Selling antiques to antique dealers and pawn shops is a quick way to make some cash. If you have old items that you don’t want, you might not want to wait for the perfect retail customer. The tradeoff is that you can get quick cash, but you often get less cash when you sell to a dealer directly (instead of selling on Etsy yourself, for example).
Antique dealers will buy old items from you for one reason only: They want to make money off it. These dealers will not pay you retail prices. However, how close to the retail price are they willing to pay? Some of that depends on you.
So how can you convince an antique dealer to pay you more for your family heirlooms? The following tips will help you get the best cash deal when selling antiques to a local antique store.
1Learn about the antique that’s for sale.
In Pawn Stars, many people walked in with collectibles without knowing the item’s value or history. This lack of knowledge might be common with a random, rare antique. However, this method of selling an antique is not recommended, even when you sell to dealers.
Most people should have a very general sense of what type of antique they own and what it might be worth before trying to sell it. Find out as much as you can about the antique online before you approach a dealer with a sales proposition.
You might get some of the specifics wrong, and that’s okay. As long as you have general knowledge base, you’ll have much better success striking up a deal that you feel good about.
Online Valuation Tips
Antique Valuation Apps: Apps such as “ValueMyStuff” and “WorthPoint” allow users to upload photos of their antiques and receive an estimated value from experts in the field. Ratings on these services vary.
Online Antique Forums: Joining forums and communities dedicated to antiques can be a great way to gather insights from fellow enthusiasts and experts. They can provide feedback on the authenticity, rarity, and potential value of your item.
2Come up with an initial price point.
Once you do this research, come up with a starting price and be prepared to come down from it. Most dealers will ask you what you want for an item. You can hit an immediate stall in the negotiation if you don’t have a price in mind.
We recommend starting at around 75% of your estimated retail value and be prepared to come down to around 60% of the full value. If your value is off to start with, the dealer will let you know, Make sure the dealer can back up their pricing claims if the prices are way different than what you expected.
Most antique dealers want to buy antiques for around 40%-65% of retail. Remember, they have overhead and will have to sit on this item until they find the right buyer. They will have to finance and accept credit cards. Being an antique dealer is not easy, so don’t expect to get retail. You’ll notice dealers will pay closer to retail only if they really want the chance to own the item.
Calculating the Estimated Retail Value
Rarity and Demand: If your item is rare or in high demand, it can command a higher price. Research to see how often your item or similar items come up for sale.
Condition Assessment: Antiques in pristine condition will fetch a higher price compared to those with damages or missing parts. Adjust your price based on the condition of your item.
Example: If a similar antique vase sold for $500 in excellent condition, but yours has a minor crack, you might set an initial price point of $400, considering the damage.
3Call the antique store and ask about their buying policy.
When I was in the antique business, I had several people a day come in to sell items. However, I could have saved these people a lot of legwork and gas money if they had called us in advance. At any given time, the items we were buying changed.
Sometimes we bought only jewelry; sometimes we bought Victorian collectibles, and so on. Since our store was limited in space, we were limited on what we could and wanted to buy. Know what you have and then call around and see who has a potential interest in that item.
Most privately-owner antique stores buy antiques to some capacity. However, there are also antique malls and consignment shops that might not buy antiques off the street. Pawnshops also have different regulations they need to follow by law. If you’re selling something especially expensive, be prepared to have a photo ID put on file.
Common Buying Policies of Antique Stores
Consignment: Instead of buying the item directly, some stores might offer to sell the item on your behalf and take a commission once the item is sold.
Trade-In Policy: Some dealers might offer a trade-in option where you can exchange your item for another item in their store, with any price difference being settled.
Item Specificity: Certain stores might only be interested in specific categories of antiques, such as furniture, jewelry, or art. It’s essential to know their niche.
Documentation Requirement: Especially for high-value items, stores might require provenance or documentation proving the item’s authenticity.
4Sell to a dealer who has an established business that you trust.
If you’ve never been to an antique store before, it can be hard to tell if the antique dealer is trustworthy. Some antique dealers try to rip people off and pay them pennies on the dollar for their antiques. These antique dealers don’t usually have an established storefront.
A storefront that has been around for a long time speaks to a person’s credibility. An online antique shop that has great feedback can also speak to a dealer’s integrity.
Don’t sell your antiques to any dealer that makes you feel less than or uncomfortable. You might need to lean on this person for additional information and insight, and they should provide this information to you without an air of condescension.
Questions to ask
5Be respectful of the dealer’s time and knowledge.
Remember that antique dealers work very hard to attain their knowledge base. In most cases, they know more than any internet article can tell you about items in their area of expertise. A dealer will get annoyed with you if you expect them to give you free information just so you can sell the item yourself for more money.
If you have them value the item and give you details for free under the presumption that you will sell it to them, you should hold up your end of the deal too. Remember, there is no such thing as a free appraisal.