For quite a few people, the idea of buying a few antiques and trying to sell them online is an attractive one.
That may be driven in some cases by a genuine interest in the subject and a desire to pursue a business in that domain but in others it will be more of an attempt to generate at least some additional income to help survival.
It looks easy
At face value, this is a very attractive option.
All you need to do, so the mythology goes, is pop along to your local Bric-a-Brac, second-hand shop or public auction and buy some old items for a relatively small amount of money. You then sell them for a vast profit to people online and possibly overseas, all of whom just can’t wait to get their hands on your items.
Unfortunately, it is anything but an easy route to fame and fortune. Let’s have a look at just some of the issues that can stand in your way.
The first thing to recognise is this idea is hardly going to be revolutionary.
Lots of people love raking around for bargains and the idea of selling them for a profit. Much of the stuff you will be seeing for sale is, frankly, junk and when a few decent items do come along you can be sure that competition for them will be fierce.
Sometimes that competition can get entirely out of control and result in prices being offered or asked for that are totally unrealistic and which leave no room whatsoever for a re-sale profit margin.
In fact, many public auctions will trade on your very desperation and eagerness, plus that of other inexperienced dealers in the room, in order to help drive up their prices to wildly over-inflated levels.
Once you have sold your items, hopefully for a profit rather than a loss, expect to get some hefty tax bills as a result.
Space doesn’t permit a full discussion of the tax issues here but most unbiased observers will tell you, correctly, that tax and associated charges can seriously eat into what you assume to be your profit margins.
Some people start their antiques business and pick up some really beautiful items of, say, furniture at reasonable prices.
They know that these will (or perhaps SHOULD) sell for considerably higher prices, then start to advertise accordingly. It’s only at that stage some of them discover, to their horror, that shipping larger or heavier items around the world can be both phenomenally expensive and desperately risky.
The cost of packing, shipping and insurance, which you will have to pass on to your customer unless you want to go bust, can end up making your item actually more expensive than a buyer can find it locally.
Voila! You find yourself stuck with an item that is effectively un-saleable.
So, should you give up?
If you have a dream, it’s always worth going for it.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that many online antique operations are successful with things such as watches, clocks, jewellery, pottery, carpets, furniture and antique swords etc.
However, make sure you don’t make the mistake of thinking this is going to be easy but instead do some extensive research on all aspects of running a business, whether it is in antiques or any other sector, before you make a start.
In particular, develop some expertise in a given field or fields so that you can sell your knowledge credibly to your potential customers and avoid making mistakes with the items you purchase.