Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Little Bit of Shameless Self Promotion!

Howdy Folks!
Well, in case you couldn't tell, I've been fiddling around with the way the blog looks (I hope you like the new look!), and I have added the "share" buttons at the bottom of each article. This way anyone reading the articles can tweet them, or buzz them, or email them, or post them to their Face Book wall, or whatever. (yes, this is a hint! So tweet, buzz, email and post away!).

Christmas is coming, and is just around the bend, so I hope everyone is getting ready as best they can. I know I am. Just in case anyone needs some great gift suggestions, I would suggest heading over to There are some great folks over there with some really great booths just loaded down with some of the best Christmas gifts you can hope to find anywhere!

While you're over there on Bonanza, be sure to stop by and say howdy to my good friend, and brand new grandma, Peg, at the Finding Friends Friday booth! And if ya don't mind some shopping suggestions, just check out these great booths:
The Latch String (I love the "Out Montana Way" book!)
@ The Boutique (Wonderful oils, soaps, lotions and more!)
Steamheat (Some great Steampunk items!)
The Old Grainery's Booth (Great vintage furniture and more!)
The Unique Boutique (Great vintage jewelry and more!)
The Auction House (Beautiful Christmas cards - with free shipping, and so much more!)
Dakota Gold and More (Beautiful gold jewelry!)
Bargain Hunter's Web Mall (All sorts of great items at great prices!)
Beetique (Vintage jewelry and accessories!)
Roger's Stuff (One of the best selections of great items on Bonanza!)
Indizona's Variety (Great Selection and Great Prices!)
Shopatusm (Home and garden items, candle holders and more! Beautiful items!)
The CDVD Mart (Great CDs, Old Time Radio, DVDs, Great Items!)
The Secret Garden (Gorgeous jewelry and more!)

And there are just so many more great booths over at Bonanza, and each one featuring wonderful items! Of course, while you're over there at Bonanza, be sure to stop by the Trading Post, and say howdy to Ol' Whiskey Jack! I have all manner of items in my booth from jewelry to western items, to books and much, much more!

So I hope to see y'all around on Bonanza, and also over on Face Book, where I try to be on at least every other evening or so. I sure would like to visit with ya, so stop on by!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Fine Art of Haggling

There is an old saying that goes, “Everything is negotiable.” Well, sorry if I burst some bubbles, but this simply isn’t true. That being said, however, there are times when price negotiation is not only acceptable, but often expected and sometimes even encouraged. And that is the time to haggle.

Just what is “Haggling”? Well, in a nutshell, it is nothing more than a negotiation between a seller and a buyer regarding the price of an item the buyer is interested in purchasing. However, as noted above, not everything is negotiable. And, not every situation is amenable to negotiation, nor is every seller (or buyer for that matter). It is important to have a good understanding of just when, where and how to haggle, and such is the focus of this article.

The “where” is fairly easy, as is the “when”, although unfortunately, many people don’t understand this and feel that every situation and every item is negotiable. I would not necessarily recommend haggling with the clerk at Wal-Mart or K-Mart over the price of eggs, a head of lettuce or a gallon of milk. It simply isn’t appropriate, generally speaking. It may be okay to negotiate a price on hotel or motel rooms, bus ticket, plane tickets, or train tickets if the situation calls for it. For example, if you require something such as these during the “off season” or off days of the week, then it is perfectly okay to ask for a reasonable discount, but not to try a hard negotiation. Many places such as these will agree to a discount if you simply ask in a respectful manner. They may tell you no, and if so then respect their answer and don’t go into bargain hunter mode. Remember, you draw more flies with honey than with vinegar.

However, the purpose of this blog is to talk about antiques and collectibles, so we will focus on haggling as it pertains to these areas. It is perfectly alright, and often expected to haggle, or negotiate, for a better price when you are at a yard sale, flea market, estate sale, swap meet, rummage sale, antique store, and even some thrift stores. You can even negotiate when purchasing antiques and collectibles online when they are listed with a set or buy-it-now price. But as always, remember the basic rules of engagement here. Don’t be cheap, don’t be petty, don’t be mean, don’t insult, and don’t lie. You should be pleasant, cheerful, courteous, respectful, and above all, honest (as I said, you get more flies with honey than with vinegar).

Many sellers in these venues will be firm on their prices. If so, respect their decision not to negotiate. Remember, they do own the item, and they are perfectly within their right not to negotiate. However, many sellers in these venues are amenable to negotiation, and all you have to do is ask. Often the best thing to ask is, “are you firm on this price?” or, “Is this your best price?” Quite often the seller with come back with a lower price, and if so, then the game is on. More about how to haggle later”

Quite often, buyers feel uncomfortable trying to negotiate a better price on an item. I suppose the primary reason for this is the society and culture we live in. In many cultures, haggling is part and parcel of everyday life. Not so here in America. People often feel that hagglers are just too cheap to pay full price, and some even feel that haggling is a sign of poverty, that the haggler cannot pay full price. In a society such as ours where we are encouraged either by our parents or through the media (or both) that we must “keep up with the Joneses”, people are embarrassed by any semblance, real or imagined, of poverty in any form. Appearances are everything we are taught, and it is this mindset that often keeps people from negotiating. Most sellers are aware of this, and so they will not advertise that they are willing to haggle. In essence, they are counting on that societal peer pressure that many are affected by to maintain and/or increase their profit margin.

However, if you approach haggling (or negotiation, if you prefer that term) in the proper mind set, and view it as a social interaction rather a strictly business interaction, you will find that it can not only be profitable, but enjoyable as well.

How to haggle, or, The Rules Of Engagement. As I mentioned, the seller is not, I repeat, NOT, going to immediately offer a lower price (unless the item is already on sale). It will up to you, the buyer, to break the ice. In a typical haggle session, the conversation might go something like this:

Buyer: “How are you today? Great day for a yard sale!” (or estate, etc)

Seller: “Yeah, so far so good. I’m hoping it doesn’t get to hot (or windy, or rain, etc).”

Buyer: “I’m looking at this widget and I’m wondering if this is your best price?”

Seller: “I might come down some. What did you have in mind?”

Buyer: “I was thinking of somewhere in the neighborhood of $12 or $13. What do you think?”

Seller: “I was asking $20, but I might be able to come to say, $18.”

Buyer: “How about we meet around the middle and say $16?”

Seller: “I think I can do that. Okay!”

The buyer has just saved $4 on a $20 item. Pretty easy actually, once you get past the ice breaking stage. Now, every situation is different, every venue is different, and every seller is different, so quite often you will have to play it by ear. However, the basic scenario is still the same. The seller may also stick to his guns, and refuse to budge on the price of the widget. If so, then the ball is in your court. You must decide if you want the widget at the seller’s price, or walk away from it. The important thing to remember is, once the seller tells you “no”, then you should respect his or her wishes and not continue to haggle.

As easy as it is, there are some rules that you should learn and remember before you start haggling.

#1. Know the value. First and foremost, know beforehand what the absolute maximum your are willing to pay for an item is. The seller already knows what the minimum he will take is, and it is in his or her benefit to get as much as he or she can. So know ahead of time what your bottom dollar amount will be as well, and don’t go beyond it. Not even by a penny. If you ignore this basic rule, you will be out of money in no time at all.

#2. Do your research. This is in direct relation to point #1 above. And even more important If you are buying to resell. Your profit margin is directly affected by the amount you pay for something. It doesn’t matter if the seller knows what an item is worth or not, and don’t try to “educate” the seller about the value of his item. All that will do is serve to alienate you from the seller. There are several factors related to the value of an item, and one of the primary factors is the sentimental value of the item to the seller. That ring you are looking at that may only be worth $20 retail, may have belonged to the sellers grandmother who recently passed away, and in the seller’s mind, the $200 price tag he has on it is more than reasonable. Try to think of it this way, even though the ring is up for sale, the seller may not really be ready to sell it, and subconsciously hoping it won’t sell. Again, be respectful and courteous. You know that ring probably won’t sell, and it would not hurt to leave your name and number with the seller, telling him to contact you if he changes his mind. He may and he may not. Either way, it’s okay!

#3. Do your research, part two – When doing your research, do not rely on price guides! I cannot stress this enough. They are great for learning how to identify a piece, and in fact they are invaluable for this. But the prices listed in these books are out of date by the time they are published. In reality, an item is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. There may be an average retail price, but it will vary according to the geographical location of the retail sale (some items sell or more in some areas than in others), as well as the retail venue (items on ebay will retail for less than in a high end auction for valuable pieces). The time of the year, the season, is also a factor affecting the retail value of the item. All of these variables, and others, must be taken into account when determining what an item is worth, as well as how much you are willing to pay for that item.

#4. Know when to walk away. If the price of an item is too high, and the seller is not willing to negotiate, then the best course of action is to walk away. Don’t be rude or insulting about it, and in fact, it may be a good idea to leave your name and telephone number with the seller in case he or she changes their mind, or possibly has similar items for sale that haven’t been put out yet. I never hurts to do a little self advertising.

#5. Know where you are in the food chain. I wasn’t really sure just where to put this, so here is as good a place as any. Actually this all goes back to knowing what an item is worth, and is another aspect of those principals. It is important to know and realize where you are in the “food chain” so to speak. And this is really for sellers and buyers alike. I cannot tell count the number of times I have read negative reviews on the television programs American Pickers and Pawn Stars. The primary complaint being that either the pickers or the pawn stars are taking advantage of their customers. People will point to a show such as Antiques Roadshow, and say something like, “I just saw that same thing on American Pickers and they only paid $100 for it, and here on Antiques Roadshow they are saying it’s worth $400! Those pickers are rip offs!” The fact of the matter is, they’re not. They just know their place in the antique and collectible food chain. The pickers pay $100 for an item. They are happy with that price and the seller is happy with that price. That’s all that matters. But go on up the food chain, the pickers will then sell the piece to a dealer for $200. They have made $100 profit. If they had paid $200 for the item initially, they would not have made any profit. The dealer will then sell to item to a customer for $400, making a $200 profit. By now it should be clear how this all works. As you work your way up the “food chain” the item increases in value. So, it is important to know where you are in the “food chain” when determining the value of an item.

#6. Bundling. Quite often, it is easier to negotiate a deal when you purchase more than one item. I know people who even purchase entire yard sales, just to get a few items that they know are valuable, and they will then sell those items they do not want at either a flea market or at their own yard sale, often making a profit while doing so. So don’t be afraid to pile up the items and then make an offer on the entire contents of your pile. You will be surprised at how quickly many people will be willing to negotiate a better price for you because of this.

#7. Pay Cash! As the old saying goes: “Money talks and…”, well, you get the idea. People are more willing to negotiate a deal when you are offering cash money as opposed to a check. I have been to sales where one person is interested in an item, but does not have enough cash, and so asks if the seller will take a check. Noticing that the seller is hesitant to accept the check, another buyer will step and offer to pay maybe 10% less, but also to pay in cash. Sometimes this doesn’t work, however, and the practice can quickly offend people, so be careful if you use this tactic. A variant of this tactic did, however, net me a good deal. I watched a seller hesitantly accept a check for a table from a customer. I later struck up a conversation with the seller, and mentioned that I too was interested in the table, and would have been willing to pay cash, although not quite as much. The seller then told me that he had another table similar and asked if I would be interested in looking at it for the price I had mentioned. I said yes, and was able to purchase a better table for far less. No one was offended and everyone got what they wanted.

#8. Appearances. It has been said that appearance is everything, and the same is true when negotiating. First, don’t wear your best clothes when yard or estate sailing. If you look like you have money to spend, the seller will be less inclined to haggle. Second, appear as if you are somewhat disinterested. If you appear too eager to purchase an item, the seller knows he’s got you. He knows you are going to buy the item and that you are going to buy at his price. Any attempts at haggling or negotiating are merely a formality, and will be pointless. If you find an item you want, pick it up and keep it with you, but do not keep looking at it, do not show off to your friends, do not act like it is the find of a lifetime even if it is. Act as if it is just another item. When ready to pay for your item or items, then you can either negotiate for the item individually, or as part of a bundle of items.

#9. Stay in control. You can expect to be pressured by the seller to purchase the item he or she thinks you may be interested in, as well as other items you may not be interested in. I went to one sale where the seller knew I was interested in depression glass. She began telling me the history of all the glassware she had for sale, about how it had all been her mother’s and it was all old. I saw nothing that really excited me (and all the glassware was way overpriced), so I went to look at some other items. The seller kept after me, and kept after me to purchase her depression glass. I was heading toward the door, and still she kept it up. I thanked her, and left. So, it can and does happen. Nothing says you have to buy anything, but if you do, staying in control will help you when you are ready to negotiate. There is nn unwritten rule which says that whoever makes the first offer looses. And quite often that is true, so stay in control, and don’t be in a hurry to throw out your final amount.

#10. Point out problems. When negotiating, it can often be helpful to point out any imperfections in the item you are interested in. Stains, discolorations, ships, cracks, repairs, anything that makes the item less than perfect. Don’t do this in a negative manner (which can be difficult to manage), but point these “problem” areas out as things you are concerned about. You might say something like, “I see that this piece has a crack running through it, is it still safe to use?” Or, “I see that there is a stain on this. Do you think it will come out?” Something along these lines. What this does, is, indicate to the seller that although the item is less than perfect, you may be persuaded to purchase it if the price is knocked down enough. This tactic works especially well if other customers over hear your concerns, and if the seller is aware that other customers now know about the items problems. If the seller thinks that you may now be the only one even remotely interested in that item, he or she may be ready to negotiate with you just to get rid of the item. This tactic worked for me when I was negotiating on a set of scrapbooks. I was also holding a vintage Frankoma ashtray from the early 1950’s. When it appeared that I was not going to purchase the scrapbooks, the seller offered to throw in the ashtray for free, if I would buy the scrapbooks. This is what I was hoping for, and I purchased the scrapbooks for $35 (they were initially asking $100) and the ashtray was free. I was happy, the seller was happy, and the individuals I later sold the scrapbooks and the ashtray to were also happy. And that is always the desired result of haggling.

Well, I think we’ve about covered the essentials of haggling here. When and where to haggle and when and where not to. Some of the essentials to actual negotiating (remember, only the unscrupulous are out to take advantage of others, and it is always best to steer clear of them); and that haggling or negotiating is a legitimate practice and is in no way derogatory to anyone’s character if done correctly.

Haggling is an art, and one that can be mastered only through experience. So get out there and start making some deals! And if you need a little practice, (remember what I said about a little self advertising…) then come on over to the Trading Post, because I am always ready to do a little haggling!

Take care and I’ll see ya around!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Blacklight Testing: Is It Reliable?

A number of antique collectors and dealers utilize Long Wave Ultraviolet (LWUV) Black Lights to test antiques and collectibles for signs of repair and authenticity that may not be visible to the naked eye. Although black lights are a necessary tool, they should not always be considered the “be all and end all” in determining the authenticity of antique and vintage items. This is not to say, however, that long wave ultraviolet black lights are useless, as they are not. And they should be an essential part of any collector’s or dealer’s “road pack” (that small pack of tools that every dealer, collector and junker or picker takes with them on the road in search of treasures).

Of the many uses of the long wave UV black light, here are some of the most common that the collector, dealer, or junker may encounter.

1. Testing Porcelain, China and Pottery

Quite often, I have found that I have purchased a piece of china or pottery, only to find at a later date that the piece had been broken and repaired so expertly, that I neither felt or saw the repair. Later, however, when exposed to a black light, the repair was easily seen. Not only will most modern glues used in repairing items such as this fluoresce, but so will many modern paints that are used to cover such repairs and fill any minute cracks left over after repairing the piece. Black light testing will also reveal fine hairline cracks and “flea bites” (very small minute chips or flakes) in porcelain that are not readily visible to the naked eye.

2. Testing Glass

Green depression era glass contains manganese, and Vaseline glass contains uranium oxide, as part of the manufacture process. Both of these compounds will cause the glass to fluoresce a bright green when exposed to a LWUV black light. Reproduction depression glass, and glass from the late 1940’s and newer will not fluoresce. At least as a general rule. It should be noted, however, that Vaseline glass is still being made, and it still glows a bright green under LWUV black light. Vaseline glass can be easily identified by its bright yellowish green appearance (or opaque Vaseline colored look – hence the name, as found in custard glass). When it comes to Vaseline glass, a LWUV black light is more reliable in determining when an item is NOT true Vaseline glass.

As a general rule, Lalique art glass made prior to 1945 will fluoresce yellow, while similar glass manufactured post-war will not. The same is true for antique Burmese glass, and opalescent glass. Both will fluoresce while the newer reproductions will not

Early American Pattern Glass (EAPG) and American Brilliant Period Cut Glass (ABP) will also fluoresce, although not always as brightly. Most will fluoresce a pale yellow green when exposed to LWUV black light. There are those who say that these types of clear glass will glow a faint purple or blue. This is likely not a true fluorescence, however, and more likely a reflection of the lamp itself, indicating that the glass is likely a newer piece.

A word of warning when testing EAPG or ABP glass with a LWUV black light. Quite often, reproduction pieces have been created using what is known as “cullet” glass. Cullet glass is simply large pieces of broken or damaged original EAPG or ABP glass, that has been melted, mixed, and re-molded into a new piece. This new reproduction will glow under LWUV black light, and it will be virtually identical to an original piece. All that is necessary for a reproduction piece to glow, is a small amount of original Vaseline glass mixed into the cullet mixture.

Because of this, it is imperative that black light testing not be the sole determining factor in dating colorless glass in an EAPG or ABP pattern. Other factors must be taken into account such as weight, size, cut, and of course, provenance.

A further word of warning regarding LWUV black light testing of clear EAPG and ABP glass. Some of pieces of EAPG and ABP glass will not fluoresce, and some will fluoresce an electric blue, and some will fluoresce pink (indicative of a high percentage of lead, such as in lead crystal). So again, it is imperative to do your research, and know your glass when purchasing EAPG and ABP.

3. Testing Works of Art

I must admit that I am not an art collector, nor am I am art expert. However, it is commonly known that most modern paint will fluoresce under LWUV black light, thereby making it relatively easy to spot touch ups and repairs in pieces of art. If you are serious about becoming an art collector, I would strongly recommend taking some classes and purchasing some good books regarding the collecting of fine art, before purchasing expensive art work.

4. Testing Ephemera and Paper Items

Paper products made before the late 1930’s will rarely fluoresce when exposed to LWUV, however, when it does, it may appear faintly whitish, yellowish, or even grayish. Conversely, chemicals used in the production of modern paper will glow brightly under a black light. Quite often old documents will contain what is known as “foxing” which is the presence of mildew. LWUV will cause the foxing to appear yellowish, and will show water stains that may not be easily seen otherwise. Old vellum (which is parchment made from lambskin, goatskin, or calfskin) will appear yellowish white or ivory when exposed to LWUV, where conversely, modern vellum will glow bluish white.

5. Testing Textiles and Fabrics

Most (although not all) old textiles will not fluoresce when exposed to LWUV black light. Conversely, many (although again not all) modern fibers such as rayon and polyester will fluoresce when exposed to LWUV black light. This includes modern sewing thread. This can help in both dating and locating repairs in vintage clothing, quilts, stuffed animals and toys (such as teddy bears and rag dolls), as well as other items made of cloth. The general rule of thumb being if it glows, it isn’t old (the opposite of antique and vintage glass).

However, this being said, as with other items being tested with LWUV black light, there will be situations where old cloth may fluoresce. Modern laundry detergents contain additives designed to brighten fabrics. If a vintage fabric (clothing, quilt, etc.) is washed using one of these products, there is a very good chance that it will glow brightly when exposed to a black light. In addition, there are some modern fabrics which do not fluoresce when exposed to a black light.

With this in mind, it should be remembered that when testing textiles and fabrics with a LWUV black light, it should only be considered a presumptive test, as you may get “false positive” or “false negative” result. More important than a black light test, one should also consider manufacturing techniques, design, materials, and provenance when identifying textiles or fabrics.

6. Testing Cast Iron Items

Antique and vintage cast iron items, such as banks, book ends, door stops and more, were often painted, or contained painted decoration. Original items with original paint are often highly collectible and may be quite valuable. As mentioned earlier with regard to testing art work, most modern paints will fluoresce when exposed to LWUV black light. Testing allegedly old cast iron items that have been painted may reveal modern paint (which could indicate either a new or refinished piece), or, testing may reveal old paint that has been “touched up” with modern paint either to enhance the piece, or to cover a repair.

As with the testing of other items with a black light, it is always best not to rely completely on a black light test. Always remember to do your research, and completely examine the piece for other signs of authentic age.

7. Testing Stones and Gemstones

Many minerals, including opal, flurite, calcite, ruby, emerald, dolomite, quartz, and others will glow when exposed to LWUV black light. In stones, this is known as photoluminescence. Black light testing of stones and gemstones can in some cases, reveal whether or not the stone or gemstone is authentic or some other material designed to appear as a stone or gemstone.

8. Testing Marble, Jade, Ivory, Bone

Many antiques, such as clocks, knives, carved pieces and more, are made of marble, jade, ivory and bone. In determining the age of these items, as well as discovering if portions of these pieces have been replaced, a black light is a good place to start. Fresh cut marble, limestone and alabaster do not fluoresce significantly, and may appear purple in color. Old marble will often appear mottled white. Freshly carved jade will have an intense color, whereas similar to old marble, old jade will appear mottled. Freshly carved ivory and bone will appear purple, however, an antique piece of ivory or bone will appear yellow.

Items that have been repaired or restored will be seen as such when exposed to a black light. Glues used in repairs, as well as wax and plaster used as filler will be shown to fluoresce differently than then the original sections of the repaired or restored piece. If the face of an antique clock appears bright white when exposed to a black light, there is a very good chance that the clock face is not original to the case.

As can be seen in this article, although a LWUV black light can be a useful tool for testing antiques and collectibles, it cannot and should not be the only source of authentication. Nothing can replace proper research, and it is very important to have a firm understanding of the item you are considering purchasing.

It should also be noted that throughout this article, I have used constantly used the term LWUV black light. The reason for this is the personal safety of the reader. When testing items with a black light it is important to ALWAYS and ONLY use a Long Wave Ultraviolet Black Light. There are three types of black lights available. These are UV-A, commonly known as a Long Wave UV black light; a UV-B, also known as a medium wave UV black light; and a UV-C, also known as a short wave (or far ultraviolet or germicidal) UV black light. Long term exposure to both UV-B and UV-C black lights can lead to serious and irreversible skin and vision problems such as cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration. Therefore, ALWAYS and ONLY use a Long Wave Ultraviolet Black Light when testing antiques and collectibles.

For further information on testing antiques and collectibles with a black light, I highly recommend purchasing The Black Light Book for Antiques and Collectibles. It is a highly informative book, containing over 100 photos and illustrations. Should you need a LWUV Black Light for yourself, there are several good online sources, including: