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Antique Dealer

What They Do

Insider Info

Many people love old things and will pay very good money to get them. But just because something is old doesn't mean it's worth a lot. Antique dealers use their expertise to tell finely made antiques from just plain old things.

Sue Knous collects railroad paraphernalia. She says that even the oldest track treasure could be worth very little without an original engraving. "Everything was marked," says Knous. "You can find little pin tips that were engraved with railroad initials. Had they not marked this stuff, I'm not sure it would have the value that it does today."

Dealers find, collect and resell valuable items made 80, 100, 200 or even 500 years ago. Many specialize in items from a certain period or a certain type of antique.

Some things are worth a lot of money because they're rare. Others are valuable to people who try to collect as many examples of one item as possible. Still others are valuable because they are oddities.

Searching for antiques can mean traveling extensively. Many dealers spend their weekends at flea markets and yard sales. Most prefer estate sales, which are held to sell off the possessions left behind when someone dies.

If you're good, others will do the digging for you. Knous's shop is so renowned that collectors send their stuff to her.

"We mainly get it through people sending it to us to sell for them. Because we've been in the circle for so many years, we've just built up a reputation. People who have railroad to sell send it to us," says Knous.

Knowing whether something is real or a fake isn't easy. Some reproductions can fool even experienced dealers.

A dealer must be trained in sales, business management and advertising. It requires a lot of money to run a successful antique business, since dealers often purchase an item first and then resell it later. The ability to control and manage money flow is very important.

Starting out costs a lot. You'll have to spend a fair amount on marketing in order to attract business in the first place. "We put together a catalog, took photography and spent a lot of money to do it," says Knous. "You do have to spend a little money to make a little money."

Like other business managers, dealers must maintain their stores. That includes planning and directing operations, managing staff, studying market trends, planning budgets and choosing a location.

At a Glance

Appraise and sell rare objects

  • People in this field need business savvy
  • Searching for antiques can mean traveling extensively
  • Antique dealers would benefit from art history and business programs


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