Since we’ve opened up our doors at The Snugbug Mercantile, we’ve had lots of questions from folks who have vintage and antiques that they are interested in selling. Over the past week this has come up a few more times and we thought we’d share some of what we’ve learned and our experience. I also wrangled a few of our fellow business owners and got them to share their own tips and spill a few secrets on the real cost of jumping into the vintage selling market!
Quick note: this is specific to vintage and antique items… in the next few weeks we’ll follow up tips’n’tricks on selling handmade goods!
Before we get into where to sell your treasures, let’s touch on how MUCH to sell your treasures for and how much you can expect to get from the final selling price. Pricing vintage and antiques is as much a thing of instinct and trade-off as it is research and value in the marketplace!
- Research at local antique shops – take a look around and see what similar items are marked for in your area. The price of specific types of collectibles can change by region – there’s a lot more vintage industrial spools and bobbins here in the valley than where I came from in Minnesota, because there are a lot of textile mills here. So those things cost less here than in an antique shop in Minnesota! Keep in mind that if you sell your items directly to buyers, you might not be able to sell for quite the prices you see in antique shops. Just having a shop allows for a a premium price.
- Check out eBay – it’s worth checking out eBay to see what items are going for. Be sure to look at SOLD items, not current auctions/buy it now items. There’s a lot of folks putting things up for sale at prices that most buyers aren’t willing to pay! The sold items will give you a better sense for what’s selling and for how much.
- Pricing guides & media sources – there’s plenty of printed guides out there as well as ‘how much is it worth’ style articles in magazines like Country Living (or everyone’s favorite, Antiques Roadshow.) While this is interesting to look at, we don’t pay all that much attention to the printed price guides. They are too static and in the case of the Country Living & the pricing TV shows, it seems that the pricing might be edited to make for fun/exciting reading and watching more than as a true reflection of the market!!
- Formal appraisals – if you have an item you believe is worth quite a bit of money, it might be worth it to invest in an appraisal.
- Once you have an idea regarding what your item is worth, it’s time to set the price. Pricing is very much an art form! At our shop we price in whole dollar amounts, mostly because it’s easier! There’s plenty of research around what prices sell better (that’s why lots of things are marked with a number ending in ‘7’ or ‘9’.)
- If you are selling direct, you might want to leave in a little cushion for haggling. I have a friend who makes his living buying and selling 70’s motorcycles on craigslist. He always prices his bikes at 15% over what he expects to receive. At our shop, we price our items based on what we paid and our margin goals and don’t leave in cushion for haggling – we sell our items for the amount priced. There are plenty of dealers who WILL put in a bit extra for haggling, though! If you’re selling via craigslist or another direct source, expect some haggling and price accordingly, or else note that your price is ‘firm’.
- If you want to sell your treasures to a dealer be prepared for wholesale pricing. This means the dealer will offer you anywhere from $.20 to $.50 cents on the dollar – so your ironstone plate that will likely sell for $10 in a shop will get you anywhere from $2 to $5 from the dealer. In all honesty, most dealers are going to be much more closer to $2 than $5!! If you have a lot of things to sell and/or don’t have a lot of time to deal with selling it might be worth it to get the wholesale price and be done with it! Also…. keep in mind that it’s a business deal! Trust me, a dealer probably thinks your stuff is just as cool as you do, but he or she is thinking about how much and how quickly that item will sell for and will offer you a fair price.
OK… now that you have some idea about what your stuff is worth… it’s time to sell it! Here are some options, sorted in order from lowest to highest likely payout.
Sell to a dealer
One option to sell your vintage treasures is to sell directly to a dealer at an antique mall or to an owner of a brick and mortar vintage shop (like ours!) As we said, expect to get $.20 to $.50 cents on the dollar for your loot when selling to a dealer. Of course, different dealers can expect different retail pricing, depending on the style and location of the shop.
If you would like to approach a dealer to sell directly, it’s best to check with the dealer to see if he/she is interested… don’t just pop in to a shop with a load of stuff!! It’s also best to approach dealers during the slow times of the week – not the weekends.
You’ll have the best luck approaching shops where your items look like a good ‘fit’… for instance, we focus mainly on home decor items with a specific aesthetic, so we’re unlikely to be interested in vintage stationary or clothes. And we also stick with a more primitive style as well as a mid-range price point, so high end ‘fancy’ antiques wouldn’t be of interest to us for our shop.
If you DO come to terms and make a deal to sell your vintage goods, you may be asked for your state ID. The dealer will pay you in cash or with a check and you can go happily on your way!
We are totally open to buying from individuals. In addition to us, some places that are open to taking a look at your vintage treasures are The Factory in Verona (go inside, leave your stuff in the car, and they will gather up any dealers in the building who will go out to your car – no doing business inside the antique mall!) The folks at 17 E. Beverley (across from my shop) will take a look at what you have as will we if it’s in line with our aesthetic. I’m sure there’s more who are open to this… I didn’t get a chance to talk to everyone!
Become a dealer
If you really love vintage items and/or have a large collection, you could become a dealer yourself. There are a lot of antique malls and shops with space available for rent. As a very basic ballpark, expect to pay $150 – $250 per month for a 10′ x 10′ booth space. In addition to the monthly flat fee, most malls will take a commission from each sale that ranges between 10-20%. In return for those fees, you get a cozy little space that you can set up to reflect your vision. The antique mall provides the staff, marketing, facilities and great hours. Many malls may require a year-long lease requirement as well, so this is only a good option if you have the time and the interest to build up your booth and keep it stocked. This is NOT a good option if you are just trying to clear out your own collection or items that you inherited from family members!
Depending on the mall, there might be different requirements and restrictions regarding selling your items directly from your booth to avoid paying the commission. Many malls will not allow direct sales by the dealer, which is something to keep in mind. Around here, The Factory allows direct sales by the dealers, so if you are interested in something and the dealer is in the booth, try to purchase from the dealer directly if they offer it – many offer discounts if you purchase directly from them rather than the registers at the front of the mall.
If you are interested in securing a booth space and selling your collection directly be sure to check in to local business requirements. If you live in Staunton, you might not need to obtain a business license to sell from a booth (the antique mall will hold the license) but you will want to obtain a Federal tax ID number and a reseller’s number so you can purchase new stock without paying sales tax. There are tons of great resources from the state and local government and organizations (check out the Staunton Creative Community Fund or the Staunton Downtown Development Association for some great resources.)
Sell on Consignment
Selling on consignment is a great option, especially for furniture items. In general expect to sign a consignment agreement that may stipulate how long the item will stay in the consignee’s shop (a consignee is the seller… consignor is the person who owns the item…) The consignee may also have rules regarding marketing the item via other avenues (i.e. Craigslist)… or the agreement may just be a verbal one!
The consignee will take anywhere from 20-50% of the sales price. It seems that a 70/30 split is fairly common for vintage consignment, but that is very much up to the individual agreements!
At this time, we do not accept any consignment items in our shop. There are a few places downtown that may offer consignment, in particular, Sweet P’s focuses quite a bit on vintage and artist consignment and Rule 42 accepts furniture and artist consignment.
If you are looking for avenues to liquidate your collection or items you have inherited, an auction might be a good choice for you. Typically, you will arrange your auction with an auction house or auctioneer, who will take a cut of the proceeds – likely 20-30%. Keep in mind that you will be agreeing to whatever price your item goes for, which may be lower than you think or expect. Here in Staunton, Queen City Marketplace is starting monthly auctions on February 28th, 2015. The auctions will include one estate and be open for individuals to bring in individual items with no stipulations regarding the type of items brought in for auction – they are open to auctioning off new items (gym equipment, washing machines) – not just antiques! The auctioneer and Queen City will take a portion of the proceeds from the auction that will be right around the 20% point.
Many folks use eBay as an avenue to sell collectibles and antiques. We haven’t tried this for items at the shop, but I have sold things personally through eBay. It can be a little pricey after the fees – there are a lot of special rules, but in general for antiques the first 50-100 listings per month are free. Ebay charges 10% of the final value of the sale (sale price + shipping) plus any PayPal fees. There are other fees, most are designed to help you highlight your listing. The one extra fee that I’ve paid when selling my personal items is a reserve price – this means you can set a floor for your listing and bidding MUST reach that value in order for the item to sell. It currently costs $2 to add a reserve to your auction.
The pros to eBay are that there’s a large marketplace to reach and everything is automated for you! In particular, I like how easy it is to ship sold items. You can generate a USPS mailing label, pay for shipping and send alerts to your buyer via eBay.
Cons are the same as a traditional auction – you may end up well below the sales price you’d like! One other point to note is that with eBay once you start the auction you are committing to selling the item. So you cannot keep marketing it in other areas (like Craigslist or in a consignment shop) because if the item sells in your alternate market before the end of the auction, you will be violating the terms of eBay – and have nothing to send the winning bidder!. Finally, it should be noted that the cost of shipping vintage items – many of which are large and bulky, may be a deterrent for your potential buyers.
If you are unfamiliar with Etsy, this is an online selling platform that allows for sales of handmade and vintage items as well as materials for use in making handmade items. Etsy defines ‘vintage’ as items that are over 20 years old… so anything made prior to 1995 (ha! feeling old yet, or are you too busy giggling?)
I’ve used Etsy to sell handmade items, but not vintage. In general, I find the posting process a bit tedious… there’s lots of information to enter. Also, the photo quality on Etsy is very important. While it’s definitely a good idea to have good photo pictures when selling through eBay, it seems MUCH more important to have good product shots in Etsy. In general, Etsy shoppers expect polished looking postings.
Like eBay, Etsy pulls fees for the sales of items. Unlike eBay, there are fees due for each posting, whether or not the item sells (eBay fees are only due for SOLD items.) The sale on Etsy is a set price sale that lasts for a set period of time – there is no auction component as with eBay. The insertion fee for Etsy is $.20 per insertion per item (so you pay again once your time period lapses if you re-post the item) plus a 3.5% transaction fee due to Etsy, plus any applicable PayPal fees.
Final thoughts on Etsy… it’s a very large marketplace. There are lots of sellers. So it may be difficult to attract buyers if you just post the item and don’t support it with additional marketing or connecting with people in Etsy.
The final option that came to mind is to sell your items directly via local online communities. Craigslist is well-known, but it may be difficult to get the prices you would like for your vintage items. If you are unfamiliar with Craiglist, think of it as an online yard sale. Individuals post items for sale, and other individuals contact the seller directly. There are no fees for selling vintage items associated with Craigslist.
Likewise, there are a few community selling groups on Facebook (For example: For Sale in Bridgewater/Dayton/Harrisonburg Online Sales) that you can explore. In general, the pricing in those groups is in line with yard sales, so again, it might be difficult to get the pricing that you would like for your treasure! It’s a great place to monitor to look for NEW treasures, though!!
Whew! Thatsalotta information! And I’m sure we left out a lot, too… there’s scads of articles and books for each topic we covered! If you have questions or thoughts – or just want to commiserate, feel free to drop by our Facebook page or the shop and share your stories! Both Jeff and I have a long history of selling stuff over the years and love to chat about it!
To keep up with our doings, new items and general party at the Snugbugs, follow us on Instagram… it’s where most of the fun is!!