Finding, buying, and selling quality antiques can be an enjoyable and profitable pastime. Once you’ve made a few sales you may get bitten by the antique bug and find yourself thinking ‘perhaps I could make a business out of this’.
Right now is a great time to get started with buying and selling antiques. The USA online antiques & collectibles market is currently valued at $2 billion, with an average industry growth of 5.3% between 2016 and 2021.
So, the opportunity is huge. But getting started with selling antiques online can be tricky.
How do you source the best antiques? Where do you sell them? How do you reach the right customers? These are just some of the questions you will ask yourself.
In this guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know to get started with successfully selling antiques online. We’ll cover:
By far the most important step in creating a successful online antique store is sourcing antiques that people want to buy.
Unlike most online stores that stock large quantities of individual products, when selling antiques you will typically deal with one-offs, or very small numbers of each product. This means that you’re more likely to spend a considerable amount of time finding and buying new stock.
Finding a niche can help you gain the knowledge you need to successfully make a profit. Your niche needs to be interesting to you, as well as desirable for others. You may use sites like eBay or other antique auction sites to see what types of antiques are selling well at the moment.
It’s also crucial to learn how to identify authentic antiques. Once you’ve decided on your niche, research how to ensure the antiques you’re buying are authentic. For example, on glass, ceramic, and metal antiques you may find identifying marks on each item to help you understand where and when they were made.
There are several options when it comes to sourcing antiques. These include:
Thrift Stores & Yard Sales
Thrift stores and yard sales will offer you the best opportunity to find antiques at a competitive price.
The people who run yard sales and thrift stores are mostly interested in selling as much stuff as possible in as little time as possible, meaning they’re more likely to be open to bartering. They are also less likely to be experts in antiques, so may drastically undervalue what they are selling, offering you an opportunity to get a great deal.
However, there are some downsides. Shopping for antiques at thrift stores and yard sales can be very time-consuming, so you’ll need to know what you’re looking for in order to sort the junk from the gems. As sellers aren’t experts, they may also overprice items, so a good knowledge of what you’re trying to buy is crucial.
Flea markets can also be a good place to grab antique bargains. These markets can be less time-consuming than thrift stores and yard sales as they typically just offer older products such as antiques.
However, sellers in flea markets are more likely to have a grasp on the value of the product they are selling, making it trickier to pick up a real bargain.
Auctions are a staple for many antique dealers. Depending on the auction you visit, you’re more likely to find antiques of a high value that can be resold online at a profit.
Knowing how much you could realistically sell an antique for is crucial to auction success. It’s easy to get caught up in a bidding war with other dealers or collectors and end up paying over the odds, making it very difficult to make a profit.
Spend time assessing the items up for auction, and only bid on those you are confident you will be able to resell.
Other Antique Dealers
Buying from other stores can be a good way to source stock. But, as other sellers at this level are likely to have a clear idea of antique values, it can be difficult to make a profit.
However, this antique source can make sense if you specialize in specific types of antiques, giving you a competitive advantage. For example, if you specialize in selling antique clocks, you may be able to identify valuable clocks at other general antique stores, and then leverage your knowledge, audience, and network to sell them at a greater profit.
There are lots of options when it comes to selling your antiques online. Which one you choose will depend on your wants and needs. Here are some options to consider:
A dedicated online store is the go-to selling option for serious antique dealers. There are many easy-to-use platforms available for creating a quality online store such as Shopify, BigCommerce, and Wix.
When you use these platforms you can create a highly customized store with a dedicated domain name. This can be a good way to maintain a high level of control over your store, and offers you flexibility as you grow and want to add more functionality – or change the style of – your store’s look and feel.
Setup costs and time investments are usually higher when setting up an online store compared to other options. However, online ecommerce stores typically charge less per transaction, so can work out cheaper in the long run.
These platforms invest a considerable amount in bringing ready and willing customers to their site, which you can then leverage to make sales. In exchange for this audience, online marketplaces will typically charge higher transaction fees on every sale that you make.
Online marketplaces can be a great way to test out your buying and selling skills, without the need to invest in a professional website.
Social platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest offer online businesses the opportunity to sell directly through their platforms. This can be especially beneficial to brands that have managed to build a large and engaged audience on these social channels, helping make it quick and easy for their audience to buy.
Selling on social platforms can be a good way to highlight the antiques you are selling, and reach a wider audience. Typically, most businesses will pair selling on social media with another platform, such as a dedicated online store.
The antique market relies heavily on trust. Your customers will need to trust that you’re selling them authentic products at a fair price before they will make a purchase.
This is why your brand is so important.
Your branding should help you communicate your values as a business. For example, using colors such as gold could help communicate the luxurious nature of what you’re selling.
Research other online antique sellers and see what colors they use, what their logo looks like, and how they have styled their website. View them like you are a customer – and ask ‘would I buy from them?’ – then take the parts that work, and use them as inspiration to create your brand.
When you’re selling antiques, it’s important to remember beauty and history outweigh function. After all, you don’t really need to spend $5,000 on an antique clock when you could buy a modern wall clock for just $10. Both tell the time, but only one is going to impress guests when they walk through your front door.
So, when selling antiques online, it’s crucial to showcase them properly.
As you’re likely to be selling one-off or small numbers of each antique, it’s really important to take photos that help the potential customer understand the style and intricacies of the product that they’re viewing.
Take product photos which show all the interesting features of the antique. Use a white background and good lighting to make your antique’s best features stand out.
You might also want to include images of the antique in a home setting to help the customer understand how it may look in their own home.
Your product description should be made up of two key elements:
- Product details, such as dimensions, age, condition, history, and functionality
- Inspirational content that makes the buyer really imagine having that unique antique situated in their home
As antiques are often unique in nature, they can be difficult to price. Even when you have two identical products, the age and condition of each can create a massive gap in how much you may be able to charge for them.
When pricing your products, do your research on how much other similar antiques have been sold for, and take into account the individual condition of the antiques that you’re selling.
Once you have your antiques – and you know how much you want to charge for them – it’s time to set up your shop. Depending on the platform you have decided to sell on, you’ll have to complete different steps to get selling.
Each platform will be different, but here’s a general overview of what you might be expected to do:
- Visit the ecommerce platform you have chosen (such as Shopify or Wix) and sign up for an account
- Select the domain name for your store
- Find a theme that matches your brand and build your store using it
- Upload your product images and descriptions
- Review the payment methods you will accept
- Get selling!
- Go to the marketplace you have chosen and create an account
- Create your store and upload your products
- Fill out the required information such as your store name, preferences, and payment information
- Get selling!
- Visit the social platform you want to sell on
- Create a business account
- Upload your product information and submit them for review
- Once accepted – get selling!
As many antiques are fragile and valuable, it’s important to consider how you’ll package and ship your antiques once they’ve been sold.
Although many shipping companies such as FedEx and DHL will ship antiques, you may need to sign a special declaration depending on their nature and value. It’s also worth checking the policy of your courier, to ensure that you’re not shipping prohibited items. For example, some couriers will have special rules about shipping antique firearms, or antiques that exceed a certain value.
It’s also worth exploring getting your items insured when they’re shipped, to limit the potential for breakages and costly refunds. Some couriers will only offer refunds if you can prove that the items have been packaged sufficiently, so check the terms and ensure you comply with all requirements.
Even if you create the world’s best online store – and offer the most incredible antiques at the most competitive prices – if nobody ever visits your store, you’re never going to make sales. This is where good marketing comes in.
Here are a few tried and tested ways to market your products based on the platform you use:
Marketing Your Online Store
Online stores rely heavily on you driving your own traffic from external sources. You can tap into traffic from busy online spaces such as social media, search engines and other websites with the following marketing methods:
- Social media ads
- Publishing organic social media content
- Guest posting on other relevant websites
- Search engine ads
- Improving your search engine rankings
Marketing Your Online Marketplace Store
Online marketplaces such as eBay and Etsy invest heavily in bringing traffic to their sites. However, you’ll still need to beat the competition in order to earn your slice of that traffic. Try the following methods:
- Sponsored listings
- Using great quality images and product descriptions
- Driving external traffic to your listings with social media and search engines
Marketing Your Social Media Store
When it comes to selling on social media, using the platform that you’re selling on to market yourself is an obvious and natural choice. For example, if you decide to sell on Facebook, you may use the following methods:
- Publish quality content to build an engaged audience
- Use social media ads to target those most likely to be interested in buying your antiques
In this guide, we’ve walked you through every step you need to know in order to start selling antiques online. From sourcing antiques that will sell to setting up your store and shipping the items, you now have the knowledge you need for online antique selling success.
Here’s a quick recap of the steps for reference:
Selling Collectables Online
- Source antiques that your customers want to buy
- Decide where you will sell antiques online
- Create a brand that represents your values
- Take great product photos and write compelling product descriptions
- Decide how you will price your antiques
- Set up your online store
- Work out how you will package and ship your antiques
- Create a marketing plan and execute it
Remember, the antiques market in the US is worth a whopping $2 billion – so go cut yourself a slice of that pie!