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How To Be an Antiques Dealer


How To Be an Antiques Dealer

Antique Nut License Plate Spotted at Round Top Antiques Fair

- Pamela Wiggins
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With a lot of hard work, study, determination and perseverance, most anyone can be an antiques dealer.
Difficulty: Hard
Time Required: Lots

Here's How:

  1. Start by learning as much as you can about the objects you collect using books, online resources, talking to experienced dealers and other collectors.
  2. Pay close attention to the items you see while visiting antique shops and shows, noting pricing and any researched details provided by the dealers.
  3. Ask questions when things don't make sense. And remember that antique dealers can make mistakes or misrepresent things for a variety of reasons including inexperience, ignorance, apathy and, unfortunately, greed.
  4. Build a reference library as you're learning. It should include a number of good general reference guides and a few guides on your specialty areas as a start. Search the Internet for additional resources bookmarking relavent pages on the About.com Antiques site.
  5. Contact your local tax assessor's office to obtain a tax exemption and resale certificate, and set up a DBA account with your bank, if necessary. Find out if your state requires any additional registration for small businesses.
  6. Look for an economical place to do business, such as flea markets, small shows and antique malls with reasonably priced dealer space and/or use online auctions to get your feet wet in the virtual marketplace.
  7. After covering your overhead costs, use all the money you make from your first (and most of your future) sales to purchase more merchandise for your inventory.
  8. Be prepared to compete with many others to find merchandise at resale prices, remembering not to pay too much for antiques and collectibles so you can keep offering prices competitive.
  9. Don't make costly mistakes such as buying without checking reproduction information or noting condition issues that can greatly diminish value.
  10. If you'll be doing your own bookkeeping, buy a book about running a small business and/or purchase software to help you with inventory, income and expense schedules you'll need for income tax purposes.
  11. Be sure to keep all your receipts for purchases and expenses, and accurate mileage records for your vehicle in case of an IRS audit.
  12. Be prepared to spend the majority of your free time hunting, cleaning, researching, pricing and selling your merchandise. Also remember that it's important to stay on top of new trends in the marketplace so you won't pass by an item that is currently "hot" with collectors.
  13. Remember that you'll probably never make much money in the antiques business, so be sure you're having fun with it. Make as many friends as possible in the process, and avoid those who've become cynical and pessimistic about the business to preserve your good attitude.
  14. Learn to relish the big finds and big sales, because they won't happen every day.
  15. Decide whether or not the benefits outweigh the work and frustrations involved before continuing your efforts.


  1. Remember that being an antiques dealer is usually an extension of collecting and should be fun for both the seller and buyer.
  2. Try to represent the profession in an ethical manner, always remembering the golden rule and being aware that greed can cause people to do strange, unpleasant things sometimes.
  3. Don't kick yourself when you sell an item too low. Chances are you made a good profit anyway and someone else was delighted with their find.
  4. Read periodicals on collecting topics and decorating magazines to help you learn what's desirable and how to display your wares in fresh ways.
  5. Remember that good customer service is just as important in this business as in any other. Being arrogant won't win you any friends and often drives away potential customers. People have lots of choices on where to shop. Do what you have to do to make sure they always shop with you.

What You Need:

  • An ample inventory
  • A good reference library
  • A good attitude
  • Lots of energy
  • Patience
  • Perseverance, and ...
  • A REAL job ...
  • To fund your "business!"

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