I have lots of pretty, old junk. Some of it needs to go.
February 1, 2011 8:28 AM   Subscribe

I am looking to sell some "antique" items and I am not interested in doing so online, for various reasons. I am looking to sell them at one of the many "antique malls" in southeastern Pennsylvania and am looking for recommendations.

I am pretty enamored with stuff that was made around the turn of the century up until about 1945 and because of this I have a small but (IMHO, anyway) awesome collection of housewares/kitchenwares, quilts, linens, cameras/photographs, some clothing and other totally neat-o miscellany. For the last 10 years, I have frequented what are commonly referred to as "antique malls" (hence, all the stuff) and I am well-versed, as far as era, monetary value and demand goes, in what I have and what I look for. I don't think I am really looking for profit, just trying to sell the stuff I don't want for about what I paid.

These places frequently have booths for rent and I have been pondering moving in such a direction. I don't want to sell on ebay or etsy or many of the other places on the internet because I don't want to deal with all of the things that go along with that, as I've done it in the past and found it tedious and not really worth it. I have done basic research for rental and commission rates in south eastern Pennsylvania at the places I know about.

I would like to hear from people that have experience doing this. Do any of y'all have a place to recommend? I am located in Allentown but I am willing to travel and my stomping grounds are somewhat expansive, about 40 miles in any direction. Related questions: Is it worth the effort, time and money? What should I expect from the places I am renting from? Warnings I should heed? Any tips/things I should consider?
posted by godshomemovies to Grab Bag (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm an antique dealer, although not in Pennsylvania. I can only speak generally.

At a minimum, your overhead will be booth rent, and a percentage to the antique mall of each sale. You may have to pay the credit card fees if the buyer uses a credit card. You may want to pay for electricity (I sell a lot of glass, so having extra light is a strong benefit for me).

In most cases, you will need to get a business license and pay the state the sales tax you collected on their behalf. I have paper work for each county I have a business presence in. This will also impact your taxes. When I started, I had to put a acquisition value (starting inventory cost) on everything I put out; now I have starting inventory value on 1/1 and a closing inventory value on 12/31 every year).

You will need to buy tags and tape (I like painters tape for the least damage) and other supplies to help you tag, label and display your goods. If you do not have shelves or tables, you will need to acquire those. Most antique malls have pegboard walls, and you can get pegboard brackets and cut down some boards for shelves, but the costs do rack up.

Tagging and setting up your booth is a big chunk of time, and I find sales improve when I move things around, highlighting and organizing things differently. I spend at least 2 hours a week in each of my booths, and I sell more when i'm in the booth, talking people and things up. I also have lots of stuff on sale in the hopes it will move out for my backlog of stuff.

I spend a lot of time researching my things and writing instructive tags (date, country of origin, if it has an inventory number, what it's going for online, etc) and on helpful signage (about manufacturers, artists, styles, collectible groups). Presentation is important. A nice setup that highlights your stuff makes a difference. My prices are good, but I know what I have, and I price accordingly. I justify my prices with information I provide.

You want an antique mall that is responsive, has a good web presence, and has been in business for at least a year or has experienced people running it. They should be willing to unlock cases in your booth (some things you may not want lying around for reasons of delicacy or cost), pay you regularly and on time, track your inventory numbers in their sales tool, and provide a printed sheet of your sales. Proximity to interstates or major tourist destinations is a plus. Look at what else they offer and what is actually selling. Does it seem like their audience of purchasers (the number of lookers to purchasers is still higher than it was 2 years ago, and people are taking longer to decide on purchases these days) is likely to be interested in your stuff? Look for direct competitors to you in the Mall and see what their prices are and how much turnover they have.

You may want to consider a consignment shop. The downside of consignment shops is that they reduce prices the longer something is there, so you may not get what you want out of it, but it requires less effort on your part. They too take a slice off the top (more than an antique mall, but you won't be paying a rent overhead).

How long are you expecting to do this? Is this a 3 month, get-this-stuff-out deal, or do you want to turn it into a hobby or sideline. How are you going to feel if no one buys your stuff, or you only sell a portion of it? What's the bottom amount you are willing to sell something for?

posted by julen at 9:13 AM on February 1, 2011 [7 favorites]

If you are willing to schlep it further, you might get better prices at the Brooklyn Flea. Though their booth prices will be higher than some random antique mall out in the middle of PA, so do the math of course.
posted by Sara C. at 10:06 AM on February 1, 2011

Response by poster: julen, thank you so much for your input. It is enormously helpful and brought up some stuff I didn't really consider (tax stuff, audience, research) that I will have to look into.

I am not so interested in turning it into a hobby right now, though it is something I have considered. I am in a weird, near-transitional place in my life, which is part of the reason I want to get rid of the stuff I have. I am indifferent if no one wants my stuff, honestly. I would just rather try to sell it first some place before giving it away, donating it or tossing it.

Sara C., even if I don't end up selling anything there, the Brooklyn Flea looks incredible. Thank you for the link.
posted by godshomemovies at 10:54 AM on February 1, 2011

You might consider Renninger's Apr. 24 Spring Opening Outdoor Market in Adamstown or Apr. 28-30 - Antiques Extravaganza
in Kutztown, PA. If you go to the extravaganza you might sell all of it over a long weekend. You can camp there, set up your stuff and sell. There is tons of foot traffic.
posted by fixedgear at 11:26 AM on February 1, 2011

Oh! I also forgot: You'll need a federal tax ID, too. They're super easy to get, but it's easy to overlook it. Also when you are done selling, you're going to want to end/deactive your licenses IDs with localities, state(s), and the US. Virginia will fine you if you haven't reported or paid your sales tax due on time, even if you owe $0. The ladies in the tax office are lovely people, but they keep a firm eye on things like that. So there's as much paperwork to end it legally as there is to set it up legally.

You can try to skate around the edges, bu reputable antique malls want evidence of a business license, and they report information for their taxes as well. The fines aren't fun.

Much of the same constraints apply if you do an weekend flea/antique market. I haven't done Renningers, but for the ones I have done, all have asked for my tax ID, and if I didn't live in the state provided me a mechanism to report and send sales tax to the state involved. You can sell a lot at those shows, but it is a lot of work and effort concentrated into 5 days (packing and preparing, setup, 2-3 days of selling, tear-down, re-store). I recommend bringing a helper. Or two. And trying not to buy too much when you are there.

Have you thought about a (series of) well-advertised yard sale(s)? I'd call it a "Living Estate Sale" or "Antiques and Collectibles Sale". I'd put it on Craigslist and in the papers and ask if I could put a brochure up in local antique malls/flea markets etc., and set aside a day for it. If you have (access to) a garage or clear space to set things up, it might be a better option, particularly if you do it inside before the spring yard sales start up in February. I'd take some pictures, and provide a sense of price in the craigslist ad. Avoid using the word yard sale because people expect lower prices and lots more haggling. There will be some haggling at a estate-like sale, but people will respect prices more.
posted by julen at 2:05 PM on February 1, 2011

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