You’ve finally decided to take the leap and start selling antiques. In Richmond, and the surrounding area, there are various ways to get “up and running” quickly. Each has their own list of pros and cons, for the most part, yet the ultimate decision lies in what you plan on selling and how much time you can devote to your new business.
Several years ago, when I owned and operated a gallery and portrait studio in Shockoe Bottom, I got to know a neighbor of mine named Maurice Beane. Maurice’s studio was a few doors down from mine and we would stop by each other’s places just to chat. Maurice at the time was very successful not only as an artist that worked with metals, but also as an antique dealer. During one of our many conversations, Maurice filled me in on a basic premis of buying and selling antiques. He said, “don’t ever purchase anything that you don’t like yourself, because there is a good possibility that you’ll get stuck with it in your own ‘personal collection’.”This idea still holds true today. You can, in many ways, minimize the risk, but the possibility of your “personal collection” growing should always be in the back of your mind.
That being said, the next most important aspect of buying, and hopefully selling, antiques is to find a type of antique or collectible that, first and foremost, is in demand. Secondly, it should be something that you don’t mind pouring over the history and manufacturing aspects to further your knowledge of your wares. There is nothing worse than your customer losing confidence in you because you cannot answer their questions.
Once you feel that you have acquired a decent selection of items, your next major decision is how to present these items to your customers. There are several ways to do this, especially in Richmond, but choosing what works best for you can get complicated.
Richmond has several antique malls that for the most part are large buildings filled with individual booths that are leased to the seller. The antique mall does the advertising and also has staff available to make sales when you aren’t manning your booth. The vast majority charge a commission and generally charge a percentage for credit card transactions. This is a good option for those of you that are planning to sell large pieces such as furniture and wall decor. It also gives your prospective customers an opportunity to touch and feel the items that you are selling. An additional upside is that if your customer goes to an antique mall in the first place, they are generally looking to buy. The downside is that you’ll have anywhere between 50 to 1000 sellers that you are competing against. In addition, you will have to pay your booth rental regardless of any sales made.
Another option are virtual stores such as Yahoo! Stores and Ebay. These work really well if what you are selling is what the industry calls “smalls”. These items can generally be shipped much easier than furniture and artwork. Ebay’s reputation has grown over the years due in part to the importance of seller ratings and their “Buyer Protection” programs. They have many options for stores ranging from the “Basic” at $15.95 per month up to the “Anchor” store at 299.95 per month. They also make shipping easier with discounted pricing from the USPS, and on the payment side, it is very easy to incorporate payments from PayPal since they are owned by the same company. The negative to this option is that you have to verbally describe your item in such a way that your buyer fully understands what the item is without being able to touch it or feel it. If you cannot write a very detailed description, the online option is probably not for you.
Yahoo! Stores do things a little different than Ebay. You have to pay for web hosting which provides you with a website for anywhere between $7.46 to $12.95 per month. Don’t worry if you cannot design websites, they supply you with plenty of templates to choose from. Then you have to purchase a merchant starter plan which covers your credit card transaction fees and averages anywhere between $29.96 per month to $39.95 per month with no setup fees and a low 1.5% transaction fee.
As you can see, there are many options available to a fledgling business. A little time and research goes a long way. Best of luck to any of you that are willing to start up a company. If you need any further information, please feel free to contact me at [email protected]
Area Antique Malls:
West End Antiques Mall, 2004 Staples Mill Rd., (804) 359-1600, Contact Judy Splawn
Antique Village, 10203 Chamberlayne Rd., Mechanicsville, (804) 746-8914, Mgr. Joe Lipscombe
Goodstuff Consignments, 2724 Tinsley Dr., Bon Air, (804) 560-4015
Williamsburg Antique Mall, 500 Lightfoot Rd, Williamsburg, (757) 565-3422