Old News: Everything You Need to Know About Becoming an Antique Dealer

Written by
Rebecca Smith

Published
Jan 2, 2019

Jan 2, 2019 • by Rebecca Smith

Antiques dealing is a rewarding career for someone with a passion for the industry. It can even turn into a profitable career if you work it just right. Anyone from history buffs to bargain shoppers has something to gain, provided you know what it is you're doing. 

Knowing what career you want and the best ways to find a job in that area is important. Join us today as we break down your career path to becoming an antique dealer so you can become part of this growing industry. 

What An Antique Dealer Does

For someone dealing in antiques, your job description can actually cover a multitude of sins. You might work with a variety of objects, offering a range of great deals to the buyers from different markets. Alternatively, you might specialize in one area, like furniture, jewelry, decor or otherwise.

There's an important distinction to make, between learning how to become an antique dealer and how to be an antique dealer. This industry demands attention to detail, so you'll find yourself researching objects based on their value. You'll travel to exhibitions and auctions to buy specific antiques based on their resale value. 

And, because the nature of this business is being the go-to person for antiques in great condition, you may have to restore things, as well. Damaged antiques need repair so that people will buy them, and this can involve anything from a simple wipe down to using specific chemicals. If you can develop this skill, you'll make your service that much more valuable to your buyers.

Lastly, because antique dealers mostly work on a part-time basis, it can be hard to pinpoint what you'll make. What we can say is, on average, you can expect an antique dealer salary in the region of $45,000 a year.

Read more on the benefits and drawbacks of antique furniture to start developing your expertise today!

How To Become An Antique Dealer: Getting Started

The antique market, by name alone, might seem old-fashioned, but the truth is the competition can be thick. You need to find a balance between dealing high-profit antiques and antiques you are passionate about. As with so many industries, it pays to specialize in a niche market when it comes to antiques.

Some of the more common markets include:

  • Furniture
  • Pottery and Artwork
  • Silverware and Jewelry
  • Coins
  • Toys
  • Automobiles

You'll want to start with your finances. As an antique dealer, you have to start by building up an inventory.

Factor in your interests and knowledge base, by all accounts, but you're going to want start with reliable funds and solid access to antiques. Remember: while small business loans often work for most businesses, they are not a sound strategy when it comes to antiques.

A better way forward is to use your own money. Market prices fluctuate and, besides, most dealers build up their stock over time, not in one go. This means that building some huge start-up capital isn't necessary.

Doing Business

To develop your skills as a dealer of antiques, you'll need to learn to recognize a "good buy" for its resale potential. Antique appraising doesn't need an official license. Each state will, however, have its own regulations and laws on regulated materials like ivory. As a good antique dealer, you'll need to be able to research standards and find the best deals.

You'll also want to network. Reach out to local dealers, even if they're your competition.

Go to conferences and workshops in your city, and approach potential clients to find out more about their shopping habits. This is how we in the industry educate ourselves, hoarding tips for trading and developing an understanding of the market. 

Spend as much time as you can reading up on antiques, from price books to online guides on how to spot a fake. This will help you do better business and also prevent you from falling prey to unscrupulous suppliers.

A note on formal training: There are many great programs through The Appraiser's Association to help new dealers get started. The Comprehensive Appraisal Studies Program (CASP), for example, runs meetings five days a week throughout the year. Major auction houses, such as Christy's, also offer annual courses.

Experience

Every industry has its standards, and antique dealing is no different. To be truly competitive, you'll want to rack up a fair amount of work experience.

Consider something "hands on" with an internship or apprenticeship, to start. While these usually aren't paid positions, a local shop with some industry experience may be open to letting you work under them for as long as you need.

Something you may want to consider when you weigh up the value of an internship is the issue of money. While you won't be getting paid, you also won't run any of the financial risks of going into this industry blind. And all the while you'll be racking up that invaluable experience.

Once you're ready to start, try to find a full-time job in the industry. Entry level experience is the best path to get started, letting you save up and get yourself positioned to go into business yourself over time. Work in a shop or auction house as anything from a clerk to a valuer or auctioneer.

With targeted thrift shopping, start building your inventory on the side. Once you've gained both the experience you need and the stock to back it up, you'll be ready to consider going into business. 

And, Go!

Decide on how best you'll want to make your antique deals - you may not need a physical storefront to be viable. After all, there will be rent to pay, as well as the various overheads that come from running a business. If you can trade entirely online or from a space you already own, there's no need to push for a brick and mortar store.

If you work on consignment for individuals selling items, you can pass on part of the profit without any upfront capital or inventory. Or, you might consider dealing at flea markets or exhibitions. These low-cost venues only need you to pay small rental fees and bring an eager clientele with them.

Lastly, you might consider selling online. Online platforms let you list your products and get these listings out to a massive audience. With some high-quality photos and some sales-oriented descriptions, you can move mountains online.

Become An Antique Dealer For Fun And Profit

To become an antique dealer, you're going to need a solid working knowledge of the market and exceptional sales skills. Beyond that, how much you're willing to put into it is really up to you. Hopefully, with the help of today's article, you'll have everything you need to pick up this exciting career as soon as possible.

For more on finding the job you want, no matter the industry, check out some of our other awesome blog content today.