It’s funny that it’s taken me this long to come to this decision – but finally, here it is. I’ve decided to start selling those things I consider special finds – here – on my personal website.
I’ve had an antique shop for years now and been selling on Ebay, through auction houses like Bonhams, Sothebys, and Skinner and at flea markets and antique shows – and for some reason – I’ve been hesitant to sell here. No more.
I will be listing art, ethnographic, toys, advertising, books, and more here. I hope you enjoy these things as much as I do – at the very least – this creates a record of some of the beautiful, interesting, and bizarre items I enjoy the most.
I jinxed myself with my last post. I know it’s a bit superstitious to think that one actually can jinx one’s self – but I guess that bit of superstition provides a little bit of meaning and understanding to things we just don’t understand.
“I found my sleeper and ended up paying $1 for an item that I would flip for over $2000 within a few days…I’ll tell you about that in the next article which will be all about sleepers….”
Man, I wish I hadn’t of said that. You see, I hadn’t actually flipped my sleeper yet but I was so sure that I would be able to – that I allowed hubris to grab me and let my fingers do the bragging that jinxed me. Truth be told – I’ve been waiting for my sleeper to sell so I could write my triumphant “I told you and here is the proof” post – but, like I said, I jinxed myself.
I’ll tell you about my sleeper find later in the article, but first I want to fulfill my promise about explaining sleepers.
In the antiques and collectibles business, a sleeper is an item that the seller has overlooked – an item which is priced well below market value. You might think that sleepers are hard to come by, but they are everywhere -even in antique shops, flea markets, thrift stores, yard sales, or high end auctions by Sotheby’s, Christie’s or Bonham’s.. There is always a sleeper.
The reason is that unless the seller is only selling one thing that they are completely sure of and expert on -it is probable that there is something of value which they have overlooked. An example would be those very nice staplers I wrote about in a previous post, or maybe a vintage Barbie thrown in among the modern Barbie dolls, a broken dresser with valuable hardware on it, a pair of ruby earrings that has somehow found it’s way into a junk jewelry box, or a box of 75 clay poker chips from 1955 marked Commanche Club Poker Room that wound up in the dollar box of a hoarder sale.
Yup, that’s what I found. As soon as I saw that they were embossed, I knew they were special – even if they hadn’t of been embossed, they would have been a sleeper since a box of T.R. King small crown poker chips made of clay is worth $40-$60 by itself –
These were special though. Every chip was marked $1 – Commanche Club. A bit of research showed me it was a Los Angeles card room that had closed in 1955. Further research showed me that individual chips sold for anywhere from $35 – $95 each. I did the math and listed them on Ebay for a discounted price of $2250 with a “Make an offer” option. I was sure they would sell within a day or two and then I jinxed myself by writing that last post and including my bragging.
Still – it’s an awesome sleeper and is just waiting for the right butt to come along and fill the seat. I’ve left enough meat on the bone for a dealer to make a nice profit – the thing is – it’s a big investment – so it will take the right person coming along.
So, the sleeper is what you are looking for when you are picking. Whether it is the $100k piece of furniture which is for sale at only a few thousand dollars, the red line hot wheels inside the box with the modern ones, or the broken Turtle Timer watch from Zell Brothers of Seattle (which most people don’t know is actually a Rolex movement inside a watch with a silly name).
Here’s the thing though – don’t jinx yourself. One way to make sure you don’t make a sale is to brag about it before you do – I don’t know why the universe works that way – it just does.
The first time I heard it, I recognized it as a profound and universal truth.
“You don’t make money selling, you make money buying” The speaker was some anonymous homespun picker up in Washington State who was poling around through the same boxes as I was at a random garage sale back in the 1990’s. He may not have said it just the way I wrote it, but that’s how I’ve remembered it – and I can tell you without a doubt that I remember it and always will.
He was saying it to the proprietor of the garage sale who had just said something like “We’re selling some stuff because we need to make some money…” It flew right over the guys head and smacked me in the face. I should have grabbed that old picker and asked him to make me his apprentice because with that one piece of wisdom, he’s earned me a lot of money. I can’t imagine what else I might have learned from him.
It might sound ridiculous to you, as it did to the garage sale guy – obviously you make money by selling things and you spend money buying things, right? Yeah, of course that’s right, but only if you are looking at things with no perspective and no perception of the past or future as already existing.
You sell the stuff you have. Where do you get the stuff you have? You buy it. If you buy stuff that no one will buy from you then you aren’t making any money in the future from it, but if you buy things that will sell – well then you’re making money by spending money – easy as that. If you don’t buy anything, you are just using up your potential energy as you sell what you already have – and eventually, the well will run dry unless you are selling your wit, your wisdom, your body, or something else that you can produce from vapor.
Want some examples? I’ve got a lot of them.
I went to an antiques show recently and I waited in line with the other dealers to be as close to first in the door as I could. We all laughed and joked with each other outside but when the doors opened – it was every man or woman for himself. One guy went left, another went right, and I went straight in and to the back. I saw a table lined with tin lithograph toys and I asked the vendor what she would take for all of them – as she started adding them up I threw a lowball offer – she raised it by 50% – and I agreed. It was less than 1/4 of the added up price. Deal was done. $125 for everything on the table.
While I did that another guy bought 40 WWII maps on silk for $300, another bought up four Navajo blankets for $150 each, and a fourth dealer grabbed seventy large unframed photos of racehorses from the 1930s for $100.
Here’s what you need to know – all of these cool items were sold within a couple of minutes of opening and they were all sold for a fraction of their worth. My buddy sold the pilot maps on silk within a few days and made nearly $600 in profit. The tin toys paid for themselves the same day, I listed a few of them for sale in my Ebay shop. The Navajo blankets are worth several thousand dollars and as for the pictures of the racehorses – I don’t know but they are worth far more than the $100 she paid for them. So, $1125 was spent and an estimated $5000 was earned leaving a profit of $3850 – and that money, nearly four thousand dollars was made not by selling – but through buying.
I can hear some of you saying “But hey, you have to sell that stuff to make money” – Yes, you’re right, but the origin of the money is the buying, not the selling. None of us walked into that sale with no idea what we were looking for. We all know the market and as dealers, we are all learning all the time. I walked right past the Navajo blankets – and I’ve learned from my mistake – the next day I bought a book on Navajo rugs and blankets. I also got online and began educating myself about old photographs – and the next week I knew the right price to offer for a box of photographs. More money made through buying.
There’s a reason each of us bought everything on the tables – if you buy in bulk you get a better price and – even more importantly – people often miss the trees for the forest. In every case above – there was one item among the lot that was worth more than all of the rest put together. One blanket was more valuable than the combined worth of the rest. One tin litho toy was worth more than all the rest together. One silk map worth more than all the rest. One horse picture worth more than all the rest. This happens so often that you can almost consider it a universal law. By lumping all of the items together, the percieved value on the group as a whole becomes less. There are several lessons that can be taken from that last statement.
Here’s the main thing – and I hope this is clear: you can’t just walk in and buy everything or anything. You need to know what you are purchasing, approximately how much it is worth, and have an idea of how much you can get it for. Hoarders and G-Sale junkies tend to just buy anything and everything – and I have to admit, I love it when they finally have a yard sale. Here’s an example:
Yesterday, I went to a hoarder sale. There was so much stuff. Much of it was priced on the nose, a lot of it was overpriced, and some of it was priced for a very modest profit. I ignored almost all of that and looked for the sleepers – the items that the hoarder had overlooked as being truly valuable…I found my sleeper and ended up paying $1 for an item that I would flip for over $2000 within a few days…
I’ll tell you about that in the next article which will be all about sleepers….
The south of France is a beautiful area, full of culturally rich cities with countless holiday destinations, hotels, villas and cottages to choose from. But how can you choose one specific destination? Well that all depends on what you are visiting France for. France is famous for its flea markets, and while Paris is home to many famous ones, for more traditional and cultural markets – that means a distinct lack or knock off bags and phones – it is sometimes better to travel farther South. Here we look at some of the great flea markets in the south of France.
Toulouse hosts a monthly market full of lost treasures in Allees Jules Guesde, on the first Friday, Saturday and Sunday of every month, excepting October. With classical books, military and pre war-time memorabilia, the Toulouse monthly market is an ideal place for those seeking out tidbits of modern history. Toulouse also offers selections of traditional French porcelain, plus a variety of other treasures.
Aside from the larger monthly market, there is also a weekly market in Toulouse, with around 50 stalls in the Place Saint-Sernin, ideal for those looking for a good bargain.
The covered market in Cannes is more of a cultural experience than a shopping experience for the tourists amongst us. It is great for those living in rented accommodation as students, or living in a villa as this is an ideal place to shop for fresh foods. You might even see some famous faces, as many of the best chefs in France shop for their ingredients.
Plus if you get there early enough, the fish stalls are an educating experience as many of the aquatic varieties on sale there are not available in the UK, and you are unlikely to see them anywhere else.
The market on the Isle-sur-la-sorgue – a small, medieval town built on the islands over the Sorgue River – specialises in antiques, with over 300 stalls appearing every Sunday. This is an amazing market to visit for those looking for a real piece of history to take home, or for those who just like to browse bric-a-brac. And for the literary collectors, the final Sunday of every month is host to a book market.
Arles is a market famous for its size. It is one of the largest markets in the South of France, with over 450 stall selling a huge variety of merchandise, anything between fruit, vegetables, herbs and spices and other consumables, to a variety of high quality, individual fabrics.
Arles market occurs every Saturday, and be sure to pack a picnic basket, because the market provides a huge choice of delicious goods to purchase for a romantic meal for two, or a simple family picnic.
The south of France is home to a number of special seasonal markets, whether it is Easter, Christmas or Valentine’s day, the French love markets. Check out your local trip advisor for a list of seasonal French markets, as these can be both beautiful and culturally significant, with more traditional markets popping up nearer Christmas time.
About the author: Clare Cook is a self confessed Francophile with a love of spelunking. She has contributed this post on behalf of South France Holiday Villas Ltd, premier providers of high class holiday homes in the south of France
I didn’t expect to become an expert on antiques and collectibles, but that is one of the strange side effects of returning to America. I’m not sure exactly how it happened…I’ve always had a love affair with art and there are certainly particular aesthetics that have called to me – it’s the reason I went to Marseilles – just so I could walk through and feel the magnificent Le Corbusier – the masterpiece of architect Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris, to some it would look like a fancy concrete apartment block, but to me – it was a divine inspiration.
Le Corbusier was at the forefront of a movement in art and design which is now referred to as Mid-Century Modern. This is the shape of the middle 1900s from about 1940 to the 1970s. It was the aesthetic of our grand parents and has recently been popularized through the AMC series Mad Men. This is the stuff that used to get tossed out when people passed away but which now brings huge dollar amounts. In many cases, antiques from the mid-century period are now bringing in more than pieces from the Art Deco or Victorian eras.
It’s the same thing that drew me to the Antiques and Collectors Fair in Edinburgh, a rollicking event with more than 300 dealers spreading their treasures out and thousands of visitors seeking to find an overlooked gem. I was backpacking then, and while I bought a small antique opium pipe, I was forced to pass on the larger items that spoke to me. I was staying at the Hiedinburh Hotel, because while I backpack, I really can’t stand hostels. I wish I’d had more money, more space, and more time…but maybe next time. I’ll post the specifics of the fair below for those who may be fortunate enough to visit Scotland this spring.
In any event, returning to America, I discovered that I had an eye for these gems of Mid Century Modernism. In some cases, this hobby of buying things at garage and estate sales has been the work that has put food on my family’s table. Along the way, I’ve discovered that I also have an eye for other treasures and I’ve learned from buying things, researching them, and discovering new things. I can walk into a thrift store or yard sale and generally double or triple my money – there is always something that has been passed over by everyone else.
I’ve had a few big scores. I bought a box full of old razor blades for a dollar that turned out to be worth nearl $1000, I purchased a first edition Betty Crocker cookbook for 50 cents and sold it for $250, I bought a box of old baseball cards for $100 and have valued them at close to $5000 (but haven’t sold them because let’s face it, no one buys baseball cards when the economy sucks) – but I’ve realized something in perusing the bottom edges of the sea of stuff that is for sale – the big money lies in the more expensive venues. Just as there are treasures overlooked by the legions of pickers at garage and estate sales, there are much more valuable treasures awaiting discovery in the multitude of antique and vintage shops that fill every corner of the world.
To this point, I haven’t had the budget to take bigger gambles – a painting at $500 is beyond my budget and a piece of furniture for $2000 isn’t something I can do – not yet, but I’m getting closer. I’m an expert at finding $50 items for a buck or discovering the occasional $200 piece for ten bucks, but to go for the things worth $70k-$100k, you have to be willing to spend a few thousand. People undervalue their treasures, that’s what makes the antique world such a hotbed of activity. That’s what excites me.
As promised here are the details for the Edinburgh’s Antiques and Collectors Fair for 2014. Happy Hunting!
Edinburgh Antiques and Collector’s Fair – Scotland’s premier event for Antiques & Collectibles
Royal Highland Centre,
Telephone : 07774 147197
Dates at this venue
Saturday 1st March, 2014
Sunday 2nd March, 2014
Saturday 10th May, 2014
Sunday 11th May, 2014
Saturday 27th September, 2014
Sunday 28th September, 2014
Saturday 22nd November, 2014
Sunday 23rd November, 2014