Pickers are resourceful people with a strong native intelligence and a wealth of experience. You can learn a lot from them and from trying some picking yourself. The business of antiquing is all about buying and selling. Being a collector is mostly about buying with maybe some beneficial horsetrading and occasional selling thrown in. The following information may be valuable as many a collector who starts out selling duplicate items gets bit by the dealer bug. Scratch a collector and you will find a merchant underneath.
Shy People Lose Out
One of the main lessons I have learned in this business is, don’t be shy. That was tough for me. I grew up kind of shy and introverted. I didn’t come out of my shell fully until I went back to college at age forty. I noticed that all the kids in class didn’t want to speak up. I’d been kicked around enough by life that I didn’t care so much if I opened my mouth and what I said wasn’t immediately applauded. You have to be ready to walk up to total strangers and talk about what you are interested in. Look at what people have. If you want it, make an offer. Buy something you don’t want as much, at a price you can afford, and it may break the ice.
It works at a flea market too. When you buy multiple items you can ask for a bigger discount for the whole group and thereby get the item you are most interested in for a good price. The extra items in the group can be good low priced quick sale merchandise for your shop. As a dealer you need cash flow and deals that attract repeat customers. This is a clear win-win. It’s like buying box lots at auction. Every box of junk has one item that you are sure of. When you get it home and start rooting around some treasure may come to light that pays for all the boxes and the hot dog and soda that got you through yet another long night of earsplitting auctioneering.
On The Road Again And Again
Travel broadens the mind and deepens the pockets. Be ready to get out and about in search of new buying venues. When you are driving anywhere be looking for out of the way shops and flea markets. When I was a kid my parents called them junk shops. I loved them. Don’t judge a book by it’s cover. The trashier the place looks the better may be your chances of low prices. Sometimes a shop is intentionally junky. I knew some people who stocked there antique mall spaces on this basis. It appeals to a certain type of buyer and those dealers did quite well. Take the back roads and state routes when you travel. The highways are called limited access for a reason.
Develop a regular circuit of flea markets, swap meets and antique malls with a good turn around in merchandise. I used to get up at five on a Sunday morning. I hit the local flea market in my home town and pestered people as they were unloading their vehicles. I would then head east and hit three more by noon going out about twenty-five miles. Once a month I would change up and head west. There were fewer flea markets in that direction. Always head for the target rich environments.
That was in the populous Northeast. Where I live now it costs too much to get anywhere with a sizable population. The price of fuel is a big chunk of overhead these days. Strategize according to past performance and what you have observed of current trends so that you aren’t going where buying opportunities are lacking.
Time is money. Don’t waste it by haggling with people who aren’t willing to part with their precious memories. If you can’t break the ice with a smaller sale then move on to plow some looser soil. Everybody behind a table at a flea market should be ready to come down to a price where you can afford to buy an item for resale. If they don’t, remember those dealers and don’t hand over your valuable time to them again. Develop a good visual scan so that you can move through a flea market and spot interesting items quickly. There can be an awful lot of small items on a table and you will certainly miss some good things. You can help the process if you have a partner who knows your want list. My girl friend used to see stuff that totally escaped me because everybody has a different point of view. Fresh eyes can be a valuable asset. It is tempting to look in detail at every box in a crowded stand, but the clock is ticking.
Good flea market dealers will have boxes in orderly rows with not too much in each box. All the books in one area, household in another, and so on. There may be a separate table for the “special” items which will probably have the higher prices. I knew a couple who cleaned out houses and worked this formula like a clockwork machine every Sunday at the local flea market. I loved these guys. They were all about the quick turnover. They had a barn full of stuff all the time and what didn’t get sold got trashed. It was easy to cruise through their stuff just walking the rows of boxes scanning for good stuff. Then I’d visit the special table and usually pick up some nice smalls at a price that left room for me. They got to know what I was looking for and soon I was being treated to items on reserve in the back of the car. If they had aviation items or old slide rules, they were set aside for me to have first choice. Every Sunday ten minutes of my time netted me salable material.
Tell Them What You Want
Let people know what you are looking to buy. Some dealers put ads in the newspaper saying what they are buying. People respond to the idea of getting immediate cash for their old junk. If you are knocking on doors have a flyer that lists clearly the kind of items you are willing to pay cold hard cash for. Hang a copy on every free bulletin board you see. I used to have a list of wants printed on the back of my business cards for Timestream Antiques. When you are buying from a dealer at a flea market let the person know that you are interested in buying more of the same and also other items. Cultivate relationships with the people on your circuit.
Speaking up is easier than you think. Come out of your shell. Spend a little gas money (yeah! I know that’s getting harder). Move on when the pickings are slim. Let everybody know what you want, what you really, really want! When you get it be ready to go back for more.
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