How to Start an Antiques Business Using These Tips

June 22, 2018 423 views

Image of an Antiques Store

How To Start An Antiques Business Complete With Valuable Resources

Antiques Business Overview:

The business of buying and selling antiques is a wonderful experience for anyone with an entrepreneurial spirit and, surprisingly enough, it takes far less investment capital than one might think.

For many, “antiquing” begins as a hobby that can quickly evolve into a passion. Many collectors develop a true “love” for certain collectible items.

All antiques have a story and often the story is far more valuable than the item itself was in its prime.

People shopping at antique shops are often quite knowledgeable. Customers will ask a lot of questions, and you’ll want to prepare yourself to meet these people’s needs by having a good, thorough knowledge of your inventory’s manufacturers, trends throughout the history of the industry, and so on.

You can keep up to date with what’s doing well these days visiting antique conventions and by checking sources like www.kovels.com. This way, you’ll be informed as to what would be a fair price for any given item.

Keep in mind that, while we all like the idea of having our own shop, you can actually do quite well by selling online. This can cut your startup costs in half, as you won’t need to rent a shop or hire employees or pay for monthly overhead that comes with running a shop.

Skill Set:
  • Knowledge of antiques
  • Antique Picking
  • The ability to do research and distinguish authentic items from fakes
  • A passion for antiques
  • Knowledge of pricing
  • The ability to contact experts regarding antique history and values
  • Research experience
  • Care of antiques, including what and how to clean, and what to leave as is
  • Photography skills
  • A good eye for the authenticity of products
  • Common Business Skills
Approximate Daily Hours Needed:

If your antique shop is online, it can be open every day. If you have a brick and mortar storefront, your hours will be average retail hours such as 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 or 6:00 p.m.

Before opening and after-hours activities – Log purchases and sales, research antiques, and attend flea markets, estate sales, garage sales, and antique auctions.

Equipment, Supplies, & Services During Start-up or In The Future:
  • Display cases
  • Transportation
  • Specialty Cleaning Equipment and Supplies
  • Digital camera
  • Inventory log system or software
  • Variety of camera lenses
  • Studio area for taking photos
  • Essential Office Equipment
Monthly Expenses and Operating Costs To Consider:
  • In addition to our list of common business expenses, your antique business will require a budget for the ongoing cost of acquiring antiques
  • Common Monthly Expenses

See Our Page On Business Licenses and Permits

Approximate Minimum Startup Cost:

Your startup costs will depend on the amount of inventory you need to build up. If you have been actively collecting antiques, you may already have some of the inventory you need to open and this could drive down your startup costs.

Other aspects to determine your startup cost is your storefront. So the startup cost for this type of business has to many variables to make an estimate of your startup cost.

Tips & Considerations:
  • If you have a sizable garage, attic, basement, or just an extra bedroom, you might be able to operate from the comfort of your own home, making your own hours. Check your local zoning regulations.
  • A good way to sell your antiques is to be a social butterfly. Sign up for antique forums and online groups to stay in touch with other antique lovers. This can be a great way to make a name for yourself in the online antique enthusiast communities.
  • Maybe glassware is a hot commodity in your area, or it may go “dirt cheap.” You need to be aware of the local supply and demand before you settle on a given item line. This doesn’t mean you should restrict yourself to only a few items; but by limiting your inventory to a few product lines, you can become more knowledgeable about your products in less time. To the antique dealer, product knowledge is everything.
  • Local estate sales can be a valuable source of knowledge and inventory, but be wary of first day prices. Most estate sales last two to three days. Most prices are inflated the first day, and will gradually decrease as the sale progresses. Don’t let personal tastes interfere with your common sense. If you pay that first-day price, you’re likely paying retail. A dealer who buys at retail market prices will quickly go out of business. You need the bargains, even if means settling for a slightly less desirable item.
  • “Antiques” are commonly defined as anything over 100 years old. “Collectibles,” on the other hand, is a term used to distinguish more recent items from antiques. Denoting “popular” culture, collectibles are anything that people collect, especially parts of everyday life in a bygone era now fondly remembered.
  • Your purchasing skills and ability to spot a good find are crucial. Buy at bargain prices: items in auctions ought to sell for about half their actual value. You can also find hundreds of items selling at a quick pace at estate auctions, although many of these items will require cleaning or repair. You can also check out merchandise online and in paper-based antique publications.
  • You need to develop a system for recording and keeping track of your inventory. Enter each item you buy in a logbook, spreadsheet, or inventory program complete with a catalog number, description, cost, and sale price. Your records are invaluable for tracking your costs and seeing how long you’ve had an item. If you know any history about an item, be sure to include that in the notes section.
  • Check out flea markets, estate sales, and garage sales for interesting items you think might be salable. You can also browse online and see what you can find, and what appeals to you. You can also check out auction houses if the prices are not too steep for you. These venues often yield treasures for a collector.
  • Learn how to spot fakes. Antique collectors encounter both authentic and counterfeit pieces. Talk with other collectors and learn different tricks and techniques to help you identify a fake.
  • By browsing eBay and other online auction sites, as well as thrift stores and pawnshops, you’ll be able to build up a decent collection. By knowing what to look for, you’ll be able to know what your customers are looking for, as well.
  • It’s a good idea to keep a wide variety of items available. You may have a passion for antique furniture, but others might collect old toys or books, or classic vinyl records and silverware. By offering a degree of variety, you bring in a lot more customers than you would by specializing in just one thing.
Pros and Cons:

The Pros:

  • I can be very lucrative
  • If you know your antiques this business is fairly easy to run
  • If you know how to pick, profits can be very high

The Cons:

  • Can be difficult to find customers
  • Takes time to collect items and grow
  • Locating antiques can take time
  • Can be expensive to start with a lot of inventory
  • Sales can fluctuate as the economy goes up and down
  • Researching items can be expensive
Type of Customers You Need to Attract:

Flea markets are viable outlets for both antiques and collectibles. They come in all shapes and sizes, some dealing only in upscale items while others are more modest in inventory. There are some tremendous advantages to these outlets and it may be worth your while to do a little investigating.

Your customers include the millions of collectors around the world who have collections in thousands of categories, from multimillionaires who collect impressionist paintings to the average person, who might collect anything you can imagine. Many average folks will buy antiques or collectibles simply because they like the item or have started collecting that particular item.

Another option is the Internet. There are a host of online auction services, featuring regular, dependable shoppers. The buyer is only a click away on such Internet powerhouses as eBay.com. These companies actually act as a broker, allowing you to set a minimum price on your item, then posting the item along with pictures and text descriptions. This is by far the lowest-overhead method of getting started.


It is estimated that there are more than 36,000 antique dealers in the U.S. alone, with many of them operating from home. A low-risk and high-return operation, you can even do the bulk of the work on weekends and build up your capital while still working at your main job.


A Day In The Life of An Antique Dealer:

A day in the life of an antique dealer | Philip Chasen Antiques

Mark Sunderland on Design | A Day in the Life of an Antique Dealer

A Day in the Life of a Dealer in Antiques | Jamie Allpress

The Glamorous Life of an antique Dealer | Maine Crime Writers

Antique Articles

How To Be An Antique Picker – Mother Earth News: Motherearthnews.com

Become An Antiques Shop Owner: Fabjob.com

How To Start A Home-Based Antiques Business: The Antiques Almanac.com

How To Have A Successful Antique Store: Buyingandsellingantiques.org

Four Tips for Getting Started in a Collectibles Business: Entrepreneur.com

Antique Courses


Gow Antiques


Auctions & Appraisers

The American Society of Appraisers

Appraisers Association of America

Antique Appraisals by Allan Baitcher


Skinner Auctioneers

Freeman’s Auction

Selkirk Fine Art & Antique Auctioneers & Appraisers

Jackson’s International Auctioneers and Appraisers

Bid in Online Auctions


Heritage Auctions

Ruby Lane

Antique Auctions


Christie’s Auctions & Private Sales


Swann Auction Galleries



The National Antique & Art Dealers Association of America (high end)

For all professionals, Antiques Dealers’ Association of America

Antiques & Collectibles National Association

Antique Books:

How to Start a Home-based Antiques Business (Home-Based Business Series)

How to Start a Home-Based Antiques Business, 3rd (Home-Based Business Series)

How to Start a Home-Based Antiques Business, 4th (Home-Based Business Series)
Books from Amazon Related to Running An Antique Business

Google Book Search Related to Running An Antique Business


Art Systems



Antique Trader

Antique Restoration

Go Antiques

World Collectors Net

Antique Business For Sale:

Antique Businesses For Sale in US | BusinessesForSale.com

Antique Stores for Sale | Globalbx.com

Antique News and Industry Website:

Out with the old | The Economist

Antiques News | Antique Trader

Antiques Trade Gazette | Art, Antique & Auction News

Antiques Trade Gazette | Antiques Trade Gazette

A Shift in the Antiques Market – The New York Times

Antiques Roadshow and Cash in the Attic ‘have ruined the market for antique furniture’ | Daily Mail Online

Antiques In The News | Google News

Antique Trends:

Out with the old | The Economist

2016 Art, Antique Collectibles Trends from the Experts | Invaluable.com

5 Top Antique and Flea Market Trends | About.com

Pull Off 2016 Design Trends with Antiques | This Old House

Look out for these top collectibles in 2016 | Dailyherald.com

Predictions & the Antiques Market | Dr. Lori Ph.D. Antiques Appraiser | Dr Lori V.com

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