Getting Good Deals on Antiques and Collectibles

It's not difficult to find good deals and steals on your favorite antiques and collectibles. Antiques and collectibles shows provide buyers and collectors with the opportunity to see a large amount of diverse merchandise in a single setting. Running anywhere from one day to a full week, antique shows attract local dealers, dealers within the region and in some cases, from throughout the country. Better still, most dealers at antique shows are willing to entertain a certain amount of negotiating, which adds to the thrill of hitting upon a good find.

Finding Antique Shows

Antique and collectibles shows are easy to find. Start by conducting a search for antique shows on the Internet and include your city or state to limit your findings to shows you can easily attend. You can also scan newspaper classified ads or visit your local antique store for copies of free antique trade publications that list shows in your area. When you're searching for events online, check to see if the show's Web site offers ticket discounts.

Entrance Fees

Antique and collectibles shows are sometimes free to the public, but generally you can expect to pay an entrance fee. These fees vary from a few dollars to over $25 depending on the venue, the duration of the show and the kind of merchandise offered. Be sure to ask if your entrance fee entitles you to return privileges that allow you to return to the show multiple times at no additional cost.

When to Go

There are two schools of thought when it comes to best time to attend an antique show and each makes sense: go early on the first day or late on the last day when dealers are getting ready to depart for home.

If you choose to go early to an antique show, it can be worth paying additional fees to gain entrance of early-bird showings where your chances of finding something rare or that the dealer hasn't priced correctly are greater. While dealers are knowledgeable and some have great expertise in certain areas, they don't know everything. If the dealer specialized in Fenton glass, they may not be aware that another figurine they've marked to sell for $15 lists significantly higher.

You can also benefit from attending an antique and collectibles show on the last day, when dealers are preparing to pack their wares for the return trip home. At this time, you're likely to find at least a few dealers who'd rather sell certain items at a lower price than transport them again, particularly if the items are fragile.

This doesn't mean there aren't good deals to be found between opening and closing day-there are. You'll just have to look a little harder for them.

Get to Know the Dealers

Many shoppers make the mistake of scanning antique show booths from a distance and moving on. Shopping isn't a race. Take your time and stroll through the entire show, paying special attention to booths that display a variety of merchandise. Your best chance to see everything and find something unexpected is when you slow down and take a closer look.

If you have the time, use it to talk with the dealers at the show, especially if you've purchased something from them in the past. The more the dealers get to know you, the more you establish a relationship that can lead to better prices over the longer term.

When you're first building relationships with antique dealers, it pays to keep a few points of antique show etiquette in mind:

  • Dealers are there to sell merchandise, not give free appraisals. Unless you have a well-established relationship with the dealer, don't bother them with these requests. Look to see if the show features an appraisal booth where appraisers charge a nominal fee per item for their services.
  • Be professional and polite. Dealers work hard to acquire, pack and display items at a show and they pay for the privilege of showing their merchandise at the show. Negative comments about where the item may have come from or why it's priced the way it is won't help you make dealer friends.

Negotiating Prices

When it comes to negotiating with antique dealers, you need to be well-versed in an item's value. Next, be reasonable with your offers. Don't offer $50 for four antique purses that are marked $300 each, even if you believe that's all they're worth, especially if you don't know the dealer but like their merchandise enough to want to do buy from them in the future.

You have more leeway when you already have an established relationship with the dealer, but even then you should at least try to look squeamish if choose to lowball the asking price. Your objective is get the best price possible without insulting the dealer so you don't cost yourself the opportunity to continue developing that relationship.

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