Foster Care for Antiques

September 12, 2018


I liken selling antiques to fostering stray dogs, which is how I got the name for my business. As a seller, i get very attached to my antiques and to my customers--even my online customers whom I rarely meet though we often exchange emails for years after their purchase. I consider the antiques in my shop to be between homes. I care for them as if they were mine, but if I kept them I would eventually become a hoarder. Many antiques restorers are hoarders out of necessity; it is imperative to have hardware of all sorts, paint, different finishes, and tons of rags, to name just a few of the supplies I keep on hand.


For me there is a strong sentiment involved in selling antiques, and it is often at odds with maintaining a business-like detachment. I remember the origins of nearly every piece in my shop, and when the mice get to the upholstery of an 1850s Shaker rocker--which happened!--I feel like someone kicked my dog. Mishaps occur over hundreds of years, but most antiques have prevailed. The others, sadly, often wind up at the transfer station where someone like me will stare sadly at them and wonder whether they can be saved.


The thing I wish people would remember is that an early cherry drop leaf table, for example, has been in existence for 200 years or more--imagine, when you think of your own life, how much has happened to that table in that time. Then try to comprehend that it still exists. Its legs are (hopefully) sturdy and in place, and of course the finish shows the age of the table for better or worse. This is why good, well-preserved antiques are expensive: they've been cared for, they've traveled from other states or even countries, sometimes they've been restored, and usually they are so very beautiful. Sometimes customers balk at the price, perhaps thinking they should be able to pick up that early cherry table for ten bucks at a tag sale. And of course, this sort of anomaly happens. But it doesn't mean that your local antiques dealer is greedy or trying to rip you off: we travel hundreds of miles to procure pieces that seem important or rare. I often have to fix things--many things--before I can put a piece out on the floor. So the price must compensate me for what I paid for the antique as well as the number of hours I put into fixing it, any supplies I had to purchase, and the inherent value of the antique--which is determined by age, beauty, rarity, and condition.


My point--in case you were wondering whether I had one--is that selling antiques is not as easy as finding something on the side of the road and swiftly turning it over for a profit. In fact, things like that almost never happen--to me, anyhow. More likely I am trying to make back my expenses and garner some profit to make this whole endeavor feasible. Antiques dealers know that it is crucial to buy low and sell high as often as possible--I know this because it is not my strong suit. I tend to not want to offend anyone, which I suspect is the same state that infects my customers and causes them to leave rather than make an offer on a piece they want very badly but feel is overpriced. A word of advice: Don't worry about the feelings of the dealer; nearly any dealer would rather make a sale than not, even if the profit margin is lower than she had hoped for.


Finally, keep your wits about you. Ask questions, look the piece over carefully. It may well have imperfections--just like a stray dog--but in the end be totally worth your investment of time and money and travel. Fall is a good season for bargains because things are winding down for the winter. Ashfield is beautiful in the fall which is definitely a plug for Stray Dog Antiques. We will be open until no one can get up the driveway.


Happy Antiquing!

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