1: The market is dynamic

-Like all markets and industries, the antique market is always changing in terms of what is being collected, prices and how pieces are being sold. Although it can be tough to get a handle on prices and trends its important to check prices at recent auctions and visit advertising shows such as Madison Bouckville and the Indianapolis Ad Show to listen to dealers and get a feel for what’s hot and what’s not.

2: The market is 2 tiered

-Unlike the roaring markets of the 80’s and 90’s where you could flip anything that was reasonably priced the middle and lower end of the market are more difficult as collectors have shifted focus to higher quality advertising. The market for high end antique advertising is extremely strong and buyers are willing to pay more than ever for key pieces. While money can still be made on the mid-range pieces, it is more a case of finding the right buyer at the right time and turnover times on these pieces have been rising for most dealers.

3: Buy with a customer in mind

-One of the biggest mistakes that dealers make is they buy anything that is a good value and end up tying all their money up in an inventory antiques that aren’t liquid. There is nothing wrong with this approach over the long haul but they often miss out on great buys because all their money is tied up. The answer is to always have a buyer or auctioneer in mind when making purchases so you don’t end up with an overflowing inventory.

4: Quality trumps rarity 

-In previous decades, collectors and dealers seemed to want 1 of every item with each variation regardless of the condition especially in the tin market. Over the years this has slowly shifted to an emphasis on top condition items that are ideal for display. This seems to be due to many collectors downsizing their homes and focusing on the highest end of the market to display. Although rare and unusual variations still have value, collectors seem to be more focused on display appear and condition over rarity.

5: The fakes are really good

-Fakes and reproduction have always been a difficult part of the antique market. Countless collectors and dealers have been burned on a piece they bought only to find out that it wasn’t original. Unfortunately over the years people have gotten better and better at faking quality antiques. Learn how to use a black light to authenticate antiques to help spot restoration and reproductions. While most dealers are honest, you should always proceed with caution.

6: Buy from reputable sellers

-With so much repaired and fake antiques floating around the antique market, you should make sure to buy from reputable dealers and auctioneers. Always try and find out about sellers track record and see if they are known for honorable dealing and descriptions. Auctioneers should carefully check all their items and mention any restoration. Talk with other collectors and dealers to find out is an honest dealer to avoid getting burned

7: There are bargains out there

-Although the market for mid range antiques is weaker than it used to be there are plenty of good buys out there. Look for general antique auctions and large antique advertising auctions and keep an eye out for lower priced lots. Often times they will sell for a fraction of retail value and there is a lot of money to be made by targeting lower priced items and sending them to specialty auction houses with a network of key buyers.

8: Shows have changed but they are coming back

-Antique shows used to be the best and only way to see and buy quality antique advertising sings, tins and collectables. With the emergence of the internet, e-bay and online auctions, their importance has decreased as much of the thrill of the hunt has been removed as you can find nearly anything with the click of a button. This has led to decreased interest in show the last 10-15 years but that seems to be changing. People are starting to realize that antique shows are an experience that can’t be replicated on-line and people are coming back to the shows in a big way. With the younger generations interest in vintage and antique products, turnout at shows seems to be on the rebound

9: Do your research

-In todays world, researching antiques is easier than ever. Although price guide books have their place, you can easily research items you are interested in buying right on your phone or computer. If you are reading this post, you have the advantage of being computer literate which many collectors and dealers are not. Use web price guides like the free antique advertising price guide, Worthpoint price guide or even just Google to learn more about items and their value before buying.

10: Buy What you love

-The antique market is largely unpredictable and volatile. While many dealers and collectors have achieved great financial returns with their purchases over the years this is far from a risk free hobby. If you focus on what you love and take pride in displaying, you will never be disappointed. You can’t put a price on the pride you take in your collection so approach antiques as a work of passion, enjoy what you buy and consider any price appreciation as a bonus. Collecting is supposed to be fun so buy what you love and don’t worry too much about prices.

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What other tips do you have for collectors and dealers?