The antiques business always seemed exceptionally busy. That was my perception anyway. I had a schedule that never quit. The good part was that I could control the pace well enough to keep the activity level bearable. It helped to find tools to make my time more productive. Quickly, some of those tools were a computer and printer, price guides and catalogs, reference books, a vehicle with good gas mileage and a basement suitable for stuffing like a Christmas goose.
Antiquing is part carefully laid strategy and part getting stuck with a bewildering array of things you may not be able to (a) identify (b) restore or (c) get rid of. Clearly defined areas of interest go a long way toward establishing a productive business model. Life is easier when you can confidently separate your eenie’s from your meenies and your mineys from your mo’s. It is inevitable in the trade that you will often buy a group of items to get a hold of just one gem. Naturally the gems go to the head of the class. They are either sold in very short order or they are stored in a place and manner such that they will be rediscovered within your life time. Think inventory control.
Reach into those musty auction boxes and you will find things that are either worn or broken. Have a garbage can handy. Identify each item to establish if it is worth the time and materials to restore. Be careful with genuinely old items, especially furniture, which gains value from patina. Classic example: wooden benches. Almost any old wooden bench with six peeling layers of paint and worn edges where the bare wood shows through can be sold in an antiques mall or flea market. Price it low and move it fast. If you can tighten up wobbly legs that’s probably as much restoration as you will need to do.
Most furniture that is post 1930 is not precious museum quality stuff. Restore it enough to make it attractive in the shop. Your primary tool here is Old English furniture polish and a rag. A badly crazed shellac fish can be re-amalgamated with a careful aplication of denatured alcohol. Throw on a wax finish and you are good to go. It does great on old oak desks that get surplussed out of old schools and goverment buildings.
Find some handy instructions on the technique and practice on an old piece of waterfall furniture. Your first effort will not be spectacular but for the right price it will still sell for more than the five bucks you gave for at it a garage sale. A handy source of materials, tools and general supplies is Thomasnet.com. You probably won’t need a fork lift or titanium sheet but they can guide you to companies with almost anything you need in finishes, solvents, tools, etc. Their listings under varnishes give 220 results. There is a ton of information much of which is on a larger scale than you need but keep in mind that even a small shop now a days has requirements for workplace safety and sound environmental practices.
Modern collectibles often do not fall into the patina equals value zeitgeist. Barbies and Star Wars action figures are best presented as new, even better if they are still in the original box or packaging. Certain niches lend themselves to a lot of tinkering and repair such as model railroading. Trains have a lot of small parts and electric motors. there is a marketplace devoted to model trains old and new. Those Lionel and Marx trains-in-a-basket that surface in estate sales are like a goldmine. If you have the skills to put a deader into running condition or even just reattach all the wheels floating loose in the bottom of the box then your time can indeed become money.
The best part of antiquing is the discovery of buried treasure. Arghh! We be pirates here. So look lively and keep a weather eye out for more booty. Once you’ve found it, identified it, and fixed it up it’s time to either keep it as your own or get rid of it. Either way a little bit more of the world gets sorted out and maybe a little jingle goes into your pocket as well as your step.