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Antiques From Europe...Is It Really The Goose That Laid the Golden Egg?
Many dealers and auctioneers have been bringing container loads of antiques from Europe for years now. The lure of getting "fresh to the market" antique furniture and "smalls" is something that can bring renewed excitement back into your antique business.
Buying antiques by the container load can be a mental "rush", but is it the business builder some have made it out to be?
Back in 1998, while I was still in the antique and estate auction and liquidation business, I decided to purchase a load of antique furniture and smalls and have the container shipped to my facility in New York State.
I'll spare you the details of how exactly this is done during this article.
I received the load buy tractor trailer, and had friends help me unload the container. It was packed full and tight, and the furniture was quite impressive to say the least!
I was impressed by the high quality and good prices, and by the fact that I could have the load delivered right to my place of business.
There were twist leg oak hall trees, high relief wardrobes, dining room suits, chairs, bureaus, desks, marble top stands, dressers and much, much more. And that was just the furniture!
Inside the dressers and desks, there were smalls galore. Tucked inside one of the dressers was a hand-stitched sampler from 1861. The sampler was done by a mother who had lost a child at birth, and it achieved a high price at auction. I was most impressed with the condition and quantity of the smalls.
I have been in touch with auctioneers and dealers who have had both good and bad experiences with buying antiques in Europe. I have noticed that without exception, the difference between a good experience and a bad one rested solely on who they actually did business with.
Those that did business with the same company that I did business had a great experience. Those that didn't had a difficult experience.
There are various companies that ship antiques from Europe, and you can find their sites all over the Internet. I have however come to realize that not all of these companies are equal! Some of them are very condescending, while others try to speak to the "common folk" while doing business. None of this has a bearing on your bottom line!
There are a few things that you should look for when searching for an antique shipping company. I'll list them for you.
1. Per item price. Knowing your market is so vitally important to understanding whether or not you be profitable. Keep in mind that what is quoted from the company is never what the item actually costs. After you have paid ship transportation, duties, documentation fees, and trucking to your facility, the price per item goes up.
2. Reputation in your country. When the company is thousands of miles away, many of them will often tell you what you want to hear. Make sure that you have testimonials from people who have done business with them in your country! Call these people, talk with them about their experience, and tap their brains for more information about the company. Good shipping companies will always be willing to give you references from people that are satisfied with their services.
3. Company attitude. Keep in mind that you are offering to do business with them. Some antique shipping companies often come across as condescending and snobbish. Do not be afraid to ask questions, (even if they seem like stupid questions.) If they come across as rude or "snooty", you may want to consider whether or not you wish to have a buying relationship with them.
If shipping antiques from another country seems like something that you would like to explore do your homework! It can be a lucrative move, but it can also empty your account quickly if you don't know what you are doing.
Michael Temple is a retired auctioneer, speaker and the owner of Antique Power Dealers, an antique and collectible business resource. (http://www.antiquepowerdealer.com) He is also the author of the report, "6 Costly Mistakes Antique Buyers and Sellers Make...and How to Avoid Them!" You can own a copy by asking for it. Send your request to: [email protected]
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