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According to the figures recently released by the National Auctioneers Association, the sales of antiques and collectibles at auction are down by 9.3% compaired to the previous year. Do you feel that this is due to most people not consiging items for fear of a low price or is it because of the low price?


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Hi Vince,

Antique malls are still doing OK in the eastern PA area. Yes, some folks are leaving because the buying is down, but most of the malls I'm poking around are still kicking. Dealers are learning that it's time to knock down their prices, no need to put NY prices where country folks are buying. One local mall, the Factory, in Silverdale, has 3 floors of consignors wares, all kinds of different things. The owners are great folks, and when a dealer does pull out, they fill up the space with their own things for sale until a new renter comes along. Objects are well marked, always clean, and can be handled. A few show cases there, but it's the kind of place where buyers will pick up a piece or two, take it to the front desk and then keep browsing.

Promises of another rainy weekend might get more buyers in the door instead of doing yard work! Ellen
Hi, Ellen.
Good to hear some antique malls are still kicking. Usually any well-run business can weather small downturns easily if they work at it. The usual exceptions are when in a geographic area uncommonly hit with large closures of industries, etc.

Business is still done, even during downturns, just a change in business practices. We hear most grumbling from those who don't respond quickly to markets. If sales are down prices are down, then you buy at a down price to sell lower.

We'ver actually increased consignment take-ins from privat clients during this year, in order to decrease inventory costs. It has worked well, along with other tactics.

"Objects are well marked, always clean, and can be handled."

I think your comment raises a good point, an antique mall with few showcases, where most of the stuff is handled by the customer. Do you find that that type is weathering this storm better?
I know our locals here, those having most trouble, are filled with locked showcases, probably about 2 to 5 per dealer. Makes buying a real headache for some customers - having to track down staff constantly to really look at something.

I look at it this way... We all bemoan fewer young collectors. You cannot build a younger customer base if your items are behind locked showcases, they are still learning and love to feel, touch, smell, and look over items intensly. If you are there to add a story or description, even better.

I believe a lot of malls are shooting themselves in the foot with their method of offerings, even if there is some interest in their items. We are two blocks from a large antiques mall, over 150 dealers, and we find we do great business despite that. (They were here first, so we're the newbies).

One auction house we use doesn't have a minimum estimate for a single consignment lot, but does require that the total of all lots you consign be in excess of $1500. We've had mixed success with them, and stopped listing a few months ago when prices realized fell very low. But we're also seeing a pickup in action in our mall space as more people shop for older, better made stuff at prices far less than comparable new things.
I think the market will pick up in the auction world soon. I live in Louisiana, but go to auctions mostly in Missouri. There were hardly any auctions to go to this summer because everything was going so low at the beginning that the auction houses decided it was not worth the effort, but my Mother went to an auction last weekend and because they have not had many this year, things were going higher than usual. Just the old law of supply and demand. It was noted that the dealers were also thick at this auction. I think it was smart of the auctioneers to do this and it also helped the dealers in the area to get rid of some of their inventory. Sales seem to be pretty good in that area. The poor economy has not effected the southern Louisiana economy too much yet, I hope we dodge that bullet.
As longtime antique dealers my wife and I rely on auctions to buy for resale as well as estates, shops, etc. Part of the problem we are experiencing is that with so much internet access to prices, I see people at auctions looking up the sale price of items on online auction sites with their internet connected cell phones and bidding accordingly. With the demand for good items for resale, many times we have to pay as much as 75% of an items retail price and hope to make 25% return on our investment. If we take that same item to an auctioneer and he then deducts his 20 to 30% commision, you'll figure out who made money. There is no doubt there are more factors in play here, the economy, etc. but this is one reason we don't take things to auction.
As most prices on Ebay have fallen way off, dealers around here are still paying ridiculous prices for things. I know most of the dealers seller id's so I watch their auctions. Most of the things they paid way to much for either doesn't sell, sells for less than they paid, or just breaks even. And it's not just once in a while, it's about everything they buy.


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