What’s It Worth Today?

Beautiful collection of antique & Wedgwood Jugs

We are living through strange times and there is nothing about the worldwide present situation that hasn’t been said before or better by someone else so let me stick to what I can maybe speak about and that is, what’s that antique worth now?

The old saying that an item is only worth what someone is willing to pay is correct – now more than ever. The reality is that, antiques, in spite of their sometimes bargain price tags, have always been considered to be non essential, even a luxury, item. A person may spend money on antiques but only after necessities have been paid for. This pattern of spending is now exacerbated by this worldwide pandemic.

Mother of Pearl fish set for twelve in its original mahogany presentation case

People are focused on buying the necessities of life right now – not scoring that amazing antique. Many people are out of work and have little or no money coming in so buying antiques is not a priority.

Victorian era walnut Rococo Revival gentleman’s parlour chair

Antique dealers are in a panic as well with shows being cancelled everywhere, and bricks and mortar antique shops and malls closing their doors, at least temporarily. Many dealers who purchased their stock in anticipation of a large show now have to incur the cost of storing their stock.

Roseville Pottery in the freesia and clematis patterns

The antique world has been slow to adopt an online presence. Although Ebay sellers would appear to have a distinct advantage over their storefront compatriots, they are hurting too – for all the above reasons.

Ebay has instigated several financial relief programs to help their buyers work through this economic tsunami. These include the deferral of selling fees, protection against being downgraded by Ebay’s “Seller Performance Standards,” and any problems arising from disruption in services by postal or delivery companies. One dealer, from South Wales, asked this question: “How long is it going to take for potential buyers to begin worrying that they are buying items from Ebay that come from an infected household?”

Miniature antique metal furniture – all hand painted.

I believe this is fear mongering because, based on the material the object is made of, the item could be properly washed and disinfected.

Is there any good news?

Well, actually I think there is.

  1. I believe that those antique shops that have created a good online presence and developed an online customer base will, if not thrive, will at least survive. They are already a known entity in the minds of their customers. The worst thing they could do is stop all communications with their customers.
  2. This effect of this virus ensures that things will never be the same again in the retail world. Some call it a “tipping point”. Technology is here to stay and we are now all dragged into it, kicking and, for some of us, screaming into the 21st century. Bricks and mortar stores will continue to have serious challenges and business owners will have to change the way they do business. Out of challenges comes opportunity.
  3. Not everyone is broke. Even if 60% of the people are laid off temporarily, and some perhaps permanently, 40% still have some disposable cash. They will be more judicious with their purchases and are in a position to get very nice pieces for much less money. That has always been Warren Buffet’s motto: to buy when everyone else is desperate to sell.
Beautiful Mid Victorian fir corner cupboard

So keep your eyes open. Even if you can’t buy right now, spend this extra time learning more about your area of interest by reading articles online and joining chat rooms that specialize in certain interests.

If you’re trying to sell something, expect to get very little for your antiques right now. If you can, store them for a few months and approach dealers once this crisis is over.

For business owners that still have stores, spend this time changing your store around, creating new displays and preparing for a new opening day. That way, once this is all over and your customers come back, they will be excited to see what they perceive as all new stock, not just same old, same old.

It’s a trying time for each and every one of us, but in the immortal words of a very wise prophet, “This Too Shall Pass”

4 responses to “What’s It Worth Today?

  1. Johanne, I wrote you a long comment yesterday and then had to pass the hurdle ‘password” and mine didn’t ”pass”. Don’t we all long for times past at this time?

  2. An excellent article Joanne. As a dealer, I can relate to the pandemic as being a monumental event. I understand the online necessity but truly know the connection that is made by seeing and feeling the item firsthand. We will get through this! I am looking forward to the time where we will be able to, once again, roam the booths of our favourite antique mall. Stay safe!

    • Thanks Carol. I totally agree – there’s nothing like being able to touch something before you buy it (especially if you’re antique browsing) but some collectors know exactly what it is that they are looking for, and as long as the source can be trusted, online options are excellent. Stay safe too.

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