Maine “Antique Shops”…and Flea Markets

Maine has a lot of excellent Antique Stores

Let’s look at “antique shop ownership” from the perspective of the shop owner. Oftentimes, they purchase (or take on consignment) their inventory from “other antique dealers.” Very few find quality antiques from “uninformed owners”, but some do. That’s why they have “pickers.” So they are looking to “turn a profit” on whatever they paid for it. Ideally, they would like to double their money, but most are content to make a profit of 10 to 30 percent. They will usually price their items at a higher price than they are willing to accept, so you need to have a savvy about “cutting a deal.”

When you decide to make an offer on something you like, say to the dealer, “I understand that you would like to get your asking price, but I can’t justify that asking price in terms of value to me. Unless, we can occasion a price that I can justify, I need to pass on this purchase.” Usually, they will concede and you will have most likely cut a good deal. However, a lot depends on the demand for the item, how long they have had it in the shop and whether they need the money. Antique dealers are sometimes semi-desperate  to make a sale in order to keep their inventory turning. You just need to negotiate a mutually-acceptable purchase price. Dealers expect to negotiate. It’s long been a part of the selling process. There is a very satisfying sweetness in getting it at a bargain price!

Here are some tips on “buying antiques with good savvy.”

  1. Look out for “antique refreshments” (touch-up repairs or faux aging embellishments).
  2. Remember that “patina” is very important (not refinishing) – buyers want  to feel the evidence of “people having used and loved” the item.
  3. Learn the “antique periods” – know “primitive” from “East Lake.”
  4. Have a “collection niche” and look to build that collection.
  5. Remember that you probably shouldn’t be both a collector and a dealer… it’s a difficult balancing act.
  6. At antique shows, the “last day/hour” of the show is the best time to cut a deal. The dealer is not looking forward to “picking it all up… and taking it home,” so they may be very open to selling at a greatly-reduced price.
  7. A good ploy is to say, “I would like to offer you what you would like, but my best judgment tells me to pass on this impulse to have it.  Help me to be sure that I shouldn’t do that… because, I just can’t afford to pay you what you would like.”
  8. A good time to shop for deals is during the winter months when business is slow.
  9. You’ll need to shop often since other dealers are constantly looking of items to add to their shop inventory. So high demand items are usually snapped up quickly. Out-of-state dealers (carpet baggers) search our antiques store in a feeding frenzy for their shop inventories. They are often detected by their big trailers. Often times what they buy is indicative of where demand is trending.
  10. There is an every-changing cycle of what’s in demand and what’s no longer in demand. Oak furniture used to be easily found, currently it’s in high demand. Fiesta dishware was originally very inexpensive, today it’s quite collectible. Antique children’s toys, old weather vanes, architectural salvage items and factory metal pieces are very “in.” Make a habit of scanning the Pottery Barn and Restoration Hardware catalogs to see what’s in current demand. Also, note the prices. Many time, if you have a good eye, you’ll find better original pieces in our antique stores for far less.

Maine also has a lot of “flea markets”– surely, you understand that that they don’t “sell fleas!” Most of them sell “junk,” but sometimes you can find an unrecognized treasure as they do on the Antiques Road show – but it’s a rarity. Unless you love to walk through flea markets, don’t even bother doing it  unless you have extra time and a trained eye to spot “treasures.” Better that you patronize our antique shops that are everywhere! Hey, antique shopping is great fun, but it’s often an exercise in negotiating! Join the fray! Good luck.

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