Friday, September 7, 2012

Got Gamble?

                            Got Gamble?

The last entry I talked about timing and when to buy. If you're still unsure but something in your gut is telling you, "I think I can make money on it." you need to be asking yourself one question,

"How much can I lose?"

It's really that simple. What is the MOST you're going to lose on an item if you're wrong?
There are so many dealers out there who are stuck in their comfort zone and refuse to take a risk. They won't gamble on an item in fear of looking bad or losing money. They wring their hands, agonize over spending too much on something then slink their way back to their dusty starvation shops to sit in the dark waiting for a stray customer to come into their cave. Ok not really... but you get the point. Some people are afraid to take a risk! They have that "what if I'm wrong?" attitude "I'll lose money! oh noooo!"

Yes you will my friend. That's just the nature of this business if you want to handle the best and have a constantly changing, interesting and desirable inventory to drive traffic to your booth or web page and have repeat customers, you WILL occasionally pay too much for an item. Occasionally being the operative word. Don't do it all the time.

Good dealers don't lose in the end. Even if they over pay for something it will come out as a profit in the end in the form of advertising to draw interest or in a group of things sold off as a lot at auction. Dealers that feel they need to double or triple up on everything they buy tend to carry the same inventory for long periods. It's boring and not very enticing for repeat buyers.

I once overheard a dealer with a stunning booth of high end art glass answer a customer's question "How do you find such beautiful things? "

"I PAAAAY for them!"  she replied

A good friend of mine and long time antique dealer Joe R. who handled a lot of expensive painting, jewelry and lamps taught me that lesson. It made me lots of money over the years but even more valuable than the money, it gave me confidence. The ability to pull the trigger and gamble on objects sometimes.

When you break it down and think about it, it makes the decision easy.

Most of the time you'll at least get your money back or the loss is less than twenty percent... If you lose at all.

But when you're right, there is no better feeling in the world when you pay 200 bucks for something on an educated hunch, then turn around and sell it for 1500 or more. 

I was at Webster's Flea market in Florida several years ago. It was mid morning and there was a regular dealer that set up in the field with lots of low end china glassware yard sale quality stuff with some antiques. In the middle of the table there was a filthy tea service with a sign that read "Silver plated tea set 175.00"

It was 4 pieces. A tall tea pot, creamer, sugar and waste bowl. Now silver plated tea set that weren't Victorian were no big deal. At that time you could still get 4 piece sets under 100 bucks. This set however, was not your typical Rogers Brothers silver plate. It was tall, ornately chased, with scrolling florals ivory insulators, beautiful seed pod finials and crisp detail. I picked up the teapot and immediately could feel and see the quality.

Similar to this
"I'm not taking any less than hundred seventy five. I just got that set" The dealer barked from the front of his van.

"If this is sterling..." was the first thing that came to my mind as I look carefully for the marks. Nothing on the bottom. No hallmarks, no monograms.

"If I'm wrong, how much can I realistically resell it for quickly?" What is the most I could lose? 25 bucks? 35...? The set was nice, I had to have it..

"Ok, I'll take it." and paid him. As he was putting into a bag, he commented, "I hope I didn't just sell you a sterling tea set. I could find a mark on it. Is it sterling?"

My standard indifferent answer for nervous or cagey dealers is,

"I dunno... I just like it" Then quickly change the subject. Look at another item on the table and ask about it.  But his comment was music to my ears.I had a very strong feeling that it was sterling.
I got it home cleaned it up and went over it with a loupe. Hidden in the chasing on the side were two faint impressed hallmarks indicating French origin and sterling silver. Yessss! You know that feeling you get when your walking down the street and find a folded ten dollar bill on the ground? Well it's just like that except three hundred fifty times better.
That turned my 175 gamble into a 3500.00 sale. If I believed the sign "silver plate" and not took a shot, some other lucky buyer would have picked this set up.

Buys like this don't happen all the time, but don't be afraid to gamble sometimes if you think it's right and might be worth a lot more.
After all, what's the most you're going to lose?

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