Learning to sell antiques and collectibles online is quick and easy, especially with the help of our top choice antiques website builder Shopify. The reason Shopify is ahead of the competition for selling antiques online is because it has over 100 payment options and allows you to sell unlimited products alongside great sales features!
Right now is a great time to get started with buying and selling antiques. The USA online antiques and collectibles market is currently valued at $2.8 billion in 2023. So, the opportunity is huge!
In this guide, we’ll walk you through 10 steps to get started with selling antiques online.
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.
When it comes to antiques and collectables, the more you know, the more money you can make. This is because a large part of running a successful business in this space is being able to identify items which are being sold for less than market value and then selling them at a profit.
Finding a niche can help you gain the knowledge you need to successfully make a profit.
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.
Here are some things you can do to find the best niche for you:
- Research popular antique niches. This may involve some simple online searches on sites such as eBay and Etsy, digesting content from the antique market and using tools such as Google Trends to find what people are looking for.
- Consider your own personal interests, passions and expertise.
- Analyze the competition. Question whether there is anything you can offer customers which your competitors are missing.
- Search out niches which are untapped.
- Consider how easy it will be to source antiques in each niche, how old they are and how much care/attention they may need.
Here are some example niches to get you started:
- Ceramics and pottery
- Clocks and watches
- Collectibles (can include antique toys, dolls, figurines, coins, stamps, postcards, etc)
There are several options when it comes to sourcing products to sell, and it helps to know where to look to find the best 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 want 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 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. Let’s look at some great options for building your antique store:
Shopify for Selling Antiques Online
Shopify is the best ecommerce platform for selling antiques online, and scores an overall rating of 4.6/5 in our general research. Shopify powers over 600,000 online stores, with over 1 million active users worldwide, and works well for large stores. More than $100 billion has been sold on Shopify – so it must be doing something right!
Our research confirms this. Shopify ranks really well for its sales features, making it the reason we recommend it for selling antiques and collectibles. But, if you’re looking for a platform that’s really easy to use, it might not be the one for you. Because in our ease of use testing Wix came in top spot.
In an interesting turn of events, Shopify still came out as a really popular builder. Shopify has a 93% customer satisfaction rating, making it a great choice for most businesses.
Get building your antique and collectibles online store with Shopify’s 3-day free trial, and as a bonus, no credit card details are required!
Wix for Selling Antiques Online
Wix has over 110 million users worldwide, and three plans dedicated to ecommerce itself. With an impressive rating of 4.4/5 for its sales features, it has everything you need to build a successful antique and collectible online shop.
Wix offers great sales features for antique stores like dropshipping, which allows a third party to pack and ship your items for you. It’s also one of the easiest to use ecommerce platforms because it has a drag and drop feature that allows you to build your antique store effortlessly.
But for those stores looking to grow, Wix only has a basic inventory and limited analytics systems. This makes it harder for you to stock more products and learn from the data you get from customers to improve your business.
Nevertheless, Wix is a great platform for smaller businesses that has everything you might need to get a small antiques and collectibles store off the ground. It also offers a free plan with no limited trial that you can get started with and see if it works for you.
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 fostering trust through your brand. 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.
Conduct market research and analyze other online antique sellers to see what colors they use, what their logo looks like, and how they have styled their website. View them like you’re a customer – and ask “would I buy from them?” – then take the parts that work, and use them as inspiration to create your brand.
Ultimately your brand is what your customers think of you business. This means that everything you do will impact your brand in some way. So, to build longevity into your business it can be worthwhile creating processes and practices that help customers see your brand as an industry leader. This can include everything from how you talk to customers to how you respond to negative reviews when they have a complaint or issue.
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
These two elements shouldn’t be separate from each other. For example, you may use emotive language to make your descriptions come to life and develop feelings within potential customers. Here are two examples to illustrate the point:
This vase is black and gold. It is 15 inches tall and 5 inches wide. It is in good condition.
This stunning black and gold vase has a striking and luxurious appearance. Standing at 15 inches wall and 5 inches wide, this would fit perfectly on most shelving units. A rare find, this vase in in excellent condition.
As you can see, these two example are describing the same antique, but example 2 gets the reader much more excited about it.
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.
For example, you may have two identical Victorian sofas in an antique furniture store. One is in mint condition and the provenance of the sofa is clear. This item could be worth thousands of dollars.
The other sofa may be in a reasonable, but not fantastic condition. It is also not clear if it is an original or just a good quality replica. This product will likely be sold for a couple of hundred dollars.
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!
Setting up your antique store with Shopify is fairly intuitive and it got the best customer score than any other builder in testing. That, coupled with a sales feature score of 4.7/5, makes it a builder that can help your collectibles store grow happily. Features like multichannel integration, checkout and order status, and great shipping options are all designed to really help your antique store flourish.
Wix has a great help and support score of 4.1/5, which is the best support score of any ecommerce builder we’ve tested. Both Wix and Shopify offer 24/7 support to help businesses on their platform with any issues that arise. Wix is ideal for smaller antique stores, just starting to sell antiques and collectibles online, because it’s simple to set up with its drag-and-drop editor.. Wix has a super respectable ease of use score of 4/5, the same as Shopify, meaning our users found them equally user-friendly during hands-on testing.
- Learn about what causes shoppers to quit at the checkout with our article on cart abandonment rate statistics.
- 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.
Picking suitable ecommere packaging materials is crucial to keeping your product safe from damage. How you do this will depend on antique, but will likely include using sturdy boxes with thick or double walls and plenty of padding. You may also want to research how best to use materials such as bubble wrap and packing peanuts. If your business has eco-conscious customers then you may want to consider sustainable packaging materials too.
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. If you already have business insurance, check if this covers items in transit; if not, your warehouse or shipping company may provide coverage. 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.
Shipping antiques internationally can open your business up to a much wider audience. However, selling internationally also comes with additional challenges. Shipping large antiques internationally can be especially costly. You must also consider any customs requirements you need to adhere to and any taxes you need to cover.
It is crucial that you clearly communicate shipping and handling fees with customers to set their expectations. You should also include information on delivery times and any packaging requirements.
One way you can make your products more accessible to customers is by offering curbside pickup where they can opt to pick up their antiques in person from your store or storage location.
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
If you are selling antiques online you will need to be aware of several laws and regulations that you may need to comply with.
For example, if you are sourcing and selling antiques that were produced or acquired outside of the United States, then you may need to comply with federal import/export laws. Doing so will require you to obtain any necessary permits or licences to import or export the items. You may also need to pay associated duties or taxes.
You will also need to familiarise yourself with the sales tax laws associated with the state where your buyers are located to ensure you are not in breach of them. In addition, you may need to obtain a state tax ID number or register for a sales tax permit depending on each state you sell in.
Certain types of antiques with historical or cultural significance may be subject to federal or state laws. For example, Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA) and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) regulate the trade of certain types of artefacts.
Authentication and Certification
As antiques are often worth considerable sums of money, it is no surprise that they are often replicated and counterfeited. So, as an antiques seller, you will want to find a way to to prove the authenticity of your products.
This may be as simple as requesting certification when buying an antique. However, in cases where certification is not available you need to seek third party certification. Some examples of those offering these services include Gemological Institute of America (GIA) for gemstones, the Authentication in Art (AIA) for art, and the Antique and Vintage Firearms Authentication Service for firearms.
Insurance and Liability
Selling antiques online involves risks, such as damage or loss during shipping. Purchasing ecommerce business insurance can help protect you and your customers against financial losses in the event of damage or loss of property.
It is best to talk to a legal professional to ensure that you are well covered for all eventualities including fire, theft, flood, accidental breakage, burglary and natural disaster.
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 with a builder like Shopify. 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
- Find your antiques niche
- 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
- Legal considerations
Remember, the antiques market in the US is worth a whopping $1.7 billion – so go cut yourself a slice of that pie!
You are welcome to give us updates on how your business is going or ask our experts any questions along the way in the comments section.
- Vintage jewelry and accessories
- Antique clocks and watches
- Vintage furniture
- Antique mirrors
- Vintage art and sculptures
- Collectible Coins
- Antique dolls and bears