How to start an antiques business

Could an antiques shop be your dream business? We look at what it takes to become a successful antiques seller...

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Who is antique selling suited to?

Most new antiques dealers are from an antique or auction background, are in their 50’s and 60’s and have a lifetime of collecting behind them. Very few people get into it at an early age unless they’re the sons and daughters of existing dealers. Ingrid Nilson a map/print dealer and consultant started when she was 30 while most of her competitors were in their 50’s. Nilson thinks if you intend to start young then an apprenticeship is quite vital, as you’re unlikely to have enough specialist knowledge in your 20’s.

Once you’ve decided on the type of antique you’re going to sell, you have to become an expert and get your stock together. “You’ll need to get to know the business,” says Ford. “But antiques is one of those professions where, even if your 95, you’re still learning”.

To get your knowledge you need to start doing all that detective work we mentioned earlier. Read, read, read and carry on reading. Go to auctions, antique fairs and other dealers and look at what’s on sale. Lurk at the back and observe how the experts do it, because firsthand experience is the only way you’ll learn anything in the antiques trade.

Stock

Getting enough stock for a shop is a very long and involved business, and will take anything from 12-18 months, sometimes years even, if you’re going for a really specialist niche. This is why more and more antique dealers start off by trading from home or a small stall at a market until they build up enough stock and clients to move somewhere more permanent.

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