Antique Shopping: Determining Whether a Price is Fair

Antique Shopping: Determining Whether a Price is Fair

Kim R. McCormick
Sep 16, 2010

I grew up with a mom who subscribed to and was published in the Tightwad Gazette, a newsletter all about creative ways to save money. While being thrifty can make you prone to finding good deals, every shopper deserves a fair price. Here are some tips to help you decide if that potential purchase is a steal or a swindle.

1. Do your homework. Especially if you are looking to make a big ticket purchase, it's important to go into the store, show, or market knowing the price range of an item you like. Having comparison shopped will save you headaches and some hemming and hawing. The usual internet suspects of Ebay and Craigslist can quickly give you an idea what an item should cost. You can also hit up your local library or used book store.

2. Check the item's materials and their condition. Price should correlate to quality. See if the item has original tags to help date it and let you know if you've got the "real thing" or a knock-off. Also, notice what it's made of: is it leather or naugahyde, glass or plastic, oak or pine? Whatever the materials, expect some age-appropriate wear and tear, but make sure there aren't any substantial flaws. That $50 antique dinner table won't seem like a bargain when you realize it has a giant, hard-to-mask gash. Politely mention this kind of thing to the seller, and you'll have ammunition for bargaining.

3. Size up the shop and seller. If you're unsure, you can get hints as to whether the price is fair by looking around and talking to the owner/vendor. Notice if there are other pieces whose price range you're more familiar with, and see if they're reasonable. If you're at a flea market, take your time and comparison shop between booths (and know that prices will be more negotiable by the end of the day). As for the vendors themselves, don't be afraid to ask questions. I know I feel more comfortable shelling out cash when the seller proves he really knows his stuff. Also, an item feels more valuable to me when I know its history.

4. Go with your gut. Maybe those chairs you've found are a little more expensive than similar ones you've seen, but they have an extra detail you love. It's your wallet, and the bottom line is whether a price feels fair and worth it to you. If it doesn't, haggle or walk away. If something is not exorbitantly expensive, my final test for deciding if I "have to have it" is deciding if I would really regret not buying it if I knew someone else had snatched it.

Do you have other tips? Is there anything that makes a potential purchase more valuable to you?

Image: Brimfield Antique Show by Amy Azzarito/Design*Sponge

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