Learn, Then Buy What Calls You

I just attended a major antiques-and-collectibles show and saw some really gorgeous stuff. I had money, wanted to buy something but had a hard time deciding where to start. There was so many things, I was overwhelmed and could not make a decision. How can a newbie know what to buy and where to start? Please do not tell me to buy what I like. I want to know how to be comfortable buying and making good decisions.

How about buy-what-you-know as opposed to buy-what-you-like? Knowledge is power in the antiques-and-collectibles field.

Far too many individuals buy without doing adequate homework. “Look before you buy” may be a truism, but it is a key to spending your money wisely when it comes to antiques and collectibles.

Your first homework assignment is to understand what you want to achieve from your purchase. Is your motivation financial investment? Investing in antiques and collectibles is far more risky than investing in the stock market, even in these difficult times. If financial investing is your goal, an antiques show may not be the best venue to acquire material. Show prices tend to reflect an object’s “highest” value.

How will you use what you buy?

Are you planning to collect, display or use your purchase? Each requires a different buying approach. “Gorgeous” suggests to me that you are thinking use or display. In this case, an antiques show is a great place to buy. Antiques shows tend to offer better quality merchandise than do many other sales venues.

Be honest with yourself in respect to how much money you have to spend on antiques and collectibles. There is little sense drooling over a $25,000 object if you can only afford to spend $2,500. Everyone is tempted to stretch their limit, and many do. Do not go into debt to buy antiques and collectibles. Use your discretionary income, and keep within your budget.

Once you have finished these assignments, you are ready to visit antiques shows and do more homework. Note, I wrote shows, not show. You need to develop perspectives—what is available within my price range, what incites my passion, etc. No matter what a dealer tells you, antiques and collectibles are not a one of a kind. You do not have to buy anything now because you will never see another. Almost every item is mass produced, meaning if there is one, there is another. Take the time to get a feel of the full range of what is available in your price range.

Research, research, research

When you do find objects that call to you, research them. WorthPoint is a good place to start. Proceed next to your local library or the library at a local historical site or art museum. Knowledge creates excitement.

When you are ready to buy, you want to be comfortable during the buying experience. Pay attention to the tone of your conversation with the seller. I always am leery when I know more about an object than the person selling it. I am offended by condescending conversations. I never do business with individuals who demand cash and are unwilling to accept my personal check.

Caveat emptor

The same applies to individuals who will not provide me with their address, phone number, e-mail address (although I am a bit forgiving on this point) and a receipt stating what I paid, a full description including condition report and date they believe the object was made. Further, I absolutely refuse to buy from sellers who have not prepriced their objects.

Finally, I buy what calls to me. This is not as silly as it sounds. Once you have developed an intimate knowledge of the market, you learn to rely on the one trustworthy person you know—yourself. You buy only when YOU feel comfortable and are happy with your decision to buy.

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

You can listen and participate in “WHATCHA GOT?,” Harry’s antiques-and-collectibles radio call-in show on Sunday mornings between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. Eastern Time. If you cannot find it on a station in your area, WHATCHA GOT?” streams live and is archived on the Internet.

“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 letters will be answered on this site. Harry cannot provide personal answers. Photos and other material submitted cannot be returned. Send your questions to: Rinker on Collectibles, 5093 Vera Cruz Road, Emmaus, PA 18049. You also 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.

WorthPoint—Get the Most from Your Antiques & Collectibles

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