Selling Antiques at an Antique Show
There are several secrets you need to know before you can begin selling antiques at an antique show successfully. In my humble opinion, the first thing you should do is actually go to the antique show where you want to show and check it out for yourself. I speak from experience when I say one of the worst experiences in selling antiques is to go to an antique show where your things are just out of place. The first time we set up at one of the many satellite shows associated with the very popular Round Top antique show. We set up at this show because a friend at our antique mall said we should set up at the same show where he showed. But we were like a fish out of the water. We shared a tent with someone selling bird houses. We can’t tell you how many people asked us why we set up there instead of another show. The show lasted for ten days and was a bomb. If we had gone to check it out, we would have never set up there. So make that number one, check the antique show out before you go to all the trouble and expenses to sell at that show.
Big Committment to Do Antique Show
Next don’t underestimate the potential of big antique shows like Round Top. We knew dealers that did over $50,000 at that one show. I did a whole post about the Round Top antique shows so I will not go into detail here. It takes a lot of preparation to do a big antique show like this. Will you need to rent walls, tables, or showcases? You will have to apply to get into one of the big shows. It helps to know someone in the show that can give you a good recommendation. So apply right after the previous show to the one where you want to show. If you have checked it out as I recommended, you know both the quantity and quality of the antiques and collectibles you need to bring to the show. You don’t want to bring American primitives where French antique furniture is what is selling. It’s one reason I love Round Top, you will find every kind of antique from all over the world here. Certain shows do feature different things. Be sure to also make reservations for accommodations, they are hard to find for some shows.
It is expensive to set up at one of these big shows. We figured close to $2000 and we had our own truck to haul our things and we purchased our walls, so we didn’t have to rent those or tables ($300-$500). But just the show booth runs from $800-$1000 and you can figure a minimum of $60-$75 a night for basic motel rooms, we were there for nine nights. Most had to hire help to unload and load and you have to pay well or the help will not come back when it’s time to load. When you spend this kind of money to set up, you can see you need to sell at least $10,000 to make this worth while. This doesn’t even take into account the time it takes to pack and wrap all of your things before the show and the same for unpacking and setting it all back out, if you are in a antique store or mall. You will also lose some sales there because your inventory is at the show. I just wanted you to know that it is a major commitment in both time and money to do one of these shows. So if you are not fully committed or don’t have enough or the right kind of inventory to generate the sales you need, don’t do one of these. Antique shows are not for everyone. In other countries these are known as antique fairs. The expenses may not be as great, but the principles are the same.
Again, if you previewed the antique show where you wanted to set up, you can see how your things should be displayed. That is the reason I mentioned walls, tables, and showcases as possible expenses. At some of the shows people use live plants and other things to make their booth look better. If you use table covers, some require them to be fire retardant. These can be purchased that way or there are spray on fire retardant applications. Almost all of the quality shows will not permit reproductions. You will receive a packet once you are accepted to do a show. In that packet there will be things to do and not do. As a new dealer, you will want to read those carefully. You want to make a good impression on the promoters of the antique shows. You may not have been able to get the ideal booth space because you were new. So the better your booth is as far as how it looks and the quality of your antiques, the better chance you will have in the future to get a better booth location. You have to pay your dues, some of the antique dealers have been setting up at the shows for years.
Be sure you know the amount of sales tax you need to charge. At some shows, there will be officials from the state trying to catch people who are not collecting sales tax or not reporting it. You will have to apply for a certificate from the state if you are not from that state. Some shows will also require you to have proof of liability insurance. The antique show contract will spell out all of these details. Unfortunately, sometimes a booth will open up at the last minute because of circumstances. Consider all of the above factors before accepting. But sometimes if you turn down an opportunity, they will not offer it again. While the economy is bad, the chances of getting into a good antiques show are better than ever because some dealers will quit during these times.
There are also many smaller antique shows and you might want to try one of them before you tackle one of the big ones. Unfortunately there are not near as many as there once were. Show dealers used to be able to do thirty or more shows a year. I don’t know how they physically could handle that many. But at one time we did a monthly antique market as well as six to eight shows a year, plus having an antique store and refinishing shop. I hope you have seen all of the potential of selling antiques at an antique show but realize the commitment of time and resources.