|Ron loaded the truck two days before the show.|
With the truck loaded, I recently headed out to my first antique show as a dealer instead of a buyer! Deciding (or scouting and buying) what to sell, pricing, loading, transporting, setting up, chatting with buyers, tearing down, packing, transporting, and storing....these are the routine steps of dealers in antiques. As a buyer, you just select a show to attend, wander around the booths, ponder purchases, drive home, and place prized antique somewhere special in the house. Big difference.
Written in 2011, I read and throughly enjoyed the book, Killer Stuff and Tons of Money: An insider's look at the world of flea markets, antiques, and collecting, by Maureen Stanton. The author follows and documents time spent with master antiques dealer, Curt Avery. If you are at all curious about the world of pickers and such, I highly recommend this fascinating book.
I was very lucky to meet and be mentored by a dealer specializing in primitive furniture for 30 years. Sharon has a booth at the Medina Antique Mall and a showcase next to mine. It was she that suggested I set up a booth at an inaugural antique show in Brecksville, Ohio to be held on Saturday, May 28. Up for a challenge, I started down that unfamiliar path on April 1st. BFF Paulette and husband Ron can attest that I have been consumed with the process for the past fifty eight days!
|One half of my booth-the other half held the wicker chaise lounge and my stool.|
Looking at the 10X12 "booth" you can clearly see I didn't have much rhyme or reason to the items I brought to sell. I just selected treasures I thought I could part with happily. I think I was the only dealer that was selling items from a personal collection. I was in full "Joy" mode (see earlier posts) and, of course, that was the reason for my turning from a buyer into a dealer. I felt like an imposter.
In order to begin downsizing our "collections," Ron and I walked around each floor of our house, including the basement and attic, and put stickers on furniture and items that didn't bring us "joy" any longer. Anything that was newer than 1940 was posted on the Erie County online garage sale. In some cases, this required hiring movers to get the items down and out to the buyers, resulting in a net profit of $0.00. I next moved on to sorting and pitching papers and gathering up items that could go to a local thrift shop (proceeds donated to the P.E.O.Sisterhood, Chapter BE, to fund scholarships for women). We made a few trips to GoodWill and two trips to the landfill.
Next, having culled my vast collection of linens and quilts, I carefully set about washing and ironing vintage linens to sell. I followed the care instructions from the book, The Linen Closet: how to care for your fine linens and lace, by Michele Clise.
Having never hand washed, line dried, or ironed before, I found I actually enjoyed the process, especially the ironing. Thinking I would make a day of it, I took my "wash" to the campground. There I made a paste of lemon juice and salt to treat any stains, washed and rinsed the linens and line dried them in the sun on a line I rigged up to the RV and a nearby tree. Just as I finished getting everything on the impromptu clothesline, along came a farmer tilling the adjacent field. The subsequent dust storm soon undid all of my efforts!
|Is this a tractor with seeder?|
Resorting to modern techniques, I stuffed everything back in the washer at home and line dried the linens in my own yard where only birds could pose a problem.
|Linens on the line in our side yard.|
|Linens for sale at $1 each.|
Along the way, Ron and Paulette tried to talk me out of going to the show, seeing that I was consumed by the event and concerned that I would be disappointed with the results and likely to actually lose money!
It is a sad fact that I have a math phobia that exhibits itself whenever I am in the position of counting back change. In grade school, I was paying more attention to my seat mates than I was to basic math skills and I never picked up the knack for identifying coins, subtracting in my head, or even adding with ease. Adding a tip to a restaurant bill without a calculator? Forget it. I know the steps, and can recite them to you, but, when it comes to actually doing the calculations in front of an audience-no way. Undeterred, I ordered a free Paypal Square for accepting credit cards-it even calculates the sales tax and adds it up for you! I priced everything by 1, 5,10, or 20 and decided I would "include" the tax in the price.
I agreed not to go overboard by renting a trailer, and promised only to take what would fit in the bed and cab of Ron's truck. (Earlier, I had marked out a 10X12 space in our garage and determined how much would fit and where to place items to be presented to best effect, but I had no idea how much of it would fit in the truck). Turns out most of it did.
|This dealer also brought in an old gasoline pump.|
I left the house at 6 am, dodging a thunderstorm, and arrived at the Brecksville Community Center at 7:30. I thought I must resemble the Beverly Hillbillies and I even had a rocking chair visible for passing motorists on the turnpike! Most of the vendors had already finished setting up their wares by the time I arrived. Did I mention it was already over 80 degrees with humidity to match? However, these dealers were undaunted and quickly hauled in massive pieces of furniture! My biggest item was a wicker chaise lounge! It was also my highest priced item at $150.
|Beautiful antiques in each booth|
Many of the antiques at this show were priced over $600. I nearly swooned as I stepped into the arena of carefully curated pieces. Honestly, if money were no object, I would have bought almost everything there. However, since both money and downsizing were the objects, I concentrated on setting up my "booth" and keeping my eyes focused away from the beautiful pieces that surrounded me at the other booths. Sharon introduced me to each dealer and everyone welcomed me to my first show, wished me luck, and complimented my efforts at my booth set up. We had about an hour before the doors opened and I did buy three gifts--a linen tablecloth for me-as if I really needed more...) a small wood writing box for Ron, and a tiny Limoges pill box for Paulette.
|Gifts purchased at dealer prices before the show opened.|
These purchases set back my net profits by $105 ( I just added it up on a calculator) and I also spent $20 on porter service to unload the truck, $85 for the show entry fee, and $15 for gas and tolls. Do the math with me-I needed to have $215 in sales before I could get out of the red.
The next five hours flew by-I had a blast talking to each customer that wandered into my booth. I challenged them to name a price they were comfortable with for any item they wanted, and most gave me exact change after we agreed on the price, and wrote checks, or used the credit card square! Whew. No worries after all. I made $593 in sales. Total profit-$378 plus less items in the house. More Joy!
Sharon informed me later that some dealers had no sales and some cleared $250. She said I was the talk of the show among the vendors because my booth was busy. It wasn't really fair, though, as I was selling most items well below fair market value, and taking huge losses on my inventory. For instance, I had purchased the wicker chaise lounge for $250 a few years ago at an antique show and sold it for $150 to a sweet 97 year old lady that bought it as a gift for a friend with a great porch in Chagrin Falls. I'm not making my living from buying and then selling valuable antiques as the rest of the dealers were doing-many with shops and/or spaces within antique malls. Most customers inquired where my shop was located and I explained this was my first actual physical sales place but that I did have a small showcase within the Medina Antique Mall. I told them that for more than 30 plus years I had been a public library director, not as an antique dealer.
There was one vintage item that I didn't sell and I was pretty happy to bring it home with me-in fact, it really is a priceless piece. It brings me Joy as I reflect on memories from my first days as an intern in grad school, and my first year working at Sandusky Library.
|Card catalog-Rods missing.|
Yep, it is a card catalog. I spent hours typing cards, with regulation spacing, complete with See Also cards, Subject Cards, Title cards, and Author cards for each book purchased. That makes me an antique, too, as I'll be 62 in a few days.
I need to take a break from this unnatural downsizing task and plan to spend the summer relaxing on our front and back porches, on Paulie's front porch, and under our awnings at the campsite in Bellevue. It is best to pace oneself, don't you think?