Sunday, May 8, 2011

Antique Shopping 101

It has been said that the best time to buy an antique is when you see it. And there is a certain amount of truth to this. That being said, however, there are a few things you should take into account before you even leave the house. And such is the purpose of this article.

The first thing to understand is, to know what you are looking for, and what you like. Then, do your homework. The more you know about the type of antique you’re looking for, the less likely you are to regret your purchase. You wouldn’t buy a car without knowing at least a little something about the kind of car you want, and the same holds true for antiques. So do some research. You might check out your local library to see if they have any books about the type of antique you are interested in, in their holdings. Don’t forget to also ask about an interlibrary loan. You might even want to check out your local bookseller to see if they have am identification or price guide. Remember, however, that the prices in price guides do not necessarily reflect the value of the items contained within its covers. Price guides are best used only for identification. Check online sources as well. To a search online for your antique, and learn about the history of the piece. Learn what type of maker mark to look for, and memorize the mark. Learn any identifying characteristics about your antique. In other words, learn as much as you can about it. In doing so, you will be better prepared to ask an antique dealer educated questions, and less likely to be taken for an uninformed novice.

Tip Number Two, shop with a reputable dealer. Check with the better business bureau to find out if any of the dealers in your area have had complaints. Find out how long the dealers have been in business for any length of time, and ask around. If a dealer has a good reputation, word will get around. If a dealer has a bad reputation, word will get around even more. When you visit a dealer, ask if the dealer is willing to provide a detailed receipt, noting the age of the piece, whether or not it is a reproduction, and maybe even the appraised value of the piece. If a dealer is willing to put this information in writing, then he or she is willing to put his or her reputation on the line. Disreputable dealers will not be willing to do this.

Tip Number Three, don’t be shy about asking for a discount. Most dealers almost expect their customers to ask for a discount, and some even price their items accordingly. Therefore, understand that when you purchase an antique, you may actually be paying more than the expected price if you don’t ask for a discount. But, a word of warning here, I said “ask,” don’t demand. And don’t mention a specific percentage. If you go in and demand or even ask for say a 25% or 50% discount, there is a good chance that you will insult the dealer, and any hope for discount will go right out the window. Instead, you might ask, “Is this your best price?” or “How firm are you on this price?” The just wait and see what the dealer has to say. He or she may then offer you a discount, or they may not. I have had both happen to me when I have asked. Once a price has been agreed upon, either a discounted price or the full price, get ready to ask again. Once you take your antique up to the counter to pay for it, pull out your credit card, pause, and then ask if the dealer offers a discount for paying cash. Some dealers will offer a discounted price to cash paying customers because they realize that they will have to pay a fee when customers pay with a credit card. Again, this may work, and it may not, but you’ll never know until you try. And don’t worry about insulting the dealer by asking for a discount. Most dealers expect it, and are ready to deal.

Tip Number Four, if you don’t like it, don’t buy it. Pretty simple advice, right? But you would be surprised how many people will buy an antique simply because it is an antique, and with the full expectation that it will appreciate in value and earn them a return on their investment. But what happens if they don’t really like the piece? And what happens if the value of the piece goes down rather than up? If you really like the piece, then it doesn’t really matter if it’s value up or down, because you will be enjoying the piece, and any appreciation in value is an added benefit to your enjoyment.

Our Last Tip, when you see that special piece, don’t wait! When you come across that special piece you’re going to know it. It will almost call to you from across the room. And even if you’re not 100% sure that you want it, go over and pick it up and hold on to it. Do not put it back down until you are 100% sure that you don’t want it. I cannot emphasize this enough! If you like it, even a little bit, go over and pick it up and hold onto it until you are absolutely certain you do not want it. I can’t tell you how many times I have watched someone pick a piece up and look longingly at it, and then put it back on the shelf while they walk around and think about it. Then when they finally decide they want it, they go back to claim their prize only to find that someone else has already picked it up. Remember, antiques are almost always one-of-a-kind pieces, and there is no guarantee that you will ever find another one. And even if you do, you may end up paying more. So, don’t put that item down until you are absolutely certain you just don’t want it.

So there you have it. Five quick tips to help turn you into a confident, no nonsense antique shopper. So head out there with your head up and determination in your stride! Happy shopping!

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