SELLING ANTIQUES AND COLLECTIBLES ON THE INTERNET
By C. Marek
(Dear Instructor, I hope you will receive my essay with good intentions. I do not have much formal education, but believe that I have something to contribute based on my experience within the world of antiques. I have never written an essay, and am hopeful that you will be mindful of this as you read between the lines of the pages to come.
C. Marek - 1997).
This essay explains the advantages and disadvantages of selling antiques and collectibles on the internet. The effect the internet has had on prices of antiques and collectibles, and how to best sell on the internet. Also, what sells best and what doesn’t. And where to find items to sell for placement at an internet auction house.
I have been fascinated with antiques for about 15 years now, not a long time in this field. It is an ever-learning experience, and the more years one is involved with antiques, the better one gets at determining fakes from the real thing, and the better one gets at pricing and estimating current values. For all these 15 years I have traveled to the Brimfield antique Fair, every May and September, and throughout these years I have watched the prices climb and climb. Today there is no point in going there with hopes of finding a bargain, for resale on the internet.
Approximately two years ago I decided to sell a few items that I had lying around the house. Items that held no personal interest to me. Prior to this time I really had only been involved in antiques for my personal collection. One of the items I had for sale was an autograph of a deceased rock star Harry Chapin. I decided to sell it on a leading internet auction house. I did some research and discovered the autograph was valued at $100.00. But I had my doubts that it was worth all that much. I put it on the internet for 7 days and when the auction was over, the final bid was $103 .00. To my total amazement. I was hooked! I began going to tag sales, flea markets and local auctions in search of items I could resale on the internet.
In the two years, I have learned, extensively what sells on the internet and what doesn’t. The internet has made antiques from around the world available to everyone. At times an item will have little value on the east coast, but is worth much more on the west coast. Also, I have noticed that certain states have more buyers that others. For example, I have sold more items to California and Texas buyers than anywhere else. While people from New England buy very little. Due to a huge volume of antiques on the internet only rare items will command a decent price. Antiques that are plentiful do not sell well or very cheaply. Hand braided rugs from the turn of the century are very cheap to buy here in New England, but the California buyers really like them and will pay much more.
Tag Sales are probably where I get my best buys, but I have to go to many of them for that elusive treasure, and more often these days tag sale items are not cheap because people are now of a mind that their old Items are worth a fortune due to the numerous antique appraisal shows on TV. These TV shows truly tend to inflate the value of items. Among my very best find at a tag sale was an older Steiff boxer dog which I purchased for 50 cents and sold on the Internet for $75.00. Steiff stuffed animals sell well on the internet.
Auctions are another good place to buy antiques and collectibles for resale. However, it is becoming increasingly difficult to purchase anything and still make a profit. There are so many items on the Internet for sale, that only the very rare will command top dollar. Whenever possible, I will preview an auction the day prior to the sale. Hopefully, they will have a printed list of items that are going to be in the sale. This is a great benefit to me as I can then go home and check the Internet for what that item is bringing as far as price is concerned. Many auction houses in my area however do not have a list of items for sale and only allow previews a few hours ahead of time. At these auctions I have to be very careful and purchaseonly what I know will sell - and what it will sell for! Some of my best auction buys have been the following: a limited edition Disney Cell of Beauty and the Beast (not very old but collectible) purchased for $100.00 and sold on the Internet for $1,500.00. I find that Disney items sell well on the Internet. A Royal Worcester porcelain “Tarpon Atlanticus,” purchased for $25.00, sold for $147.00. An oil painting by Leonardo Nierman, purchased for $130.00, sold for $710.00. A small Horscht figurine of a peasant woman, purchased for $25.00, sold for $156.00. Three Alcock Touraine flow blue egg cups, purchased for $60.00, sold for $800.00.
Some things however, do not sell at all. Anything that has been repaired or damaged won’t sell, because there are too many perfect pieces on the “Net”. However, damaged pieces are always selling at local auction houses, for the life of me I can’t understand why. I once watched as two people bid on a very large and very broken Moorcroft vase, on which the price ended at around $800.00. Perhaps the buyer will have it professionally repaired, and then sell it to an unsuspecting buyer for twice as much. Prints do not sell as well on the Internet as they do locally. Famous artists like Norman Rockwell and Frederick Remmington do not sell, unless of course it is an original piece of artwork. Maxfield Parrish prints command quite a handsome price locally, but do not sell well on the Internet. In fact you can’t even get half of book value for them. Collector plates are also, not commanding one-half of book value, the only ones that may sell at all are cutesy ones of animals. There are thousands of Hummel’s on the Internet. None of these sell at all unless the seller lets them go for about one-quarter of book value. The same holds true of other figurines such as Royal Doulton. Liadro, etc. Sterling Silver is always a good seller, but try finding some at a reasonable price. Furniture I do not bother with as it is too difficult and costly to ship. Books do not command high prices either, even first editions, unless extremely rare and in mint condition. Dolls do not sell well either. I tried to sell two Goebel artist proof dolls from the 1970’s and 1980’s, and there was no interest in them at all. I did manage to sell a few rag dolls at quite a profit.
One of them was a Presbyterian doll and not even an original from the turn of the century, but a second edition from the 1950’s. Advertising dolls, which were in a current antiques magazine along with Barbie dolls do not sell either, and in the magazine they supposedly commanded quite a sum. Even Christie’s Auction House sold Barbie’s recently at quite a sum. Maybe the people who are buying them should shop on the Internet first and save themselves a lot of money. Antique toys generally sell well on the Internet, but here in New England it is almost impossible to buy them at auction and resell them for any profit. I did once purchase several lots of lead soldiers at auction. Thankfully, there were not many toy buyers at this auction. I did pay several hundred dollars for the lots of soldiers, but they sold well on the Internet in little groups, and I more than made my 100% profit. Another item that I find that does not sell well, is anything oriental, no matter what the item or its age, so now I stay away from it.
I have slowly acquired quite a collection of reference books, an absolute must for anyone that is going to be in this business. I recently spoke to a long time antiques dealer and he told me he rarely sells anything below book value, no matter what he paid for the item. He has not been selling much lately and wonders why. I told him that as long as he makes his 100% profit, what does he care, that he didn’t get “Book” value for the item. I also advised him that because of the Internet antique prices are not what they use to be, and I rarely get book value for my item, but I still make a 100% profit and sometimes much more. The “much more” makes up for items that do not sell at all. Or the items that you have to let go for less than 100%. Because I do not rely on book value, I mostly use my reference books for the history of an item I am not quite familiar with. Or I use books that will tell me the year a particular mark was made, and I include all this information in my description when I place it up for sale.
When selling on the Internet stay away from trendy items, like Beanie Babies and Pokemon, unless you know what you are doing. This is equivalent to buying lotto tickets or going to the casino. Buy and sell these items while they are extremely hot and get out while the “getting’s” good. Both of these items are on the downside now. Local people near me can’t sell them anymore. I see them at tag sales all the time - and there they will sit. New toys that are still in the original pack that have not been used or opened sell well around Christmas time. You can find these at auctions of toy stores that have been forced to liquidate.
The selling of antiques and collectibles on the Internet is the wave of the future. All major, and even minor auction houses are following this trend, and most antique dealers incorporate this form of selling along with their regular shops or mall activities. Selling on the Internet is a fun and profitable business you can do from your own home. There are however a few disadvantages; the items you sell must be packaged and shipped. In two years I have not received a bad check, but that is always a possibility - but one which can happen even in a shop or auction house. Broken items always present a problem. Make sure the breakables are insured by the buyer. You will also find that some shippers break more items than others, so perhaps stay away from the shipper with a less than reliable reputation. Then there is always the problem of what to do with the items that do not sell… So, why not take them to your local flea market, set up a booth for as little as $15.00 -$25.00. Then simply relax with a good book while waiting for the prospective customer... this may be the only chance I get to relax… and it’s fun.
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