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Three Steps for Starting an Antiques, Art or Collectibles Business

by Sandra Lee Stuart (09/05/08).

So you want to start your own antiques, art or collectibles business? And you’re sure you have what it takes. After all, you’ve been collecting those antique yo-yos and turn-of-the-century (that’s turn of the 20th century) bikes forever. You know a quality chiffonier when you see it. You live, breathe and talk antiques.

Now all you have to do is sell them. Here are three steps you need to take.

1. Study the competition

Successful antiques dealers usually begin modestly with their own collection and a few newly purchased items. But you need to check out dealers that are moving merchandise and have a steady clientele. How do they display their items? What’s their pricing like? Do they have fewer, choice pieces, or do they cram as many antiques and collectibles they can into their space?

By doing this, you can avoid costly trial and error.

2. Head to the county courthouse

It’s boring, but true. When you’re starting up an antiques business—any business, for that matter—there’s a lot of nitty-gritty and piles of forms.

You will be subject to government regulations just as any other retailer is. That means business licenses must be purchased, and zoning laws must be understood and followed. Most new businesses will need a state sales-tax reporting number, a federal ID number and employee payroll-tax numbers for unemployment tax, state-tax withholding, federal-tax withholding and others.

Your county courthouse or administrative building has information on zoning and business licenses. You don’t want to open up only to be closed down because of violations. A local CPA can help you with the payroll and sales-tax IDs.

3. Keep overhead low

While thinking big is fun, it might be better starting small.

I have clients that started selling antiques in their homes that have the exposure for retail attraction and proper zoning. This is a low-overhead way to begin if your spouse can put up with the distractions that buyers and browsers bring. Others have opened stores in shopping centers and on Main Street. The rent and additional expenses make for higher overhead, and I caution against doing this at first because of the length of lease requirements and the outlay of money for inventory.

Another good low-overhead method for selling antiques is the antiques mall. We have several in our area that rent space to antiques dealers, set minimum prices, make the sales, collect and remit the sales tax and pay the dealer on a regular basis.

Don’t forget consignment sales. An established dealer will sell your antiques on consignment. There is no overhead, but the established dealer will charge a commission.

My favorite and least-expensive way for dealers to sell their antiques is on the WorthPoint site. The antiques dealer has worldwide exposure to buyers, can set minimums and receives payment promptly.

Try it. You’ll like it.

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