*Disclaimer-My views are that of my own. I do not speak for all antique dealers. I do, however, call it like I see it.
Marrying a man who was an antique dealer was an unexpected twist in life. Unexpectedly AWESOME. My job became shopping- for a living! We were hitting estate sales, auctions and consignment shops daily, looking for that million dollar treasure while buying up smalls to flip for “bread and butter.” “Bread and butter” items are those low price items ($20 or less) where profit margin is small. You may be able to make enough profit to buy bread and butter, and maybe some milk, but don’t count on paying the mortgage with it. My hubby and I own a large antiques mall in Michigan. It houses around 40 individual antique businesses, and hundreds more who consign with us. Believe me, it’s a labor of love to keep that beautiful 10,000 square foot historical building up and running. In fact, I bet what you think about the antiques business isn’t the way it is at all. Here are my top three most annoying misconceptions about the business of selling vintage and antique merchandise.
1. All antique dealers are rich and greedy!
Wrong! Ok, so some antique dealers really are wealthy, but there are a few super well to doers in any profession. Chances are they did not make their money selling antiques. Most of us are just ordinary people. We have real 9 to 5 jobs. We are teachers, accountants, mechanics, realtors and factory workers. We aren’t sitting in our mansions eating caviar. We aren’t just being selfish when we cannot accept your offer of 75% off an item’s ticket price. Which by the way is not only rude, but insulting to the dealer. Antique shops are not garage sales. Have some class people. More times than not we are happy to negotiate with you. But starting off with an insultingly low offer and criticizing the item to boot is no way to get a good deal. Since profit margins are so low in the biz, an antique dealer is sure to give you a better deal if you show appreciation for the item. Most of these dealers are doing this out of love of history and preservation. They do not want to see their treasures go to an unappreciative home.
2. Antique dealers are so greedy, they jack up the price by 100% or more.
Wrong again, my friend. Many antique dealers actually lose money on their items. Countless hours are spent spent by dealers researching, cleaning and evaluating the item. By the time a buyer haggles down the price with us, allows you to pay for the item with a credit card (which charges them an additional fee,) the dealer pays their commission to the shop owner on top of booth rental ( which can run into hundreds of dollars a month), the antique dealer ends up getting the short end of the stick. Again, this brings us back to this industry being run out of the love of preservation, not dollar signs.
3. We are greedy because we cannot pay Antique Roadshow prices when you try to sell us great grandma’s China. We are trying to rip people off.
Again, you would be wrong. It is not greed, it is reality. Antiques are not heat, electricity or food. They are a luxury. In this day and age, with the economy so poor,many items will take months, even years to sell. With the stiff competition of online sites such as eBay and Etsy, the value of most items has decreased dramatically. We as dealers must compete with the very low prices found online.
So I hope those of you who call us cheaters, liars and con artists can see the truth. We are not out to rip you off. Sure, we may get lucky and make a tidy profit on a piece of furniture or unique item once in awhile. Trust me, this does not happen everyday. So please, when shopping in an antique store, please remember these little tidbits of truth. And for heavens sake, treat us kind. You’ll attract more bees with honey than vinegar. In most scenarios you will get a much better deal with a kind attitude of appreciation instead of rudely telling us you can get it cheaper on eBay. Because if that is the case, by all means, buy it there. It won’t hurt our feelings a bit.