How to Buy and Sell Antiques in 2022 (Ultimate Guide)

by Erin Schollaert

Updated

Antiques are an excellent investment for anyone to make, especially since the market has changed so rapidly in the last couple of years.

A 35% increase in younger buyers after 2020 has changed the landscape of antiquing and made many question how they can get into buying and selling antiques.

This hobby allows people to feel like they’re taking part in history and collecting items that have lived many lifespans: so learning how to resell antiques can have a major draw.

Can You Resell Antiques for Profit?

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When reselling antiques comes to mind, many people are unsure. Is this profitable? Can they make this into a good source of income?

The answer is yes, antiques are absolutely a viable source of money! In fact, they are one of the best items to resell.

These are a couple of people who have been able to make their living off one of a kind items.

Real Life Example 1

Judith Miller, of Antique Roadshow fame, has been working in antiques since the 1960s.

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Through her works as an appraiser and antique dealer, she’s become a minor television personality and has built a brand for herself by buying and selling items.

She spreads her income beyond the things she buys, and also sells a book on her expertise, and coaches people through how to spot great finds and what to do with them.

Although she keeps some pieces, like a silver plate and cranberry glass claret jug from 1890, she knows when to sell and how much.

Real Life Example 2

Sheryl Coughlan of Beverly Hills has been selling antiques for 28 years. Because of her awesome location, she was able to find plenty of merchandise in dumpsters and alleyways when she started.

Now she says she’s spread into online selling as well, and it’s what’s kept her store active and going.

In recent years, Coughlan has noticed a huge rise in people looking for antique wood items to recreate a homier feeling.

Sheryl states that she can make $30,000 at estate sales, while her shopfront usually brings in $15,000 to $18,000. A cut goes towards homeowners, costing her about 50% of the estate sale profits.

Gaining skills through buying and selling antiques opens you up to multiple other opportunities!

Not only can you make a living from the products themselves, but you can also earn an income from putting your expertise to use selling books or informing others on what’s a good deal.

Current Antique Reselling Industry at a Glance

The reselling industry has seen a major boom since the beginning of 2020.

This has grown to around $17.5 billion annual revenues, including everything from antique stores to online resellers.

Plenty of unique markets have sprung into action since the pandemic chased people indoors, allowing people to find time and energy to invest in their hobbies and interests.

Unfortunately, this means there’s been a large increase in the number of fakes and replicas. In 2014 Switzerland’s Fine Art Expert Institute estimated that half of all work on the market is fake, which is troubling for everyone in the antique business.

It’s more important now than ever to be aware of what you’re buying. Although the market is hot and many buyers are out there: if you get a reputation for selling fakes, you’ll lose any ability to make a profit.

What Antiques Should You Flip?

The antiques in style change every five to ten years, so it’s a good idea to know what’s popular on the market right now!

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These are some of the most sought-after items in 2021, and they should hold a steady spot for the next few years.

Unfortunately, popular things are often replicated and ripped-off, so do your research before investing in any of these items.

  • Vintage holiday goods. Everything from classic spooky Halloween decor to traditional coca-cola Santas has become incredibly popular. Of course, this is a large range of items, but there’s no shortage of interest in them.
  • High-quality ironstone. This simple and beautiful look is something many buyers want for their home decor. Pay attention to maker marks to ensure you’re getting the real thing, not just something purchased at target.
  • Industrial lighting and fixtures. These have been popular for the last ten years, but they’re not fading any time soon.
  • Signed costume jewelry. Although many may assume that costume jewelry is cheap and will always be worthless: don’t bank on it! Any costume jewelry that’s been marked or signed is worth a pretty penny in recent years.
  • Chinoiserie ceramics and furniture. Also known as ‘Asian-styled’ furniture, rugs, wall art, and goods, are in high demand right now.
  • Cutting boards. With the push for homemade food, classic cutting boards has come a push for antique food preparation goods in home decor and cooking. As a result, traditional wood cutting boards, dough boards, and other gorgeous pieces like this have come into high demand.
  • Antique tables. Farm tables are in high demand again, but these are an item that goes in and out of style. You can buy these and resell them at a major profit, but if the market is against you: hold onto them for a couple of years; they’ll become popular again.

Of course, you can go against the grain and buy and sell other items, like reselling watches, but these are some of the most sought-after antiques in the modern era.

Where Do You Buy Antiques to Flip?

Luckily for those new to the industry: it’s incredibly easy to find antiques! These are some of the best places to hunt for hidden treasure.

  • Second-hand stores and flea markets are an obvious choice, but be careful. Many of these sellers are starting to realize the worth of their items and are putting time and effort into researching things before they sell them. Do your research as well, and ensure that you’re not paying too much or leaving yourself too small a gap for profit.
  • eBay is a good pick for beginners who want to research every item as much as possible. Unfortunately, there’s no way to guarantee you’ll find a cheap antique here, but it’s a good place to start.
  • Craigslist is an awesome place to find cheap antiques! However, ensure you look over the item before you buy it to check if it’s real or not.
  • Garage sales are a choice that many overlook, but these are the best places to find hidden treasure being sold for pennies. Try not to show your hand when you find good pieces at garage sales since this may have the owners second guess their prices and may entice them into researching it and realizing its value.

Best places to resell antiques?

Where you buy your antiques matters, but how you sell them can matter even more!

Marketing through the correct avenue can ensure that you have enough profit to make this business feasible. These are the top three items you should consider.

Sell On eBay

Selling on eBay may seem obvious, but many people don’t realize how much money can be made on this site. Against what many may assume, though you shouldn’t do auctions on eBay when you’re selling antiques.

Most antiques have a limited amount of interest, which means you may not be able to garner enough attention for your items to get into a bidding war.

So instead, price high and stick to it. If you get several offers around the same price that’s not too much lower, you can send a counter price and see if they’ll take the deal.

Antiques are also a popular item to make money on Mercari as well (a more minimal online marketplace)

Local Auction Houses

Auction houses are one of the most well-known places to sell antiques, and for a good reason!

These are the go-to location for those looking for antiques or who want to support the local antique community.

Auction houses take a percentage out of how much you’ll make, and there’s no telling what people will show up on a given night, but this can be a great way to ensure the right people are there and hopefully start a bidding war.

Unfortunately, most auction prices start pretty low, so that you may face some major losses.

Start Your Own Antiques Shop

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Starting an antique shop can be an awesome way to set a space for yourself in the market. It’s a good idea to test the waters by selling antiques at flea markets a couple weeks to see if you like the customer interaction.

This could be an online store or a brick-and-mortar location, but you need to ensure you have some practice before investing a lot of money into this.

If you set up the store and then realize you’re not having much luck finding new pieces: you can quickly go under and lose your store.

Success Tactics

  • Don’t sell at consignment or pawn shops unless you’re desperate for quick money. Although this should be obvious, some people don’t realize how much money you can lose by selling to pawn shops or consignment stores. Avoid these.
  • When working through auction houses, make sure you’re clear on how much they take out of every sale. If the percentage is too high: shop around. There’s nothing wrong with looking for a better deal.
  • If you’re selling through your shop, ensure that you know the legalities of any items. Unfortunately, some don’t do their research and are found accidentally attempting to sell items that aren’t legal because they weren’t aware. (A good example of this is someone selling snuff rings from the 1800s without ensuring there’s no powder left within the ring).

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Every industry has growing pains!

It’s perfectly normal to stumble a few times when you start, but nobody wants to have to go through a bunch of mistakes when they could spend that time making money.

Some of the most common mistakes antiques dealers make are:

  • Avoid researching items. If you don’t know anything about an item, yet you buy it because you assume you can figure it out: you’re going to find yourself accidentally purchasing a lot of fakes, replicas, and items that aren’t worth anything.
  • Working with dealers without knowing their credentials. If you meet someone who claims to know a lot about antiques: try to look up references on them. Not everyone skilled in this field will have an education in it: but they should have at least a few customer reviews. Don’t get grifted by someone just because they seem reliable on first blush.
  • Assuming you know what has value. Some newbies walk into antiquing thinking they know what a valuable item is and overlook things they consider are low-brow. This means looking over a $10 1920s electric razor because you believe it’s not worth anything: only to find out later that it was a Lek-tro-shav from 1917 that’s worth over $130. Don’t assume what an antique may be.
  • Don’t recognize the difference between distressed and naturally aged items. Distressed furniture has been purposefully aged to have an antique or rustic look. Although these are a great way to give your home a cottage-core look on the cheap: it’s not something an antique dealer should be buying.

How to Ship Antiques

There’s no one way to ship antiques because an antique is anything that’s over 100 years old.

This means that gorgeous original clay pottery from the 1600s and beautiful first-generation radios from the 1920s are both considered antiques: and they should be handled extremely differently.

Depending on the item you’re selling, there are a few options to consider. First, regardless of whether the thing is fragile or not, you should double-box it as a precaution.

This means placing the antique, tightly packaged, in a box that’s padded to be snug against it and then putting that box within a larger box that’s also extremely well padded.

This double barrier method ensures that if anything happens to the exterior box, there’s a safety net to catch it and protect the item from any scuffs or scrapes.

Success Tactics

  • Lighter items can be shipped via USPS, but heavier items should be shipped through UPS or FedEx.
  • Simply placing ‘fragile’ stickers on a package won’t do anything for it. So instead, pay for every box to be insured, and ensure that the proper care is taken for it.
  • Be aware of any state border, or country border, laws about what can be mailed. Even if it’s an antique wine that nobody in their right mind would drink, you can get in legal trouble for shipping it to the wrong place.

Wrapping Up

What’s considered antique will always change: because as time goes on, new things will constantly be regarded as old.

The fantastic thing about this market is that you can always find someone that someone will want to buy: as long as you can buy it for cheap and price it well, you can make a killing.

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About the Author

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Erin is a business teacher and mother of three. When she’s not in the classroom or fulfilling her obligations as an A+ hockey and lacrosse mom, she’s working on her latest article.