Why You Should Becoming an Antiques & Collectibles Show Dealer, Part II

In a previous column, I discussed three of the Top 10 reasons to consider becoming an antiques and/or collectibles show dealer. They were:

Reason No. 1: Become an independent business person; an entrepreneur;
Reason No. 2: The business adjusts to the time you have available;
Reason No. 3: Experience passion, excitement and fun.

The antiques and collectibles trade needs new show dealers. Selling antiques and collectibles, assuming one is willing to learn and work hard, provides supplemental income for those holding another job and can evolve into a full-time occupation if desired. Show promoters, established dealers and others are ready and willing to share their knowledge to make the transition into the business a success. Zurko Promotions, managers of antiques flea markets, Civil War shows and specialty shows in the Midwest, places new dealers beside established dealers who act as mentors.

Touting the old adage of “you know a good deal when you see one,” here are seven more reasons to consider becoming a show dealer:

Reason No. 4: Meet new people and make new friends – Successful show dealers are gregarious. Collectors and others in the trade love to talk. The trade sells stories as much as it sells objects. The joys of ownership are enhanced by the enthusiasm and passion conveyed by sellers.

Individuals who attend shows come to buy. If a show dealer has something that interests them, a mutual bond is established immediately. Conversation is a two-way street. Dealers often learn as much or more from buyers than they convey.

Dealers who understand that the best customer is a repeat customer work hard to develop a high level of friendliness and customer service. They treat each buyer as a long-time buyer.

Some business relationships develop into personal friendships. In addition to the thousands of acquaintances I have in the trade, I have dozens of friends. I visit them; they visit me. We meet for conversation, meals and good times. Our interests extend well beyond the trade. Few businesses or groups offer this wide a variety of friendship opportunities.

Reason No. 5: Travel – I have been to many out-of-the-way places in the pursuit of antiques and collectibles. The good news is that no matter where I go, there is always an opportunity to go antiquing. The same applies to setting up at shows.

If a show dealer wants to spend time along the Southern Atlantic Coast, Florida, Texas, Arizona, Oregon—you name it—there is myriad of show opportunities in each location. Local trade papers and the Internet provide a quick list of possibilities. Show promoters love out-of-state dealers. Their merchandise is fresh to the market.

Reason No. 6: Tax Break – Business is pleasure when you can write off the expenses. While I love to tout the fact that “it is all tax deductible,” the truth is that there are some expenses that are not. However, there are more deductible expenses than most individuals realize. Talk to your tax accountant.

In order to have tax write-offs, you have to have a valid business. It does not have to be a full-time business. The key is to operate as a business. Again, an attorney or tax accountant will help you identify what business structure works best for you.

Reason No. 7: Expand your knowledge, customer base and profit centers – I am an advocate of life-long learning. I try to learn something new every day. A show dealer constantly expands his knowledge in the area of object identification, authentication, and business practices. The knowledge is cumulative. The longer a dealer is in the business, the more he/she learns. Knowledge is power. Show dealers who rely solely on past knowledge fail. The trade changes constantly. Successful show dealers keep abreast of the latest trends and adjust their business practices to meet their demands.

Today’s show dealers realize the importance of building a customer base, not just repeat customers but customers to whom they can promote their wares. Thanks to the Internet and e-mail, show dealers have the ability to reach their customers regularly. Shows offer dealers the opportunity to keep expanding their customer list.

Dealers who rely on a single income source, such as eBay or a booth/case at a mall, are likely to fail. Successful dealers utilize a variety of sale venues. The most successful have three to four primary profit centers, in almost every case antiques/collectibles shows being one of them. Shows represent a quick source of cash. In these tough economic times, many show dealers who previously cut back their show schedule are now expanding it. Further, they are looking at shows outside their traditional show circuit, thus taking advantage of regionalized economic recovery.

Reason No. 8: Test your buying and selling skills – Buying and selling is work not a game. First, show dealers have to buy well to sell well. While challenging, finding and cultivating sources can be learned. It requires practice and patience. Once again, the more time a show dealer spends doing it the more he/she will prosper.

Second, the show dealer must know what to buy. This requires tracking collecting, decorating and fashion trends. Successful show dealers quickly adapt to change, a much easier task for the small, independent business person. This constant edginess is one of the business’s attractive aspects. While there is a role for the traditionalist/conservative thinkers within the trade, the prize goes to the daring and resourceful.

Third, successful show dealers “sell the sizzle” found within their objects. Buyers use discretionary income. Nothing sold within the trade is a necessity for day-to-day living. We sell ambiance, pride of ownership, mental satisfaction, nostalgia and, often, a strong sense of well being. Successful show dealers are skilled salespersons. They make buyers see the specialness of the objects which they are considering buying. Dealers transfer the love they have for the object to the buyers.

Reason No. 9: Handle some great things – Few in the trade have the economic wherewithal to own everything they like. Instead, we rest contented to admire the unattainable in sales booths and the collections of others.

Antiques and collectibles dealers have the privilege of temporary ownership. They buy great things, knowing inevitably they will sell them. In the brief interval between purchase and sale, they own the object. Life is good.

It is hard to explain to someone who does not feel the passion for objects the pleasure and joy that comes from holding and possessing the very best in a collecting category. It makes no difference whether the object is an 18th-century Meissen figurine or a Star Wars action figure in the initial 12-figure back blister pack. Possessing the best is the best.

Reason No. 10: Insider advantages – Although I have personal reservations about collector-dealers, especially when dealers sell what they collect, I accept the fact that many dealers do collect. Being a show dealer gives the collector-dealer several inside advantages. First, they are able to buy during show set-up. While they compete with “early buyers,” they have the advantage of knowing their way around. Often other show dealers seek them out and offer them material before setup begins.

Second, they receive dealer’s discount, a steeper discount than usually quoted by dealers to their best customers. Favorable purchase terms also are more easily negotiated.

These are just 10 reasons for becoming a show dealer. There are more. If my two columns on the subject have intrigued you, take a moment the next time you visit an antiques/collectibles show and talk with the promoter. He/she will be glad to refer you to some dealers on the floor.

The opportunity to become an antiques show dealer is knocking. Perhaps, you are the one to answer.


Rinker Enterprises and Harry L. Rinker are on the Internet. Check out Harry’s Web site..

You can listen and participate in Harry’s antiques-and-collectibles radio call-in show “Whatcha Got?” on Sunday mornings between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. Eastern Time. It streams live on the Genesis Communications Network.

“Sell, Keep Or Toss? How To Downsize A Home, Settle An Estate, And Appraise Personal Property” (House of Collectibles, an imprint of the Random House Information Group), Harry’s latest book, is available at your favorite bookstore and via Harry’s Web site..

Harry L. Rinker welcomes questions from readers about collectibles, those mass-produced items from the 20th century. Selected queries will be answered on this site. Harry cannot provide personal answers. Send your questions to: Rinker on Collectibles, 5955 Mill Pond Court SE, Kentwood, MI 49512. You can e-mail your questions to harrylrinker@aol.com. Only e-mails containing a full name and mailing address will be considered. Please indicate that these are questions for WorthPoint.

Copyright © Rinker Enterprises, Inc. 2011

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