An Antique Buyer’s Guide: Five Tips for the Novice Collector

Purchasing antiques can be a daunting task, especially for the novice collector. Is this antique an original or reproduction? Is it over 100 years old? What are the best antiques to buy? These are questions that can run through any rookie shopper’s head. Nobody wants to feel as if they’ve made a rash decision on their purchase and are ultimately throwing their money down the drain.

No worries! We’ve got you covered with these five tips that will always ensure you make the wisest purchasing decision on your quest for stellar antiques.

OMBASOverviewShowFloorDo Your Homework
No matter what you’re shopping for, understanding quality and price is essential. Research will help you know why antique items are priced as they are and whether the price the dealer is offering is fair. Remember the more you know about the type of antique you’re planning to buy, the more likely you’ll be content with your purchase. Don’t be afraid to ask the dealer questions regarding the item’s history. Dealers are the best resource you have in finding out more about the item and are always happy to educate novice collectors. However, there are also a plethora of books available on antique collecting, so also check Amazon or your local bookstore and library.

Don’t Be Shy to Negotiate
You don’t have to be anxious about negotiating the price of an antique piece you’re eyeing at a fair, show or store. Ease into the conversation with your dealer by asking, “Is this your best price?” or “Is this price firm?” and see what response he or she gives you. Think about how much you would be willing to pay for the item and see if you can find a happy medium with your dealer. Overall it’s important to use your best judgment and never buy an item from dealer at a price you’re uncomfortable with.

Plus, don’t forget to ask for a receipt! It should list the item’s age, the material, any damage or restoration, and its value.

Shop from a Reputable Dealer
Buying from an honest dealer is key! So how can you tell if he or she is trustworthy? By and large, the first clue is how long they’ve been in the business. A seasoned dealer whose business is well established is often a reliable indicator that they have prospered by making good, reliable sales. Many of our dealers have been in the business for 20 plus years, passing their business down from generation to generation. Plus, the new dealers that exhibit at our shows are on recommendation from our veteran dealers. All of our dealers have exhibited at quality antique shows all across the country.

Other clues that will help you find an honest dealer include being in the same location for a long duration of time and having a track record of happy customers. It’s important to build relationships with dealers as you begin to find the niche category you love.

OMBAS Booth2Always Handle the Item
When investing your money into a rare piece, such as an antique, don’t be shy in investigating the item before you purchase it. Pick it up, look underneath it, study the back and sides, etc. The goal is to uncover any signs of damage or repair. Even if the antique appears in mint condition, you still need to inquire about the item’s condition with the dealer. There may have been repairs that are not visible to the naked eye and once you bought the item, it’s yours.

A good rule of thumb from the article, Signs of a Valuable Antique – For Dummies, is:
The less that was done to the original item to alter it, the more its worth. That is, the fewer the additions or deletions over the years, the better.

The Golden Rule: Buy What You Love
Although it may be obvious – it’s vital that you buy items that appeal to you directly. There’s nothing worse than having an antique in your home that doesn’t hold your interest or you don’t have a passion for. If you only buy pieces that you love and that speak to you, you’ll nearly never be disappointed in your purchase.

I hope you find these five tips useful as you continue shopping throughout the holiday season. For a little after Christmas spending, make sure to check out the three antique shows we have scheduled in January. These shows offer you the perfect opportunity to build relationships with dealers and learn about the history of the merchandise they’re displaying for purchase.

On January 24-26, we have two shows running in two major cities on the East Coast: The Armory Antique Show at the 69th Regiment Armory in New York City and Miami National Antique Show at the Miami Airport Convention Center in Miami. The following week (January 30- February 3), we’ll host the largest indoor antique show in the world, The Original Miami Beach Antique Show at the Miami Beach Convention Center in Miami Beach.

For those zealous antique enthusiasts, U.S. Antique Shows is also premiering The Original Miami Beach Antique Jewelry Series prior to the start of The Original Miami Beach Antique Show on Jan. 30. The jewelry conference, Jan. 28-29, will include educational sessions from notable jewelry experts as well as a complementary tour of the David Webb Exhibit at the Norton Museum of Art and the Vizcaya Museum & Gardens. For a complete conference schedule and details on registration costs, visit

Let’s hear from you: What’s your must-know antique shopping tip?  Leave a comment below, tweet us @USAntiqueShows, or post on our Facebook page:

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