Top Tips for Buying Antiques at an Antique Mall

Make your antiquing adventure fun and productive.

antique mall shopping tips

An antique mall is a co-op similar to a flea market, but the business focuses on older items. If you want to find quality antiques in good condition, a local antique mall will give you the most chances of finding a treasure.

I was in the antique business for over a decade, so I know a lot about running a booth, but I also know a lot about buying antiques. These antique mall shopping tips will save you money and help you navigate a sometimes confusing setup.

Bring cash if you want a better deal.

There are two reasons you should bring cash with you to an antique mall. The first reason is that some antique malls only accept cash or personal check. Another reason is that some establishments might offer an additional discount for paying with cash.

Don’t move items outside of their booth.

This tip might seem obvious, but it may not be evident to a first-timer. Antique malls are split into booths that antique dealers rent. Each booth is designated to a specific vendor, so their inventory should always stay inside their booth. If you want to ask a question, bring the item to the front check-out, make a note of the booth number, and return it where you found it.

Wait for special sale days.

The front desk can haggle to a certain extent on antiques on behalf of the dealer. Most dealers will leave instructions with the antique mall on how much they are willing to discount items. However, sometimes the best deals are made with the dealer in question.

Some antique malls will run exclusive sales where most dealers will be present in their booths. Ask the antique mall if they plan on running any clearance sales and revisit the mall at that time.

Go on days when dealers restock their booths.

Some items can sit in an antique mall for years, but others can sell within a day of their arrival. It’s essential to see fresh inventory if you’re in the market for a specific item. Inventory refresh rates can vary by dealer. Some dealers might bring in new items weekly, while others might update their stock monthly.

Leave your name and number with the front desk with a list of things you’re willing to buy. If it’s worth their while, they can pass your information on to a dealer when they see a dealer bring that item in the front door. Other antique malls have specific days of the week when dealers can restock their booths. Shoot for Sunday or Monday—or ask the mall which day they recommend.

Review these frequently asked questions.

How do I ensure the authenticity of an item at an antique mall?

When shopping at an antique mall, it’s essential to do some preliminary research on the item you’re interested in. Familiarize yourself with markings, craftsmanship, and other details specific to the era. If in doubt, consult reference books or online resources, and don’t hesitate to ask the dealer for provenance or any documentation they might have.

What should I do if I suspect an item is stolen?

If you come across an item at an antique mall that you suspect might be stolen, it’s crucial to report your suspicions to the mall management. They can then take appropriate steps, such as verifying the item’s provenance with the dealer or contacting local authorities if necessary.

How can I tell if an antique mall dealer is reputable?

Look for dealers who have been in the business for several years, have a permanent booth or space in the mall, and can provide references or testimonials. Additionally, reputable dealers are often willing to share their knowledge, answer questions, and provide documentation about the items they sell.

However, remember that most dealers won’t be at their booth all the time. Ask the mall staff for their business card, so you can reach out to the dealer through their website.

Is it common for antique malls to offer layaway plans?

Many antique malls do offer layaway plans, especially for more expensive items. It’s always a good idea to inquire about the terms, such as the duration of the layaway, any required down payment, and any associated fees.

What’s the difference between an antique mall and an antique store?

An antique mall typically hosts multiple dealers under one roof, each with their own booth or designated space. This setup offers a wide variety of items from different time periods and styles. An antique store, on the other hand, is usually operated by a single owner or entity and might have a more curated or specific collection of items.

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