Saturday, October 27, 2012

Desirable Furniture for Fast Resale


When I first started in the antiques and junk business, I drove a station wagon. Not exactly the best mode of transportation for hauling junk but it worked. Most of my inventory was "smalls". Pottery, glassware, jewelry, prints and anything that would fit into plastic totes. I eventually made the transition from flea markets to the bigger antique markets in Atlanta. It was a real eye opener. Lots of furniture and decorator items. Needless to say there is only so much furniture you can pack into a Station Wagon. That didn't stop me from trying to jam as much wood in it and on it as I could.

Early on I discovered it wasn't necessary to buy large pieces to make quick profits. Small pieces of furniture, that are easy to carry, have good design and eye appeal is the key to high turn over. Below is a list of a few forms that are timeless and generally easy to sell.

French Arm Chairs.


Carved scrolling frames with cabriole legs, turned up feet and floral carved crest are great selling items. Decorators love to use them as accents in bedrooms, offices, dens and living rooms. They can be sold in singles or pairs. Neutral colored upholstery and needlepoint sell the best. As with all chairs, make sure they are not loose or poorly repaired.
Console Tables

Traditional styles Chippendale, French, Art Deco, Sheraton, or Victorian it doesn't matter. These tables are easy sells. They can be used in foyers, hallways, open walls with a painting or mirror hanging over it, behind sofas and even offices.

Demilune Consoles Stands and Cabinets


The compact size, function and decorative impact of these pieces keeps them in demand. The French and Italian inlaid tables always sold quickly for me. Check marble for repairs and proper fit. Lots of reproductions.

French and Victorian Footstools


These things are like cat nip to a cat. The lady dealers with shops (and good taste of course) loved them. I can't remember a time I had to bring one of these back from a show. They would always sell the first day. The thing to learn here is quality. There are lots of footstools out there. Some of them you can't give away. The ones you want to buy are the French carved Victorian footstools made between 1890-1920 from walnut or fruitwood. The kind with the curves and crisp carvings of flowers on the skirt and cabriole legs. If they are oval and have needlepoint or petit point, even better. Dealers and decorators eat them up.

Plant Stands

Again, another piece of small furniture that is easy to place in a room. Carved columns, Chinese rosewood stands with pierced shirts, ball and claw feet, barley twist stands or simple Regency stand with graceful tapering legs all sold well. They can be used to display vases, sculpture or plants.

Nesting Tables.

Nesting tables are great for display. They are versatile and come in lots of different styles. Good sellers. Check legs for damage. 

These were my few of my best selling items at shows and auctions. Factors in pricing are dictaded by quality, rarity, condition and age. This post is only to make you familiar with forms. Items that sell well as opposed to tying up cash in pieces that don't sell as quickly

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Weekly BUY PASS $50.00

Each week I will feature a quick list of items in a fixed price range to buy or pass on. This is strictly a general guide that I use to make a prompt decision while I'm out buying. It's not set in stone... it is something that works for me. Some of you may buy selected items that I marked as "PASS". If you have a shop to stock and don't mind holding merchandise for a long time, you could buy the "PASS" items to keep shelves full or you may have a client list that is searching for a specific pattern or piece to add to their collection. This list is for a quick turn around. To buy profitable pieces for a short term sales or a "flip".
Fifty bucks? C'mon..That's enough.
Wood Carved German Novelty Clock with moving eyes.
 These collectible clocks were produced from the 1920s - 1940's and came in a variety of choices. Dogs sitting and standing, cats, a genie and a very rare scull. (Big $$ if you find the scull) Some are wood and some are composition. The eyes rotate. One indicating the hours, the other minutes. I've seen them listed as Oswald and Black Forest. $50.00 is actually cheap for these clocks. You can pay $100 and still make money. They sell between $150-$250 for the common dogs, $300 to $400 for the unusual ones. The wood clocks seem to be more desirable. Make sure they work and are intact and free from damage. Minor chips and light wear to finish is acceptable.
Wide Eyed Dog Wooden Doddo Clock, Tezuka, Japan, 1950's

These are a 1950s quickly carved wood dog clock with a cheap time piece inserted in the gut. Cute and somewhat collectible, but not the same caliber. Not worth 50 bucks for resale. That’s about what they will bring on a good day. $40. to $50.
Cast Iron Boxer Doorstop
The dog doorstop is a common site in antique shops and malls. Most of them are Boston Terriers made by Hubley. The Boxer however, is less common and if it isn't beat to death, cracked or repainted, they are easily worth $50.00 or more. The old doorstops have a good amount of scuff and flakes to the paint around the high spots. Ears feet, etc. worth $175-$225. If it has excellent paint with a nice patina and casting, these sell between $350.-$550. Absence of wear and poor casting is a good indication it's a reproduction. Watch for them, they are easy to spot.
Cast Iron Boston Terrier Doorstop (Standing)
There are a lot of this particular doorstop on the market. (The standing variety) This one should be passed on unless it's a 9 out of a 10. Just too many. Don't confuse this with the puppy of the same breed. ($200-$400)
(Note: I'm using the common dog doorstops as examples. Hubley made a large variety of doorstops and values range from $25 up to $4000+ and even more for the very rare. The Popeye just sold for $3300. The same Hubley 9-inch cast-iron Popeye figure in impeccable condition brought 17,250 at Bertoia's Auction in 2008. If you're interested in this area of collecting, there are several good books on the subject you should own)
Terriers by Marguerite Kirmse, Etchings
Keeping with the dog theme, etchings by Marguerite Kirmse can sometimes be found very cheap because her signature can be difficult to read making it hard to research for a novice dealer. Once you've seen it though, you never forget it. Her whimsical sentimental depictions of Terriers sell between $200-$400. So $50.00 is a bargain bargain! I have found them in antique malls marked "Dog Etching" for $25. to 75. Watch for foxing (mold spots) and fading. Original frame is a bonus.
Dogs Playing Poker Print
                                            Tacky... A bad idea at any price.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Cut Your Losses


Taking a hit on a piece you over paid for. Many dealers refuse to do it. Losing money is never an easy thing to do but sometimes you have to.

Maybe you were at an antique auction eyeing that unusual side table you thought might be a scarce Herter Brothers piece possibly commissioned for some millionaire in the 1870's. It was so beautiful surrounded by all the other junk at the sale. It looked like it was out of place. You had to have it.

It was a country sale with rows of trashy box lots lining blue tarps on the floor, low end china, chipped crocks, pine tables and rocking chairs. There's a good chance your piece is the sleeper of the sale. You thought you could pick up for two or three hundred bucks. Patiently you wait for your lot to come across the block just hoping no one else would notice it. Finally, the auctioneer gets to the table... He calls it a
"Nice nice fancy fancy ol table"

You fire off the first 25.00 bid. A few other bids quickly drive it up to 125.00 where it stalls on your bid of 125. You almost have it in your grasp...

"One twenty five, one twenny five, do I have one fifty...One fiddy... One fiddy... One fiddy? Last call...."

"YEP! *cough" A raspy voice cries out from the crowd.

You look to your left and it's an unlikely bidder sitting 4 seats down from you. The local woman Bertha Lubbs. Owner of Bertha's Burlap Boutique. Maker of fine hand made jackets, hats, dresses and undergarments fashioned from old burlap sacks.

"Why is SHE bidding on MY table!??  ...She doesn't even know the meaning of the word antique" you reassure yourself in disgust.

"I can't let that know nothing burlap peddling hack out bid ME!" You raise the bid to $200,

"I have two hunner, two hunner, now.... two fiddy, two fiddy, two fiddy" chants auctioneer.

"YEP! *cough *cough" barks the burlap queen.

"Ugh!....GAME ON!" You thought to yourself..."THREE HUNDRED!!" You yelled out glaring back at Burlap bag lady.

"Tree fiddy, tree fiddy, tree fiddy"

"YEP!! *cough "$400, "YEP!!" $450, "YEP! *cough *cough" $500, "YEP!!" $550!! YEP!!

"Six hundred?,,,,Six hunnerr? Anyone at six huuuunnnner....?" The auctioneer calls....
 Slamming the hammer down at $550 plus your 10 percent buyer's premium you just paid $605. for a table you were only going to pay $300 for. But "So what" you thought "At least bag lady didn't get it."

Bertha could only shake her head in disappointment as she stepped outside to mow down another Marlboro "*cough * cough."

You reveled in your win... That is until you loaded the beast into your van and realized it was made from an old bar stool, piano legs and vintage lamp parts as it fell apart in your hands every time you moved it.

Maybe the Burlap queen doesn't exist, but over paying for pretty junk at auctions and sales is not uncommon. I've seen similar scenarios. It's easy to get carried away if you don't preview the sale and bid out of spite or from the heart.

It only gets worse when you get it home and notice how out of proportion and down right gaudy and ugly it is.

So now what? You just over paid for a bench made pig worth about two hundred bucks.

Do you try to get your money back? Probably won't happen soon. Could take years for that.

Do you offer it to Bertha? Of course not. Pride prevents you from doing that and she bought the following table lot for 75 bucks to display her burlap on.

Do you keep in your house telling everyone that inquires about it that
"Oh I just liked it and had a spot for it"?

 Safe, but, then that damn table would remind you every day what a donkey you were at that auction.   
Ultimately you have to accept the fact you have 600 bucks tied up in it. By keeping the table in the flip business, it will only cost you more money the longer you have it.

From a flip business perspective, the best thing to do is cut your losses. Dump it at a loss after you've tried selling it a couple times. Sell it for what ever someone is willing to offer and don't look back. (I have taken 50 percent losses on some pieces within days of buying a mistake just to keep the money working.) Reinvest the money you made and keep tuning it over. You'll make your money back in a few flips.

Another less painful way to sell it is by auctioning it again. Lumping it together with other dogs and dead inventory that are not moving will distribute the loss out evenly and could be profitable as an overall price. (When you add up the cost of everything you're giving to the auction to sell for you, including the ugly table, there can be a profit at the end if you bought most of it right. Even after commission.)

The trick is to not keep your cash tied up. Keep buying and selling. If you paid too much for a lamp, table or painting, unload it, learn from it and move on to the next buy.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Trash Time

                                                              You can't sell everything...

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

To Refinish or Not to Refinish...That is the question


                                                              "Help me..."

Aside from the cheesy title, it's a real dilemma sometimes.

I'm an advocate of refurbishing and restoring an antique piece of furniture when necessary. I'm talking about the sea of factory made furniture produced from 1920 to 1950 mahogany, walnut, satinwood and some maple pieces that were made in the Chippendale, French, Hepplewhite, Sheraton and Empire styles. They can be found in most antique shops, malls, and auction houses.
                                                               HANDS OFF!!
Very important: Please know you should almost NEVER refinish, strip, paint sand or touch the original undisturbed finish of a period piece of antique furniture. By stripping off the two hundred years of rich warm, intact patination on a Chippendale chest or Queen Anne highboy, you will effectively destroy the value by up to 90 percent. It will turn a rare $200,000 highboy into a $25,000 piece of used furniture. A $4500, Queen Anne tea table into a $500. shameful topic of conversation. Collectors pay a premium for original unmolested pieces. No matter how compelled you feel to paint that Pennsylvania Dutch chest pink to match your daughter's bedroom, DON'T DO IT without first contacting a professional. Or contact me to talk you out of it. This includes Mission Oak furniture. Leave it alone.

With that said, there are exceptions. Twentieth Century production pieces. The veneered pieces that you buy with chips, peeling tops and drawers, dry lacquer or varnish and covered in scratches. The gently used bedroom and dining sets. Those can only improve the value with a little work. "Little" being the operative word. I have done both.


This is the process of removing the original finish with chemical stripping agents, dipping, or sanding. It takes the piece down to the bare wood leaving it ready for repair, new stain and choice of finish.

It is time consuming, and involves handling toxic, stains, vapors and fumes of chemicals and sprays. You will need gloves, mask, a clean well ventilated work area and storage area while drying. 

Pros: The result is an immaculate, new looking, house ready piece that is easier to sell if done properly. No apologies for the asking price.

Cons: Cost, time consuming, messy, handling of toxic chemicals. Generally this should only be done if the piece is too far gone to do a quick refurbish and you paid very little for it. You will need proper tools including bar clamps, C clamps, wood glues, fill sticks, wood putty along with an assortment of drills, sanders, screws and conventional tools. The list is long.

Refurbish / quick clean up:

I used to set up a the large monthly antique market in Atlanta Georgia. The booths across from me were occupied by a furniture dealer Paul S. I learned more about maximizing profit on furniture from Paul than all the books I've read regarding the subject. He refinished some of his pieces, but most of what he sold was quick cleaned and stained. I would watch him buy structurally sound dressers with beat up finishes for $75.00 to $150.00 at the show, bring them back the next month looking brand new, without completely stripping or refinishing them repriced priced $450.00 to $600.00.

His technique is surprisingly simple on pieces conducive to this method. If they don't need veneer filled or regluing or repairing and only have cosmetic issues such as surface scratches, dry rough surface and/or missing hardware, this is the way to go.

1) Clean piece with Murphy's Oil Soap. Let dry.

2) Can of Minwax matching color of furniture (walnut, mahogany etc.). With a lint free rag, stain entire piece and wipe down with clean rag. Let dry. (I prefer Minwax. You can use stain of your choice.)

3) Seal with lacquer in aerosol spray can. Replace hardware if needed. Done.

                              The finshed product is impressive and much less work. 
(Note: I stay away from furniture polish products that have stain in them. I found they are greasy, slow drying, streaky and uneven and worst of all, will stain clothing permanently. Your buyer won't be thrilled with the smears left on their shirts after loading it in their SUV. Not the best shortcut.)

Pros: Quick, cheap, less work, less mess, higher profit margin.

Cons: Not exactly museum quality finish.

There is still some work involved yet compared to stripping, letting dry, sanding, filling, sanding sealer, staining, let dry, sealing and sanding the final 2 spray coats, the results I found were remarkably similar.

I've sold fully stripped pieces for the exact same amount as the quick cleaned refurbished piece.

No one even noticed that I didn't go to the extra steps. I saved time and money. The quality under close scrutiny is definitely not the same standards but the money and time saved is the huge. Most buyers  understand the piece is "antique" and don't mind a few flaws.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Weekly BUY PASS $10.00

Each week I will feature a quick list of items in a fixed price range to buy or pass on. This is strictly a general guide that I use to make a prompt decision while I'm out buying. It's not set in stone... it is something that works for me. Some of you may disagree and buy selected items that I marked as "PASS". If you have a shop to stock and don't mind holding merchandise for a long time, you could buy the "PASS" items to keep shelves full or you may have a client list that is searching for a specific pattern or piece to add to their collection. This list is for a quick turn around. To buy profitable pieces for a short term sales or a "flip".

Buy or Pass price $10.00

How much do you have this week? Ten bucks? Perfect. Follow me...

STERLING silver bowls. Sometimes found at yard sale dented, bent and banged up. Even the weighted bowls are worth 10.00. They scrap them. If it's marked Gorham, Tiffany, Jensen, or obvious high quality, you've made a score. I'm talking about the common weighted and plain bowls that were popular gifts in the 50 and 60's. They sell easily 30 to 125 depending on size, how heavy and damaged they are. Don't let a few dents scare you off.

SILVERPLATED bowls. These are still available in most resale shops and thrift stores. They have little resale value in the short term. Even though some decorators and mall dealers think highly of them, they don't sell fast. Most that are found were made by Rogers Brothers. Unless it's Victorian silver plate, fancy, profusely decorated with cupids and grapes, signed "James W. Tufts", it's enormous, or you just need a shiny cigar ash tray, leave them on the shelf.

Two STERLING dinner size forks. Same rules apply to flatware as the previous bowls. Better names command premium prices. Almost any dinner size fork marked "925" or "sterling" in good condition is worth 5 bucks even if it's monogrammed. Certain patterns by Gorham, Reed and Barton, and International are very collectable always look them up before you sell them.

Set of 12 assorted SILVERPLATED flatware. There was a shop in central Florida that had a cast iron bath tub nearly full of nothing but assorted silverplated flatware your choice .25 cents each. Most of the plate out there is still worth less than that. Of course there are exceptions. I'm referring to the average mismatched common silver plate found in shoe boxes at yard sales. Unless it's in a case sold as a matched set, or you want to make wind chimes out of them, leave them alone.

(A word of caution to the novice. If you are still unsure of how to tell sterling hallmarks from silver plate, DO NOT always believe the seller. Many times a misinformed relative or friend told them what they are selling you is sterling. Not that they are trying to deceive you intentionally, they truly may not know. I get calls all the time from sellers that claim they have a set of sterling silver flat ware, or tea set that turns out to be Rogers 1847 silver plate. Know your marks.)

CHIPPED and CRACKED ROSEVILLE Sunflower vase. Generally chipped and cracked china pottery should be avoided at any price. Here's a case where the rule does not apply. Depression era pottery made by Roseville. Patterns like Blackberry, Sunflower, Ferrella, and Baneda Chips and cracks are acceptable for these scarce patterns if it's cheap enough. Always worth ten bucks. Dealers buy them to repair and resell.
I once had a piece of Sunflower that I purchased damage at a local flea market. I paid 20 bucks for the 10 inch vase. It was previously broken and poorly glued back together like a bad Frankenstein project. Glue all over it. I was set up at an out door market in West Palm Beach when the table got bumped and the vase crashed on the ground. I sold the pile of broken pieces of the Frankenvase to a pottery dealer for what I paid for it.
(Note: Obviously these vases are worth hundreds in good condition.)


MINT condition CAPODIMONTE floral vase. Mint baby!! If you can find it mint. The flowers are almost always damaged. This stuff is just gross. It's poorly painted, with off tone dark lifeless colors, quickly made and easily chipped. It doesn't stay mint for long.  It's sold at flea markets, yard sales, estate sales and online. Usually over priced. They still import it to this day.
Don't confuse this cheaply made tasteless trash with the fine quality antique Capodimonte. They are two different animals. One is a beautiful golden maned majestic  lion on the Serengeti stalking its prey, the other is a raccoon tearing up your garbage while you sleep. Save your ten bucks.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Get a Clue - Get a Deal

Picking yard sales, flea markets, and auctions is fun and a great way to find items for resale. An equally fun and sometimes easier way to get stuff is on line.

Craig's List is a great place to snap up under priced goods made by misinformed sellers. Mistakes are routinely made on both ends of the scale.

If you scroll through the antiques section, it won't take you long to find the beat up antique trunk worth 50 to 100 bucks grossly over priced at 400 and a 1950s mahogany furniture low end Duncan Phyfe style dining set with loose joints and scratches sold as 1800s antique furniture along side the mislabeled and low priced better stuff.

The over priced far out weighs the deals by a pretty large margin and there is a ton of crap on there no one should own for any price.

The following are examples of sellers reaching for he stars when pricing and should be avoided.

Budweiser Classic Label Bar Mirror - $100

These can be found on Ebay for 20 to 30 bucks any day of the week. I don't pay more than 5 bucks for them. Yeah, 5 bucks...They are hard to sell and were made by the thousands.

Here's Some Cookware being sold as "Antique Bed Warmer" 30.00

The short handle, heavy awkward design and the newer hardware reveals this item was made in the 1980s and wouldn't be practical as a bed warmer. They are found on Ebay and thrift stores between 5 and 10 bucks.

Here's a "Vintage Jeweled Wall Art -Velvet Peacock" $95.00

I call this stuff "Couch Art" It falls in the same category as bad paintings of sunsets, palm trees, houses and domestic house pets. Aunt Agnes found a frame and a piece of velvet and went to the crafts store. You get the idea. She may have enjoyed making it, but stay away from this type of eye sore. No one buys it and will just end up at your next yard sale or donated.

The wins.
It's worth it to look in the General listings when searching for profitable items.
 "Lamp and Office Chair $25.00"

Not exactly antique. The lamp was junk but the chair turned out to be a Herman Miller Aeron chair that retails between 600-700 new and 250+ on the secondary market.
Always take a good look at the image to see what's next to the item for sale. Often times there will be stuff in the back ground or next to the intended sale item that you can ask about when you call the seller.

It helps if you search for vague and generic descriptions.

"Old Lamp", "Wood Dresser" "Old Bed" "Silverware" even misspelled words
"Neclase" "Jewelrey" I don't know if it's a typographical error or illiteracy, but it happens and a lot of the time they don't know what they are selling.
look for "Silver Tea Sets"
These were common house warming and wedding gifts in the 50's and 60's. Most of them are silver plated. I always call on these sets and ask about to see it if they are close. Often times they have the sterling flatware in the china cabinet they didn't advertise. I have bought several flatware sets simply by asking for it while I'm looking at the tea set or dishes they had for sale. 

Yard Sale Section:  Look for desperation in the titles.

"Clean sweep sale MUST sell by this weekend" or "Everything Goes Sat and Sun ONLY!"
This usually indicates the family is liquidating the contents of a relative's estate and needs to move it quickly in order to sell the house and get back to their lives.
It's a great place to leave your phone number and lowball offers on items you want.
Sometimes at the end of the sale, if they couldn't get the 600. for the bedroom set, your 200 looks a lot more appealing as opposed to moving the set into storage.
Be respectful when doing this. Some people are easily offended with low offers. You don't want to insult them. Try something like:
"I know you're asking price of 600. is fair and I like it alot, but I could only afford to spend 200. on it. It's a standing offer if you want to sell it after the sale. If not, I understand"
Some times they call.

Do your home work.

When you identify a good deal, you must be decisive. You've done your research, you know there is a profit in it, DON'T take a long time to make your mind up because there are other shrewd collectors and dealers just waiting for these ads to emerge.
If you're not certain, do a quick Google or Ebay search on the item and call them immediately. It's best to go right away if you're within 15 miles of it and you have the time of course. Good deals don't last. Snatch them up. 
It's a great feeling walking out the door with  a deal while she's answering the caller on the phone "Oh no sorry,  I just sold it..."