Who doesn’t love the thrill of bargain shopping at an estate sale, flea market, garage sale, or even a local auction house? Shows like American Pickers or Storage Wars have made the thrill of the hunt even more mainstream. Going on the hunt is easy – but are you 100% sure you’re not on the wrong side of selling an antique cheap?
Let’s face it: it’s great when you find a great antique for pennies on the dollar – but you never want to be the person who sold a $30,000 painting for $25. There’s no way to ever completely know 100% of all antiques – there are tens of thousands (or even hundreds of thousands) of antique books alone, but there are some general things you can look for, and general tips you can follow, to try to keep yourself on the right side of things.
Tip 1: Study what interests you
This is a huge one, and should be fairly easy. After all, no matter how generally interested you are in sales, there are always certain things that are going to attract you the most, so why not study those? I studied antique books because I have always loved books, history, and how words change history. Antique books is where all of these could meet in one place.
My parents ran an antique store that had everything under the sun, but they also had about 70% glass because that’s what they loved: especially Depression glass and Vaseline glass. Figure out what you love, and study that!
Tip 2: Study general basics of antique “types”
You might not have a lot of interest in antique books, glass, or toys, but think about what you see a lot of in your area and consider doing a little bit of research or study. You don’t have to know everything inside and out, but even a basic knowledge will teach you some of the things to look for when going to sales, or looking through your own stuff before putting it out in your own garage sale. You never know when that little nagging feeling might save you a small fortune.
Tip 3: Use the resources available to you
When I was going full swing as a book hound in 2002-2003, do you know what I would have given for a smartphone with Internet access whenever I found an interesting looking old book? If you see something that just catches you eye, then go ahead and use that smartphone to do some research – find a producer’s name or stamp on the china. If you have the technology at the tip of your fingers, why not use it?
If you’re at home preparing for your own sale, you even have less of an excuse to not take pictures and post them in antique forums to see what information you can gather. You have time to find out if you’re sitting on a valuable antique!
Tip 4: Watch the shows
Hey, you never know when a random episode of American Pickers, Pawn Stars, and especially PBS’s amazing Antique Roadshow will show you something familiar. Besides, this way TV’s educational and you don’t need to feel guilty, right?
Follow these four tips and you will be far more likely to identify a great deal on an antique, and less likely to give one away by accident! Above all else, enjoy the experience of being fascinated with living history!