How to Become an Antique Dealer

 

Unlike some careers, there is no set path for ‘becoming’ an antique dealer. The crux of it is simply to be introduced to the world of antique sourcing and selling, fall in love it, and then immersing yourself in it.

 

Although relevant post-secondary education can be helpful, a good knowledge of antiques, sales techniques, the ability to spot sellable items, and some money for starting up will be more valuable than formal qualifications for this career.

 

If you’re someone who thrives on adventure, the good news is that these skills and competencies will mostly be learned through trial and error as you go.

 

Below, we’ll explore in more depth what antique dealers do, effective ways for getting into the field, and the skills and abilities that will help you find success along the way!

 

 

Educational Requirements

While not considered essential to working in the field, taking coursework or even getting a degree in an area such as history or art history can help you develop some background knowledge that could be very helpful in this career.

 

Please Note: Although not very common, there are schools that offer courses in antique appraising, care and restoration and educate students on how to run profitable antique dealing businesses. 

 

 

 

 

What is An Antique Dealer?

General Job Description

 

Antique dealers, sometimes known as 'antique collectible pickers', are people that buy and sell various antiques, such as ceramics, clothing, glass, paintings, sculptures, books, clocks, and many other types of goods. They may buy or sell on their own behalf, or on behalf of a client.

 

 

What Do They Do?

General Job Duties

 

Although their duties can vary, antique dealers are generally responsible for the following:

 

• Representing clients, or themselves, in the purchase or sale of antiques

• Purchasing items from auctions and private sales on behalf of clients or themselves

• Establishing, maintaining and growing a network of industry contacts

• Visiting clients, customers, vendors, salesrooms, auction houses and exhibitions

• Performing minor restoration work, or overseeing the restoration work

• Possibly estimating the value of antiques

• Referring clients to, or liaising with other professionals as necessary, such as antique appraisers

 

 

Different Types of Antique Dealers

Antique dealers don’t all own antique stores, nor do they all work at auction houses, or make repeat appearances on certain famous public television shows. They all have different levels of interest in the profession, different sizes of collections, and different sets of responsibility. For example, there are:

 

Part-Timers

Part-time dealers who enjoy owning interesting items for a few weeks or months and then resell them for a profit.

 

Quick Flippers

Those who shop at yard sales, garage sales, estate sales, flea markets, auctions, antique malls, or the Internet, and then sell the collectibles and antiques quickly via these same methods, or in their own shop.

 

Large Dealers

Those who buy large quantities of specific antiques, and then either sell them in their brick-and-mortar or online shop.

 

 

Is This Profession Right for You?

There are several personal traits and skills that will help you be successful as an antique dealer, including:

 

• A keen interest in finding old an unusual items

• A sense of adventure

• Passion for the items you deal in

• Willingness to research, study and learn from others

• Knowledge of antiques, either generally or in a specialized area

• Negotiating and sales abilities

• Good judgement and the ability to make quick decisions

• Basic business administration skills, such as bookkeeping and inventory management

 

 

Getting Your Start

There are several paths you can take to get started as an antique dealer - and for the most part they involve simply working your way into the profession. Some of the more common routes to take would be:

 

• Working in an antiques shop as an assistant or general worker

• Working in a salesroom or an auction house as a porter, clerk, cataloguer, valuer or auctioneer

• Collecting and researching antiques as a hobby, and then taking a stall at antiques markets or fairs, buying and selling on the Internet, or opening a shop

 

Success Tip: Combining work experience in these areas with coursework in arts subjects such as antiques, art history, fine art or decorative arts is a great way to develop a solid foundation for a career as an antique dealer.

 

 

 

 

Habits of Successful Antique Dealers

Many who succeed in this line of work share common traits, tactics and techniques. Here’s a brief overview of what separates them from those who don’t make it:

 

Specialization: Most successful antique dealers target their businesses to a specific type of antique or collectible. Getting to know an area of antiques very well helps them differentiate between a good deal and a bad one. Clients and customers respect and trust them for their expertise.

 

Multiple acquisition channels: There are over 100 ways to buy antiques, and those who are successful often utilize different ones at different times to ensure a steady stream of inventory to sell.

 

Outgoing personalities: Those who genuinely enjoy helping others, negotiating, and networking with buyers, vendors and other stakeholders are able to take genuine enjoyment out of what they do, which only means good things.

 

An interest in the items themselves: Having an interest in what is being bought and sold makes it easier, and actually enjoyable, to be around those items all of the time, and to see to it that proper value is achieved for them, even if that value means a lower price but a better buyer.

 

Positive attitudes: Learning from mistakes and moving on is best accomplished when a positive attitude is maintained. Those who are successful are able to put their mistakes behind them, and not let present and future opportunities get away because they are distracted from lamenting the low price they sold a valuable item for.

 

Lifelong learning: Most important of all, successful antique dealers are always willing to learn new skills and adapt to new markets and technologies. They try selling at antiques shows, they learn to sell online. They study sales techniques and body language to improve their negotiating skills, and they seek out new ways to buy antiques.

 

 

Typical Work Environment

The working hours of antique dealers can vary quite widely, and are typically quite dependent on the duties they have to perform for their job.

 

For example, a shop owner may work for the hours that their shop is open, as well as some hours before and after regular business hours, in order to perform inventory or carry out other duties.

 

Working as an antique dealer could also mean working hours that revolve around attending auctions, meeting customers and searching for items to resell. This set of responsibilities would also involve quite a bit of travel, and possibly several nights away from home at a time.

 

 

Who Employs Antique Dealers?

Antique dealers are typically self-employed, although often on a part-time basis. However, they can also be employed by:

 

• Auction houses

• Antique malls

• Small and large antique shops

• Private collectors, which may be individuals or organizations

 

 

Job Opportunities - Current Vacancies

Check our job board below to find Antique Dealer opportunities in your area!

 

 

What Career Advancement Can Look Like

As an antique dealer, career advancement opportunities could present themselves in many possible forms, and will depend primarily on how you get your start, and where you want to go.

 

In general however, as you gain knowledge in the goods you’re dealing with, experience and skill in negotiating buying and selling prices, and building up your network of industry contacts and customers, many different options should present themselves to you.

 

For example, some forms that career advancement could take include:

 

• More responsibility and pay from the shop, mall or individual dealer that employs you

• Opening your own shop, online or offline, and growing it to new levels

• More clients and customers for your business (whether or not you have a shop), which can lead to increased sales

• Working as a consultant for an auction house or other organization or individual

 

 

Similar Occupational Profiles in Our Database

Below is a list of careers in our database that are most similar in nature to antique dealer, in that they are in the same field, or they involve many of the same skills, competencies and/or responsibilities.

 

• Antique Restorer

• Art Appraiser

• Art Librarian

• Gallery Director

• Gallery Owner

• Historian

• Realtor

• Retail Buyer

• Sales Representative

 

 

Relevant Scholarships

The "Foundational University Majors" section below shows fields of study that are relevant to this line of work. You can search for scholarships matched to those fields of study on our Art History Scholarships page.


Success Tip: Every year, literally millions of dollars in scholarship money goes unused due to a lack of applicants. Apply for as many as you can!

 

 

References for This Guide

Please consult the following resources to learn more about what it takes to become an antique dealer:

 

• Explore Jobs: “Antique Dealer.” (April 12, 2019). UCAS - Universities and Colleges Admissions Service. Retrieved Apr. 19, 2018.

• Careers: “Antiques Dealer.” (n.d.). The Princeton Review. Retrieved Apr. 19, 2019.

• Blog: “Becoming An Antique Dealer.” (n.d.). Sage Farm Antiques. Retrieved April. 19, 2019.

• Choosing a Career: “How to Become an Antiques Dealer in the US.” Alison Green. (May 2, 2015). Career Addict. Retrieved Apr. 19, 2019.

• How to Be an Antique Dealer Part Three: “7 Habits Of Successful Antiques Dealers.” Terry Gibbs. (n.d.). iwantcollectibes.com. Retrieved Apr. 19, 2019.

 

 

Foundational University Majors for Becoming an Antique Dealer

The majors listed below help set a great educational foundation for becoming an antique dealer. Click on the links to see what other professions these majors are helpful for.

 

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