One of my specialties, albeit a strange specialty, is vintage costume jewelry. It’s definitely a specialty that you wouldn’t normally associate with a guy in his late-20’s, but I learned quite a bit from my mother over the years as well as the huge inventory of jewelry that she had after she passed away.
Due to the selling of that inventory and the abundance of jewelry I’ve found during some of the great years I’ve had in re-selling antiques, it’s tough to pass it up. This weekend ended up being a huge week for jewelry. Here’s some of the great finds:
- Huge Ledo Clear Rhinestone Brooch with Baguette Stones
- Very Unique Gold-Toned Enameled, Link Cheetah Brooch
- Gorgeous Hong Kong Orange Plastic Brooch and Earrings Set
- Vintage Layered Navette Rhinestone Brooch with Unique Center Stone
- Gorgeous Forrest Green Flower Rhinestone Brooch
- Renoir Matisse Triple Leaf Copper Brooch and Earrings
I also bought roughly $300 worth of jewelry that nearly filled my entire van in order to grab these items, so we’ll see if all of the vintage Avon and vintage Trifari/Monet pieces I found will make me some profit. A lot of colorful vintage wooden jewelry from the 1970’s and 1980’s as well. I’m still a bit hesitant as to how I’ll do.
This past weekend was somewhat of a dud for increasing my inventory, but it did provide me with enough inventory to work for two straight weeks on eBay sales. Some of the more interesting pieces we picked up are below:
- Devon Ware Fielding’s Stoke-on-Trent England Wash Basin
Very neat painted wash basin from the “Stoke-on-Trent” conglomeration of cities that include Tunstall, Burslem, Hanley, Stoke, Fenton and Longton.
I was able to track down the exact marking at ThePotteries.org, a site devoted to Stoke-on-Trent pottery. I found that Fielding’s was founded in 1879 and shut down in 1982, but the mark above dated the piece between 1917 and 1930.
- Royal Albert Bone China “Val D’or” patterned Creamer & Sugar Bowl
I wasn’t too sure about this buy, but the gold trim of both pieces was in immaculate condition, leading me to believe that it’s probably a rarity to find that type of condition for these pieces. They generally sell, but we’ll see if my $3 investment turns into something bigger.
- Antique Cast Iron Door Knocker
I bought this simply because I thought it was a neat, old piece. I imagine the previous owner painted it, but the ornate designs and facial features made me believe I could get some solid return. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like door knockers are a huge return on investment.
- Our best costume jewelry finds of the weekend
These were probably my two best pick-ups this weekend. I was able to get steals on these as they were in one large lot of other goodies. The top piece isn’t marked, but it’s very unique in that it has the enameled leaves with iridescent stones.
The bottom brooch is all Coro, and it’s gorgeous. The only problem is two missing baguette rhinestones on the frame, but other than that — excellent find.
Saturday was an excellent day, but Sunday was more or less a bust. Jewelry went out of control for pieces not really worth the bother. Little old ladies battled it out like pit fighters over pieces that probably could have been bought new for less.
Glassware was a bust as well. I was beaten out consistently by one man who bid over my profit margin, and I just wasn’t going to blow money. We came away with some furniture to re-sell for profit, but certainly not worth the trip.
Overall, it was a two-faced weekend. The good and the bad. Hopefully, it’ll get better.
Bonnie Wilpon over at Worthpoint.com has a very interesting read regarding the values of vintage postcards and what to look for when buying or selling these great pieces of history. Street views of towns and cities are one of the hot topics in the article, and it talks about how their value is worth much more than your standard mountainous, scenic view of the Rocky Mountains:
Subject: What’s on the picture side of the postcard? The more likely the scene is to have changed, the more valuable the card. A view of Main Street in Peoria, Ill. will have more value than a beautiful view of the Rocky Mountains—even if the scenic card is from 1906 and the street scene is from the 1960s. General scenes can often be found in dealers’ 25¢ to $1boxes at postcard shows, while busy streets often range from $4 to $25 or more, depending on the town, age, condition and amount of detail.
More unusual postcards that feature scenes of everyday life that aren’t normally scene are usually worth more. I can attest to the fact that there are many collectors who like postcards that show factory work, occupational scenes, and various landmarks within smaller towns that have changed. There was a time a few years ago in which Post Office scenes were highly sought out.
This quote, however, is quite surprising:
Today, in general, views are “hotter” than greetings—just the opposite from the time I started collecting in the early 1970s. Common greetings are often found for less than $1, while particular signed artists and extra features can boost the starting price to $5-plus.
I’ve haven’t dabbled heavily into postcards, and this is probably why. I’ve had a plethora of embossed greeting cards that don’t seem to sell, even though they look the part and the age of many of the postcards we see in today’s antiques books. Unfortunately, the market has went south in that particular facet of postcard collecting.
The article also points out some interesting subjects to keep an eye out for when buying cards:
- 1907-1915 is considered the Golden Age of the Postcard, so those years are definitely worth looking for within the context of the above mentioned uniqueness of the postcard
- Condition is everything. Even dog ears or creasing can decrease the value by half.
- It doesn’t really matter if the card was sent in the mail or not unless the postmark is on the front. Railroad Post Office markings, small town postmarks, and special event postmarks can make cards more valuable.
Postcards have always been a foreign market to me, but I have dealt heavily in real photo postcards before with great success. Even with that experience, it’s hard to know what the market is attracted to, but these tips should definitely help auction goers and garage sale fans.
One of the dilemmas that constantly hits my radar around Wednesday and Thursday of the week is what auctions I’m going to attend on the weekends in order to gain some inventory. Right now, I’ve had a problem keeping a weekly stream of inventory to push to eBay, and I’m currently running on a week-by-week basis as to whether I’ll list or not. Preferably, 50 items per week is my limit, but I’ve fell well short of that this year.
There are a number of contributing factors to this is that I haven’t pulled the trigger during junk auctions on the boxes of stuff to be bought in fear of having too much inventory in my one-car garage, but when I have started to bid heavily — I’m normally able to get rid of the inventory fairly quickly with nice profits.
The hot auction season is also a factor as the early months of the Spring are pretty competitive for dealers with the same mentality as myself… I need inventory! Prices fluctuate from rather high to a medium level while the late auction season sees a lot cheaper prices.
This all correlates to the question as to how dealers strategize about which auctions to attend. Some dealers tend to go to the upper-echelon auctions that feature better quality antiques and collectibles while others tend to drudge through the less-advertised auctions that feature bidding on large lots rather than choiced-out pieces. I tend to hit the latter, although I love to hit auctions that are somewhere in the middle.
What’s your strategy, and how has it worked out? Is attending auctions with higher quality items worth it, or do too many dealers drive prices out of this world?
I consider myself a quick turn-around seller when it comes to selling antiques and collectibles. My goal is to pick up various lots of items at auctions or garage sales, quickly inventory and photograph those items, and immediately bulk load them into a system developed to mass upload them to eBay on a quiet Sunday afternoon.
In the past, my parents were very good about creating a massive inventory of items to which they wouldn’t need to rely on hitting auctions every weekend… and today, that massive inventory has allowed me to keep my profits high in the black for at least the last year.
Interestingly enough, this isn’t a widely-used system from my experience. With much of my experiences with dealers all over the World Wide Web and even in the local market, the economy seems to be heavy to blame for a huge downturn in the industry. Antique shops continue to shut down, but garage sales in my neck of the woods seem to flourish with buyers. This is mostly due to the fact that buyers want to spend much less, and the misconception that antique shops are morbidly expensive.
The keyword there is misconception as I’m in the group of people who don’t really feel it’s a misconception, but fact. The fact of the matter is that antique malls and shops across America can be very expensive for their goods, and I’ll be the first to tell you that I have to think long and hard about spending money at an antique mall on an item I desire due to the price tag.
Back in the day… when eBay hadn’t taken off yet, antique malls and shops were fairly profitable. My mother did a great job making a living, but eBay made her a huge success. And today, eBay remains the best way to turn trash into treasure.
Buying flats of glassware, knick knacks, or anything else for a buck will always turn profit on eBay, even if you might think it won’t.
Sure, there is definitely a disparity in the amount of profit to be made these days. It’s obvious that there aren’t as many buyers out there spending the money you’d like to see in your pocket, but there is one rule of thumb to live by: An antique or collectible is only worth what someone is willing to pay.
If you want to make money and keep afloat, it’s time to suck it up, do your research, put the item up for sale, and click the upload button with a giant 0.99 cent tag stuck to that item. It’s only worth what someone’s willing to pay, and sitting in an antique shop for six months to a year with almost no interest is killing your profits.
Think about it. You’d probably sell the piece for possibly half to three-quarters its actual value, but the profit alone and the quick turnaround would allow you to purchase more and sell more. One week to two weeks of turnaround versus six months to a year? I’ll have made up for that 1/4 of lost profit in another week, and the dealer will still be waiting and negotiating. No thanks.
The antiques and collectibles trade is definitely a tricky industry to learn. There isn’t an easy way to go about learning all of the various categories of vintage collectibles, and that’s mostly the reason why we see a lot of collectors who specialize in specific areas of the hobby. Jewelry, glassware, oil cans, toys… the list goes on the specialties people “major” in their studies.
For the profiteer in the world of antiques and collectibles, it’s an even bigger challenge because of the various piles of perceived junk at auctions and garage sales that could potentially be gold. People in the business of selling collectibles and antiques on eBay must compete with not only the avid collectors, but the moms and pops looking for that piece that may liven up their household.
How does one go about learning various specialties of the collectibles business without really knowing what to look for or what they’re looking at? Interestingly enough, there has always been one foolproof way in which I’ve come to inherit much of my knowledge, and I find it to work quite well for almost anyone.
Some people are visual learners while others can look at a book and absorb the information easily. Some of my family members graduated high school without ever really attending, but rather working full-time jobs. This was back in the days in which states didn’t have requirements on attendance, and the reason some of those people ended up being valedictorians of their high school graduating class was due to their ability to absorb information from a book.
I’ve read countless glassware books outlining the history and patterns of the Depression-era plates and dishes created, and one thing is almost constant — it’s very hard for me to absorb the information and remember it. And in the selling-for-profit arena of antiques and collectibles, it’s almost a guarantee that glassware is a must in your knowledge-base due to how much of it makes up an auction’s inventory.
The best way I’ve found is to visually learn by buying on the cheap in bulk. Not all auctions offer this type of free-for-all buying, but many out-in-the-country style auctions in which lots are sold by the box are perfect. While you may not get the highest quality glassware or whatever it is you desire, it is a way in which you can hold pieces, learn the feel and patterns or look of the items, and do the research.
One of the most recent examples for me came at an auction in which I bought multiple pieces of American Fostoria and American Fostoria look-a-likes. Most of these flats included other items I was interested in which included some costume jewelry and Bavarian plates (another area in which I was able to research due to these cheap buys). I knew that I would make some money or my money back on the items, so the risk was low and the learning possibilities were endless.
The flats panned out roughly seven to eight pieces of American Fostoria. Two pieces included a creamer and sugar bowl, while the other pieces were sugar bowls in the American Fostoria pattern. Upon further review and research, I found that some of these pieces were Indiana Whitehall and Jeannette Cube patterns. Here’s some of the evidence against those pieces:
- Colors were mostly used in Jeannette (mostly pink and green) and Indiana Whitehall patterns versus Fostoria‘s American pattern. Assume those pieces are probably not Fostoria patterns, but some Fostoria patterns did have some colors available.
- Jeannette‘s creamer and sugar bowl Cube pieces are highly abundant, so be aware when you see that style of pattern at an auction or garage sale.
- Cube is lower quality than Fostoria, and a lot of people have problems actually deciphering what this means. Fostoria, in my opinion, is much clearer and Cube has clear mold marks whereas Fostoria also seems a tad heavier due to the quality.
- The handles on Cube and Whitehall creamer and sugar bowl are completely different from that of American Fostoria. Obviously, this is specific to handled pieces. The Whitehall pieces are footed, and the footing is also more octagonal than actually circular. A huge tip-off to Whitehall.
- “Cloudy” glass is a good way to describe Whitehall, and Fostoria is crystal clear.
Toby Aulman at AuctionBytes.com wrote an article back in 2001 regarding the differences between these three patterns of glassware, and I encourage you to check it out if you’ve had problems like myself.
Gaining these large lots of glassware is a way to learn about these duplications or similarities in patterns, but it’s also a way to learn about new patterns that you probably don’t know very much about. It almost forces you to learn about them in order to correctly tag them for an EBay auction to inform your customers. Case in point: Cambridge Rose Point.
I’ve never actually dealt with Cambridge Rose Point, and that’s a rarity for a pattern that is quite abundant. In actuality, I don’t deal with too much glassware, but I am finding that I must in order to remain highly active in week-to-week sales. I would never remember this pattern by looking in a book, and even though this piece was cracked on the bottom of its base… it still provided me with a fun learning experience.
Picking up a piece of glassware, jewelry, or pottery here and there can be a useful way to learn the specialties of antiques and collectibles. It will surely help out the pro-visual learners out there, and it’ll certainly help you diversify your abilities to spot bargains.