How do I Become an Antiques Dealer?

Katharine Swan

There are several different options for how to become an antiques dealer, ranging from difficult and requiring a lot of capital, to fairly easy and straightforward. Because an antiques dealer has many choices of outlets for selling their merchandise, newcomers to the business do not necessarily have to come up with the amount of capital typically necessary to start a small business.

An antiques dealer should be an expert on the provenance and history of the items they sell.
An antiques dealer should be an expert on the provenance and history of the items they sell.

The first consideration for an aspiring antiques dealer is, of course, to begin accumulating merchandise. Constantly browsing garage sales, estate sales, thrift stores, and flea markets for hidden treasures is an ongoing reality of the life of an antiques dealer. Certain places are better sources for antiques and collectibles than others, so good dealers know how to quickly determine whether a garage sale or estate sale will be a productive use of their time. For the same reason, a dealer needs to know which thrift stores and flea markets to frequent.

Some antiques dealers specialize in estate jewelry.
Some antiques dealers specialize in estate jewelry.

This of course also means that a dealer needs to be able to recognize on sight valuable or salable collectibles and antiques. Successful antiques dealers typically have an extensive library of price guides and reference books, and many attend local or regional antiques events for the purpose of acquiring knowledge as well as comparing the prices and selection of their antiques with their competitors.

Antiques dealers will constantly stop to browse yard sales.
Antiques dealers will constantly stop to browse yard sales.

An antiques dealer also needs an outlet for selling their merchandise. Luckily, there are several ways to go about selling. A dealer with almost no capital can start out selling antiques and collectibles via outlets such as eBay and other online auction sites. Classifieds, both print and online, can also provide a way in which to advertise or list items for sale. An enterprising dealer who sells out of their home might also host antique sales by listing ads and putting up signs, just like with a garage sale or an estate sale.

Antiques dealers often specialize in a certain type of antiques, such as 19th-century children's items.
Antiques dealers often specialize in a certain type of antiques, such as 19th-century children's items.

With a little more capital, an antiques dealer who is just starting out can rent a booth in an antiques mall or a large antiques shop. The cost of running a booth is typically much less than the leasing commercial space for your own store, which makes this an attractive option to many newly self-employed dealers. Renting a booth also enables you to target different areas and different groups of shoppers by renting multiple booths in antique shops around town.

Dealers may work with antique picture frames.
Dealers may work with antique picture frames.

Opening up your own antique store will require the most capital up front, and you may need to consider a business loan. However, running your own antique shop also has its advantages. For one thing, you will not have to share space and responsibilities for running the store with other antiques dealers. You also will have more freedom in how you arrange your store, not to mention more space than just a booth could offer.

Antiques dealers may focus on certain items, like dishware.
Antiques dealers may focus on certain items, like dishware.

Finally, an antiques dealer is a self-employed person and as such, will be responsible for reporting income and paying taxes to the IRS. For a sole proprietor, or a person who is the sole owner of their business, income is reported using Form 1040 Schedule C. All payment and expense receipts should be kept and carefully organized as documentation of your self-employment income.

Hidden antique treasure could be hidden among the items at a thrift store.
Hidden antique treasure could be hidden among the items at a thrift store.
Antique dealers may run their own shop.
Antique dealers may run their own shop.
Some antique dealers restore antique vehicles.
Some antique dealers restore antique vehicles.
Antique dealers usually specialize in a certain type of antiques, such as books.
Antique dealers usually specialize in a certain type of antiques, such as books.

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