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How to Shop an Antique Market or Fair Like a Professional

Updated on March 2, 2015
Shopping for antiques can be a lot of fun
Shopping for antiques can be a lot of fun | Source


Shopping for antiques can be a lot of fun. You can appreciate a sense of history and culture whilst seeing lots of beautiful items and you might even pick up a bargain. There is an art to antique shopping though, and we'll explore some of the things you can do to make your shopping trip worthwhile, whilst saving you a few pennies!

It can be very helpful to have a plan, ideas and techniques that you can use to get the items you need at a price you can afford. This article covers the various aspects of shopping for and purchasing antiques including preparing to go shopping, planning your trip, making an offer and getting what you want. We'll cover:

  • Preparing to go shopping
  • Having a plan to shop
  • Tips for when you're shopping
  • Tips for making an offer

Benefits of knowing how to shop for antiques

  • You'll find what you want more easily
  • You'll have more fun shopping
  • You'll be able to negotiate a better price on what you buy

Step 1 - Prepare to go shopping

Make sure that you are properly prepared for your shopping trip, this might include:

  • Dress properly for shopping - In the winter, outdoor antique fairs and even the interiors of large antique barns and warehouses can get very cold, so you'll want to take a coat, hat and gloves; in the summer, it can get very hot, so make sure you have protection from the sun; always make sure you wear comfortable shoes!
  • Know where you are going - Even with a GPS, it can be difficult to locate some out of town antique fairs, so make sure you get directions and take a map
  • If you're shopping for furniture, take measurements - If you're after antique furniture for a particular room, make sure that you have measurements so you don't buy a piece that's too big, and take a tape-measure with you
  • Take plenty of cash and a check book - When you negotiate on price, you'll be in a stronger position if you have cash or can provide a check
  • Take a notebook - You will probably want to write down prices, where you saw something and other notes, so take a pocket-sized notebook and pen
  • Take a camera or smartphone - You can take pictures of items that you like to make it easier to find them again and also to compare them with other items

To get the most out of your antique shopping, you might need to do some preparation
To get the most out of your antique shopping, you might need to do some preparation | Source

Have a plan to shop

In some of the larger antique places, it's easy to get overwhelmed by how much stuff there is, that's why it's vital that you have a plan to shop:

  • Have a clear idea of what you want to buy - Have a list with you of exactly what you're searching for; whether it's a great piece of furniture, unique art, the perfect ornament or something else, having a list you can stick to really helps
  • Plan to get there early - Antique fairs in particular, can be very popular; try to get there as early in the day as possible so that the best items aren't gone by the time you arrive
  • Try not to get distracted - Yes, there are lots of pretty and shiny things! If you're at the antique event for something in particular though, try not to get too distracted until you get what it was that you went there for
  • Have a plan to see the whole place - Antique fairs, barns, markets and malls can often be huge! To make sure that you see everything, have a plan and method so that you visit all the places that you need to. This might be working round the outside first and then looking further in, or it might involve examining the place one row at a time

Browsing through an antique shop

Tips for when you're shopping

Here's some handy advice for when you're in the process of shopping:

  • Make notes of where you see items that you're interested in - Note down the item, the area (e.g. a bay or reference number), the price etc.
  • Take photos to help you remember - If its a large place, a photograph of an item will make it easier to remember and compare later on
  • Note down any special offers - If the dealer is having a sale or giving money off, note this down
  • Note down any defects or damage - If the item you're interested in is damaged or defective, make a note of it
  • Before you make an offer - Go and confirm that the items you've seen are the ones that you want
  • Examine your potential purchases carefully - Look over anything that you're tempted to buy to satisfy yourself that it's in the condition you expect
  • Think about how you're going to use the item - Don't buy it just because it's there - have a specific use in mind

You can find some gems if you're prepared to look
You can find some gems if you're prepared to look | Source

Tips for when it comes to making an offer

Here are some tips to bear in mind when it comes to negotiating a price for your antiques:

  • You shouldn't appear too keen - If you're interested in an item, don't appear too keen to the dealer or seller, you may not be able to negotiate such a good price
  • Negotiate on everything - Always be prepared to ask for a lower price. Don't ask questions that only have a yes or no answer, such as 'Is that your best price?' - Always ask something like 'What's the best price you can do on that?' Additionally, if you buy more than one item, they may be prepared to give you more of a discount
  • Even if you can't get a big discount ask for other perks - For example, will they throw in something else or give you a discount on delivery?
  • Have a 'Walk Away' price - Have a price above which you're not prepared to go
  • Delivery charges - remember that if its a larger piece and you can't take it in the car, you will probably have to pay for delivery charges. For this reason, it's often good to get two or more items from the same place as they will very likely consolidate the delivery or give you a good deal on the price

Antiques might be worth more than they appear
Antiques might be worth more than they appear | Source

What's your favorite thing about antiques shopping?

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In Closing

Antiques shopping can be very enjoyable. Hopefully, this article has given you some ideas on how you can tackle your next big shopping trip and also provided information that can help you to negotiate a better price and save some money.


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    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 2 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I used to do antique shopping but I have to give most away when we moved and downsized. Nowadays, I still go and browse once in a while.