Navigating the Great Outdoors – Tips for Antique and Flea Markets

Knowledge is power when building your antiques collection.

In my opinion, you will find some bargains and some bologna at every antique show. When I visit antiques markets, I wear my thickest skin since some of the antique dealers make it a point to tell me (using words that my mother would not approve of) that they don’t like it when I offer so much insider information to the public. Just as many folks show me their gratitude for educating people about the ins and outs of the antiques field. Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion — even me.

Knowledge is Power

Let’s share the wealth! I share my years of experience and education with all of you regularly. Why? Because I know that when armed with information collectors make better choices and they remain committed to learning about antiques.

I know that some antique dealers and resellers that are not happy when I advise people to employ my “don’t buy so quickly” or “don’t sell so quickly” approach. I regularly receive nasty emails and threatening letters. I know this comes with the territory, but my goal is to try to help consumers to gain a deeper understanding of the history and true value of their art and antiques.

As an art historian and appraiser, I have evaluate approximately 20,000 objects each year and have done so for several years now. My expertise is not only based on my education, museum and appraisal experience using actual sales records, but it is quite importantly based on YOUR experiences buying/selling antiques and the endless stories that you’ve told me. Those 20,000 stories that come along with evaluating so many objects and meeting so many of you personally.

My reports are based on YOUR reports of the good, bad and even ugly antique collecting and liquidating experiences that you’ve had. As you frequent this summer’s outdoor antiques shows, I advise you to build a collection slowly.

The Tips

Here are my tips for a successful day of shopping at mammoth outdoor antique events:

1. Take it easy. Many of these super-duper antique shows are exhausting as you browse in the hot sun. In addition to taking care of your body by drinking lots of water and using tons of sunscreen, pace yourself as you shop.

2. Get your bearings. At any large antique show, it is a good idea to get the lay of the land first before you buy. I advise people when they first arrive at a big outdoor antiques show to should shop with your feet first and your wallet second.

3. Research first, buy second. Shortly after arriving, walk around the entire show one time without buying a thing. Pass by each booth and survey all the merchandise. Don’t buy one thing on impulse. This will help you to collect information and identify where you want to spend the majority of your shopping time and spending money.  If you focus on specific objects, you will enhance your focused collection and hone in on quality items. Since quick purchases typically result in unwanted clutter in the long run, take a lap.

4. Don't worry about missing out on something. That object that caught your eye the first time around will be there when you return. After you survey the entire show, then consider taking out your wallet. In short, start shopping the second time around. If you implement this method of antiquing in a large-scale venues, you’ll likely end up with a more focused and valuable collection and some extra exercise too!

An informed approach to antique collecting will develop into a strong, fascinating and valuable collection. Remember, slow and steady wins the race. When it comes to collecting, shop like a tortoise, not a hare!


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