Are you retired and looking for a hobby to fill your time, one that lets you interact with different people everyday and explore different pieces from history? What about a history-buff looking for a part-time investment in antiquing? Well, we’re glad to say that becoming an antiques dealer is not as difficult or daunting as it might seem. There are so many different kinds of dealers you could become dependent on your availability, income, interests, and more. Some of these dealers include:
Whatever your circumstances, our community has a place for you! There are a few things you need to know and prepare for before you embark on the journey of becoming a legitimate antiques dealer!
Before you set out to invest your time and money into become an antique dealer, first consider whether you are truly interested in this profession, even for a hobby. It will take a lot of time to develop the skills and confidence in finding and researching pieces, selling them, and building credibility over time. Most successful antique dealers do not prioritize profit over their interest in the items and industry itself. Having a genuine interest in the items you’re working with will ensure you stay motivated through the learning process.
It will also take a lot of patience as you’re first starting out. You might buy a piece for more than it’s actually worth, or your piece might not sell for a while. Being willing to learn and stay positive will be key to these initial challenges you will likely face.
Passion, patience, and positivity are all necessary to be a successful antique dealer.
Other common characteristics of successful antique dealers include:
Now that you’ve determined you can think like an antique dealer, you’ll start the process of meeting real-life antique dealers. Joining the network is the best and most resourceful move you can make in this journey because you’ll be able to learn first-hand tips and tricks in the industry from people who have achieved proven success. Especially finding an antique dealer who has been in the business for a long time will be very beneficially to your learning. As their apprentice, the dealer will likely teach you where to look for items, how to spot the good ones to buy, different ways and places to sell, along with the behind-the-curtain facets, including bookkeeping, inventory systems, payment schedules, and more.
A great way to find and meet dealers in your area would be to visit a popular antique store, like the Picker Knows in West Des Moines. You can also see the types of pieces they’re selling and how they showcase them in retail spaces. This will be a great way to explore the types of specializations dealers focus on in their collecting and reselling.
That brings us into the next step toward becoming a successful antique dealer: specializing in a specific type of antique. As you explore local antique stores and dealer shops, you’ll see the variety of antiques that people will actually spend their money on. When you specialize, though, this means you will invest your time and research into a specific group of antiques, essentially becoming an expert on that antique. Whether you are fascinated with toy trains or a specific era in history, you can pick anything! Pick a specific type of antique, whether it’s specific based on the item itself or the era it comes from, then start researching it. Learn about its development throughout the centuries and/or decades, it’s value over time, and where to look for it. This doesn’t mean you can’t buy and sell other pieces you find, though. It simply means, especially in the dealer community and among your customers, that you specialize in a specific type of antique, and therefore are very knowledgeable about those pieces. It’s a great way to build credibility and network.
Consulting books, magazines, online forums, and even taking classes in art history and appraisals are other great sources of information and inspiration as you delve into the world of antiquing!
Be aware that this step takes years and may never actually end as you continue to research your antique specialization. You’re on the road to becoming a life-long learner as well as an antique dealer!
No education or license is needed to become an antique dealer. However, you will need to apply for a resale certificate, also known as a tax exemption certificate. This certificate allows you to purchase an item for resale without having to pay taxes on it; instead, you must collect sales tax from the individual you are selling to if they do not also have a resale certificate. This is required to be a legitimate antique dealer and also gives you exemption from paying sales tax.
The certificate is based on the place you are selling, so if you sell in multiple states, you must have a certificate for each of those states. Contact your state department to learn more about how to apply for and verify a resale/tax exemption certificate.
As you begin your search for pieces of your specialty, remember to use the tips of the trade you’ve learned so far. Explore antique stores, garage sales, eBay, and other markets. You can even go to auctions or estate sales around Iowa to meet other dealers and find some more unique pieces for a bargain. Remember, though, patience is key. Let’s say you are very excited about an old street sign you just picked up and you think will sell for a lot; lo’ and behold, you find out its worth is much less than you had originally hoped and paid for. This is bound to happen, especially as you’re just starting out. Embrace the patience and willingness to learn. No one comes into this trade and is immediately successful. It takes time and experience. You’ve had time to build up a network and other various resources you can turn to as well.
And as you gain experience with the buying and selling, you’ll start to build up your inventory. Your bedroom or garage simply won’t be big enough to house everything you’re selling, or it won’t be suitable for the types of items you’re selling. This is when you can go back to those antique stores you perused when you were first starting out and inquire about dealer booths, display cases, and rental space. This kind of retail space is perfect for showcasing your specialized antiques. The Picker Knows has recently expanded their retail space to include even more dealer booths, accommodating more than 30 new vendors. Check us out on Facebook to hear from our dealers about selling with The Picker Knows. We also feature our vendors on social media to showcase their spaces. Contact your local antiques store to learn more about space for lease and dealer booths!
Money is typically never the measure for success of a true antique dealer who has been in the trade for a long time. Instead, it’s the knowledge, time, interest, and network the dealer has invested and gained from his work.
If you’re ready to start your journey in becoming an antique dealer, find your inspiration by stopping by The Picker Knows. We have a showroom full of specialty pieces and items from our network of vendors. Stop by to meet with some of these vendors and ask about their experience in the industry. You might even find yourself a mentor!
If you know someone considering becoming an antique dealer, get them a gift card from the Picker Knows this holiday season. Give them the push they need to start meeting with antique dealers and exploring antiques in the market! Gift cards are available in any amount with no exclusions. We look forward to helping you find the love in antique sales we enjoy every day!