t be there for your customers/clients virtually 24 hours a day this is not the occupation for you. Everyone feels they are the most important and deserve 100% imediate attention. It can be hard when there is only one of you but an average of 10 calls a day.

Ask yourself how indepth do you want to do this business? Technically there is no specific educational requirements. That being said for most appraiser licenses some college and/or degrees are required.

*Estate liquidation is not like an auctioneer that has to have schooling/apprenticeship, there are no requirements. It is more or less something you learn through experience so I would suggest working with an experienced liquidation professional for a while before branching out on your own.

*The antique shows are great but you are better to start with a few small shows to figure out your setup, display, and feel out the amount of work that goes into them.

*eBay is a great business to do but you have to know a little something about computers and be able to describe your items accurately enough to get them seen and sold. Just one wrong word or phrase can make or break your auction.

Next you have to decide what kind of dealer do you want to be. I am an expert in five different areas of antiques, glassware, Barbies, costume jewelry, vintage clothing, furnture, & Advertising. But overall I am a generalist, meaning I buy almost anything I think I can make money on. Some people chose to specialize only in one specific area. I personally feel you limit your sales by dealing strictly in one item, however, it does work for some people.

I wish I could tell you there is some easy way to this. Some magical how-to-book. But watching a few TV shows about dealers, collecting, and appraising doesn’t make you an expert over night. The school of hard knocks is the best education you can receive in this business. It is years of the reading (yes buying a lot of the collector’s guides, magazines, and then studying them), walking through antique shops, shows, searching the internet, going to estate sales, auctions, etc.

Overall I LOVE what I do. Without passion and drive this business, as well as any other business simply will not work. It is not a get rich kind of lifestyle. I love the people that when you tell them your an antique dealer they say “Oh, what a glamorous job!” I think to myself every time I put on my old ratty work boots, worn blue jeans, torn shirt, and am sitting up in an attic in the dead of summer, "man this sure is the real life where‘s the glamour."

It is a descent living but you have to work it everyday. My rule of thumb is if I’m not working I’m not making money. There is no 9 to 5, no weekly paycheck, and no wonderful benefit package. My personal satisfaction is knowing I helped a family, I helped someone relive a memory, or I made someone’s day.

Watch for our next blog on a behind the scenes of preparing an estate sale.