Interacting with Antique Dealers

As a collector of antiques and memorabilia, you will be interacting with dealers. These professionals work in the marketplace offering items for sale. They will often sell items that a collector will want. Buying from dealers has many advantages, but knowing how to interact with them will increase your opportunity of making a profitable transaction. Most are friendly, honest, and reputable. Dealers often have those hard-to-find items on display and are ready to sell them to a collector.

Some important things to consider when buying from dealers of antiques and collectibles:

1. Prices are negotiable. Unlike other retail stores, dealers are used to negotiating and accepting offers for less than posted prices. Do not be afraid to haggle. Dealers expect haggling. In fact, many will be surprised if a prospective buyer does not haggle.

2. Dealers are in the business of buying and selling, and will often accept trades.

3. Have a good knowledge of the current market and what the value of an item may be.

4. Most dealers strive to offer fair prices and good objects.

Working with Dealers

Just talking to experienced dealers will help you build your knowledge base. Many dealers started as collectors, and their collection just grew too large. Do not overlook the value of the knowledge you can gain from interacting with active dealers.

Pay close attention to the items you see while visiting the dealer's antique shop. Note the pricing, and learn from any researched details provided by the dealer. Do not hesitate to ask questions when things do not make sense.

Keep in mind that antique or collectible dealers can make mistakes or misrepresent things for a variety of reasons, including ignorance, laziness, apathy, inexperience, and unfortunately, sometimes greed.

When considering a purchase from a dealer, do not make costly mistakes, such as buying without checking reproduction information or noting condition issues that can greatly diminish value.

Many dealers operate under the condition that they probably will never make much money in the antiques or collectible business; they do it because they are having fun with it. Dealers like to make friends in the process. Avoid those who have become cynical and pessimistic. Most good dealers operate with the understanding that collecting should be fun for both the seller and buyer.

Good dealers offer great customer service. A few do forget this and become arrogant or indifferent after being in business for a long time. You have many choices where to shop, and this gives you control. Use your buying power to work with dealers that truly want your business. Develop your own list of dealers that provide good products and value to you.

For most antique and collectible shop owners, money is what counts. Cash is always preferred, so carry enough with you when you go looking for antiques. Most shop owners will accept credit cards, but it seems an overwhelming number prefer not to be bothered with credit card transactions that cost them money in the form of fees charged by the card-issuing banks. Many antique and collectible stores are hesitant to accept personal checks, especially if the check issuer is not local. Although many will accept checks rather than lose a sale, you are likely to get your best deal if you are ready to pay with cash.

Showing that you have the cash with you in an unobvious way is often helpful in getting a great deal. For example, you can offer $100 for an item, and say, "That is all I have with me today." Rather than lose the sale, many times a shop owner will accept a reasonable offer. This gives you bargaining power over those that do not have the cash readily available.

Shop online to get a good idea of the going price for the items you want. You should try to negotiate something that is about 25 percent less than the rates you have found online. Some dealers will remain firm with their posted prices. Most, however, expect and even enjoy negotiating or haggling over the final sale price. Expect to bargain for the best price. It is often part of the fun of collecting antiques and collectibles.

Interested in learning more? Why not take an online Buying and Selling Antiques and Collectibles course?

Do not be afraid to ask the antique shop owner to cut you a better price. It helps if you say something along the lines of "would you accept $100 for this?" That is better than asking, "Can you lower the price"? It definitely helps you get what you want if you are assertive, but do not become outright arrogant. A firm offer is often better received than the question, "Can't you do better?"

Many dealers often pad prices by 20 percent to 25 percent, so they can give a discount to another dealer. Whether a dealer will give you a lower price is at his or her discretion. The more you buy, the more likely a dealer may be to negotiate prices.

Keep in mind that dealers have substantial money invested in their inventory and, like all businesses, they need to control cash flow carefully. There are times when they may give you incredible discounts, and other times, they will not budge off the listed price on an object. Politeness and sincerity often help to make a deal happen.

As you develop your preferred list of dealers, be sure to give them your "want lists." Let them know what kind of collectibles and antiques you are seeking. The better dealers will do their best to locate items that may be of interest to you.

Other Services Dealers Offer

Dealers often provide restoration services. They acquire "rough" or less-than-perfect items and then clean and refurbish them, adding value by making professional updates to an object. Not all dealers are experts at refurbishing, while others are. If an object has been restored, be sure to inspect it closely. Antique furniture, for example, can lose substantial value if improperly cleaned or refinished.

Some dealers provide expert opinions and professional appraisal service. Some are associated with specialty auction houses and assist in the preparation of objects for sale.

The Dealer's Reputation

The vast majority of dealers take great pride in the items they offer for sale. If you believe an object you bought was not properly priced or identified, do not be afraid to go back to the dealer. Be prepared to prove the item you bought was not what it was purported to be. This means proof, usually in the form of an appraisal. For example, if you bought a piece of furniture that should be worth $1,500 because of its period, but later find out it is reproduction and not an original, go back to the dealer. Because reputation is so important to most established dealers, they will often refund a purchase if you return an item.

Antique Glassware, Furniture, and Other Items

In the world of collecting, antique glassware and furniture are extremely popular items that are constantly bought and sold. It would be difficult to walk into any antique store and not find glassware and furniture on display. Other popular items include jewelry, toys, tools, and vehicles. Because these are so popular, having some knowledge of their characteristics will greatly increase your profitability.


Antiques vary, especially those objects that are collected. Glassware is popular. Collectors seek complete collections, and work on getting specific items. Sometimes the items are sought to complete a set. It could be a place setting, such as items needed for a meal, such as a dinner plate, bowl, smaller plate, cup, saucer, etc. Sometimes the desired items may be salt and pepper shakers, bowls, or covered dishes.

Glassware can be both beautiful and practical. It brings a special joy to its owners and to those who see it. Some items are meant to be used, while other objects are collected for display only.

Many collectors use items from a collection in their everyday life, thereby gaining even more pleasure from their glassware collection. The collection can range from antique to modern glassware.

Whether collecting glass for personal pleasure or purchasing it as an investment, always remember the collector's most important concern: condition. The value of each piece of glass is in direct proportion to its condition.

The only exception to this rule would be if the glassware were a one-of-a-kind piece or an extremely rare example of a particular technique. Even then, you should expect to purchase the glassware at a substantial discount. Common or easy-to-find items rarely sell well in damaged condition.

Beginning collectors often seek quantity rather than quality. They seem to buy everything in sight, rather than approach their collection activities with the goal of acquiring quality pieces. As a collection grows, collectors evolve and often choose to specialize in a particular style or period of glassware. Quality is always better than quantity. A quality item will hold or increase its value.

Learning to recognize quality glassware is not difficult. Many reference books are available that focus on specific glassware manufacturers. The books will also help focus on a particular style of glassware as a beginner starts collecting. A part of the learning includes knowing which shapes are rare and which colors were produced in small quantities. Determine which pieces are "one of a kind." You can take your books with you when you go to shows so you can recognize a bargain.


The process of determining antique furniture's value is not quite as straightforward. Many older furnishings border on the realm of artwork. It is often possible to get an estimate of the value of similar pieces from the same era. This makes a great starting point for an evaluation.

Shop around for similar antique furniture for sale. By visiting traditional antique stores, a collector can soon develop a sense of what antique furniture is worth. Although time-consuming, the browsing through antique stores can be a lot of fun.

There is also online browsing. Visit sites that offer antique furniture for sale.

Other Antique Items

Many items have rich histories and interesting stories behind them. Many people find as much worth in the stories as in the individual items themselves. Those items are often collected because of such interest. Some are small objects, such as jewelry, coins, or stamps. There are much larger items, such as tools, vehicles, or machines. Toys, household items, clothing, and textiles are also items that are commonly collected, traded, bought, and sold. Try to get as much information about any collectible as possible. If there is a story that goes with the object, it may be of interest to many others. Such stories can make an item more interesting and desirable to others.

A good antique or collectible value will incorporate the history of the item, including its origin and the number of similar items made during its era. Some items will have greater value and desirability simply because of their rich, historical backgrounds.

Depending on the item, it could be needed to help complete a collection, such as a specific coin, or it could be desired as an addition, such as a toy. By browsing flea markets, antiques malls, and dealer shops, the new collector soon develops an idea of the items traded and their general value.

Consulting a professional antiques appraiser is the ideal approach for getting the right number for your investment. There are often shows or gatherings where items can be appraised inexpensively. For example, an expert appraises an item for a nominal amount, usually around $10. Before selling any fine pieces of furniture, glassware, or other rare items, it is best to get a professional estimate of the object's value.