As I write this article it is 28 degrees outside and winter’s grip is fully upon us in the early days of this new year 2017. With that in mind I have for you today my version of baseball’s Hot Stove League.
I’m not talking sport however, unless you consider the hunting of curiosities and antiquities to be sport – and many people do. In New England where I live, specifically on a 64 mile long sand bar called Cape Cod, antique and oddity hunting is great sport during the summer months.
In January all we bargain hunters can do is talk about past ‘steals’ and ‘deals’ that we’ve made while looking forward to May or June when yard sales, flea markets, and curiosity/antique shops will be as common as beach sand.
For veteran seekers of cast off treasures much of what follows will be old hat, but perhaps I’ll give you a few new thoughts that might help you in next summer’s transactions.
Many people have the misconception that antiques cost more than they can afford. Shopping for antiques is a great way to spend a free afternoon and you may be surprised at how many good bargains you come across. The hardest thing is many people don’t know the true value of the particular item they are looking at in an antique shop.
It may have caught their attention because of the style of it or it brings back happy memories. You never really know if the shop owner is trying to up the price or if you are already getting a good deal. Since you can’t quickly go to another store and compare the price you pretty much have to decide the maximum you are willing to pay for an item and then walk away if the negations don’t work in your favor.
It is a good idea to do some checking into the reputation of a given antique dealer before you even step foot into their store. You will find you are able to get good deals on antiques when you get to know the owner of the store. If you are a frequent shopper in the store you can build a good relationship. Bringing in other customers to the store is something that will get noticed as well. The owners of the antique store will want to work with you on items so that you keep generating more business for them.
You will be able to negotiate the price for what you want if the antique shop is operated by the owner and not several different employees. Even though you will find more selection at antique malls, you won’t be able to negotiate the prices as much. Small antique shops can generally offer you some history on the pieces you are the most interested in.
On Cape Cod and I expect just about everywhere else you will do much better at flea markets, garage sales, and in the shops with cash. Money talks – the folding kind – not the plastic variety. Cash does indeed speak and its voice is very loud.
Frequently you will get a far better price if you approach the seller with cash in hand, partly because the credit card fees cut into the vendor’s profit. Many of antique stores, as well as the flea markets and yard sales people are hesitant to take personal checks, especially if you are from out of town. Showing that you do have the cash with you in an unobvious way is also helpful. For example, you can count it and then say, “will you take $50 for it? That’s all I have with me today.
It is important to remember that you will be buying antiques in the condition they are in. Make sure you take the time to thoroughly examine what you are purchasing. You don’t want to get home and discover what you thought was a great bargain is nothing but junk. Most antique dealers take pride in offering quality items but you still need to check. You will be disappointed if you think you are going to take home an antique in mint condition for a very low price though.
If you are looking for certain antiques, take a look around online to get a good idea of what the going price is for them. Try to negotiate something that is about 25% less than the rates you find online. Don’t be afraid to ask the antique shop owner to cut you a better price. It helps if you say something along the lines of “would you accept $100 for this?” Instead of “can you lower the price”? It definitely helps you get what you want if you are assertive but not going overboard.
Do not be afraid to ask for a better price, especially at flea markets. On slow days at flea markets and swap meets some vendors don’t even make enough sales to cover the cost of their space. If you happen to be the sale that will allow him to at least meet his rental fee, you may be able to negotiate a steep discount.
If you are planning to visit Cape Cod this summer you’ll find more antique shops per square mile than just about any other place in New England. Another source for vintage and new items as well, are the sidewalks of the fifteen towns of the Cape. Many seasonal cottage owners frequently upgrade their furnishings. Instead of selling off the old items, they put them out on the sidewalks with a big “Free” sign on them. You can find everything from televisions, to couches, beds, bureaus, and even the kitchen sink! Beginning in May the sidewalks of the Cape could be paved with ‘gold’ for you.
Also in May, the new season starts at one of the best venues in New England- the Wellfleet Flea Market on Route Six, just over the Eastham line. There are hundreds of dealers and thousands of bargains every weekend from mid may to Columbus Day. When the sun goes down, the market takes off its salesman’s apron and reveals its true identity as a delightful old time Drive-in Movie Theater. Every night, rain or clear, Wellfleet shows two first run feature films – an old fashioned double feature! They even still have the vintage drive-in food available from the snack bar. Sooner or later everyone who visits Cape Cod goes to Wellfleet for the flea and the show.