the most frequently asked question posed to
an antique dealer is where do you find
all this stuff? The query for politeness
sake necessitates a response, but what may appear
to be a simple question is in reality, the most
byzantine of the entire profession. Where do
we get what we sell?
even dealers cannot stop themselves from asking
each other where did you find that?
when shown something that makes our eyes pop,
it is considered not quite comme il faute
or a proper question in the trade. The longer
you are in the business, the less a question
it becomes. You soon amazingly realize there
is an endless supply. And there is.
may be trouble ahead, as Fred Astaire sings,
but while theres music, before the fiddlers
before they ask us to pay the bills,
and while we still have the chance,
lets face the music and dance.
music is the objects of desire, our dance is
acquiring these objects. It is a delicate performance
both challenging and energizing, and each dealer
has their own fancy footwork. Of course we would
all love the aplomb of Astaire but without such
talent, it is the arcane consanguinity of being
in the right place at the right time, with expertise
and finance in sufficient proportions. A dealers
inventory is their lifeblood, and must constantly
be renewed with new merchandise of quality,
that is both desirable and affordable. Which
of course means that we must buy right. As in
all trade of buying and selling, whether stocks
or antiques, you make your money when you buy.
So you must buy right.
Antique dealers buy everywhere, anytime, from
anyone. We advertise, we travel, we never stop
looking, and mostly we never pass an opportunity
to buy. We buy single pieces or whole estates.
We buy from other dealers, from pickers, from
auction, estate sales, private clients. We buy
from people walking into our shops. Each negotiation
is a practice of diplomacy and discretion, seeking
a satisfactory deal for both buyer and seller.
The seller must be aware of several dictum.
a professional appraisal valuation is not in
play here (i.e. a certified written report with
comparative valuations used for IRS charitable
purposes, insurance replacement, or division/liquidation
of assets). Rather this is an immediate judgement
call of what the object is worth to the dealer,
and at what price the seller will be comfortable
concluding the sale. Do not expect a dealer
to professionally appraise something you wish
to sell to them. If you want a professional
appraisal, find a disinterested appraiser and
engage their services. A reputable dealer cannot
appraise an object and than buy itit is
a conflict of interest. Although many dealers
do appraise and than buy, it is usually a circumstance
where the parameters are clearly defined, and
both parties have an established relationship
of trust and commerce.
a dealer likes to buy in lot, that
is a number of items grouped together and a
single price for all. That way, if you have
miscalculated on one thing and you paid too
much, you are confident you
can make it up on something else for which you
paid a better price (better margin for resale).
Clean-outs, downsizing, estate and probate lots
are the primary source of heroic amounts of
stuff, and require careful agreement
in writing, between buyer and seller.
a dealer likes to buy fresh merchandise,
meaning that other dealers have not seen it.
If you shop your antiques to several dealers
we will know it in a very short time and the
more dealers who refuse, the less likely you
are to get your price.
Buyer and Seller should never be an adversarial
relationship. A dealer will buy from a client
in good faith, and pay in most instances, one
third of the value of an objectwhich is
a typical auction, or
fair-market value. Why only a third? Fair market
value is defined as that price at which a willing
buyer and willing seller, each party without
duress, agree to an exchange of goods. The auction
where this fair market value has been historically
defined and a dealer will pay what they know
to be a fair auction price. From years of auction
records the dealer knows that unless the object
is truly rare,
it can be bought for a third of retail value.
Perhaps not all the time, but enough. Reputable
dealers keep constant eyes on the auction market
and can readily assess merit and value. After
all, such expertise is our business and without
it our enterprise would not prosper.
the above is only a small offering to the curious,
now you may have some inkling of why-- when
you ask the question where do you get
all this stuff-- the antique dealer will
smile, get a distant look in the eye, and after
a moment say everywhere. During
that moment we are parading before our inner
eye and ear all the steps we painfully learned
and passionately pursue: there may be trouble
ahead, but while theres music, and while
we still have the chance, lets face the
music and dance.
Remember, Ginger Rogers did it backward and