So you want to take up antiquing, either as a distracting hobby or as a potential investment vehicle, but you have no idea where to begin. According to local experts, there are five steps that can help you get started.
Do Your Homework Before Buying
Antiquing is not a pursuit that can be learned on the fly. According to Judy Weaver Gonyeau, managing editor of The Journal of Antiques and Collectibles, a monthly magazine, gathering knowledge on the subject of your pursuit should proceed any purchase.
“It comes down to one thing: research, research, research,” she said. “It is sort of like ‘location, location, location’ for antiques.”
Gonyeau acknowledged there is a wealth of material, both in print and online, to help the newcomer get up to speed on the subject. She gave an extra shout-out to the annual Kovels’ Antiques and Collectibles Price Guide — the 2020 edition was released in September and includes 16,000 listings and 2,500 full-color photographs, with item prices based on sales from this year.
“Kovels is a great resource,” she added. “They’ve been around forever and are incredibly knowledgeable.”
One resource that played a key role in introducing many people to this endeavor is the long-running PBS series Antiques Roadshow. However, Janet Temple, owner of Essex-Saybrook Antiques Village in Old Saybrook, noted the program might give the wrong impression on valuations.
“Geography factors into the market,” she said. “Something that is worth $100 in Connecticut would not be worth as much in Texas.”
Have Faith in Reputable Sellers
Newcomers to antiquing may feel overwhelmed by the depth and scope of available merchandise. And, on occasion, they might miss the subtlety in product marketing.
“The words ‘vintage’ and ‘antique’ get mixed up together,” said Karen Hart, owner of Shops at the Mill House in Chester. “When dealers use ‘vintage,’ that could mean the 1980s, which a lot of young people believe was many, many years ago.”
Still, reputable dealers take pride in their honest work.
“We have more than 100 vendors,” said Jim Case, co-owner of Clinton Antique Center in Clinton. “If we think the people were getting ripped off, we would not let those items go out of the establishment.”
“Shop owners want to make a reasonable profit,” said Gonyeau. “They love what they have and what they do. They want to make the customer happy and come back and buy something else.”
Ask Plenty of Questions
Whether shopping in a store or attending an auction, be prepared to ask as many questions as possible about the items being offered for sale.
“Go in and start talking to dealers doing the selling,” said Gonyeau. “Get a feel for what they know.”
Case stated that store owners have no problems fielding inquiries about the items for sale.
“You’d want to talk to someone who knows what they’re doing,” he said. “If you want to come down and pick our brains, we’re very happy to talk to you.”
Buyers should be able to carefully inspect items for sale and ask in-depth questions on the pieces’ past and whether it has undergone restoration.
“You want to get as authentic a piece as possible with as little intervention in its history as possible,” advised Tad Fallon, co-owner at Fallon & Willkinson LLC, a furniture conservation firm based in Baltic.
Tread Carefully Online
According to Hart, e-commerce accounts for half of today’s antique sale transactions. And not unlike other retail sectors, e-commerce has chipped away at the brick-and-mortar aspect of this business.
“A lot of little antique stores have closed and a lot of antique malls are struggling,” she lamented.
Further complicating matters are sellers who may not have the same level of expertise as the traditional retail professionals.
“There are a lot of amateurs selling stuff online,” Hart continued. “There is misinformation out there.”
But that doesn’t mean e-commerce should be avoided. Hart added that the pursuit of a specific piece has been made easier thanks to the proliferation of online sellers.
“Years ago, everything was unique,” she recalled. “You’d walk in store that had one-of-a-kind item that you would probably not find again. Now, it’s a whole different ball game. You could go online now and find 10 of the same thing.”
Just Have Fun
Antiquing neophytes that stay focused will gain knowledge over time, and what might be viewed as rookie mistakes in purchasing should be seen as learning experiences.
“Starting out is a trial and error sort of thing,” said Josh Haderski, owner of Past to Present in Niantic. “You learn from every mistake you make.”
Ultimately, antiquing should result in new elation from acquiring older merchandise.
“Just buy what you love,” said Fallon. “If you see something that is visually exciting and fits a certain space, then go for it. And remember the classic old rule about antiques: buy the best you can afford.”