Seeking methods of contacting retiring antiquarian dealers
December 17, 2016 6:57 AM   Subscribe

I buy and sell old books, maps, and prints. I want to buy them in large quantity.

It has occurred to me that my business won't flourish until I have a large inventory. Life just isn't long enough to accomplish this by purchasing things one at a time. I want to buy the inventory of other dealers who are retiring. The reason that I specify retiring dealers is that, when attempting to buy large inventory from other active dealers, it's almost certain that they will attempt to sell you what they are unable to sell. Obviously not the best inventory to be purchasing.
How do I locate and contact retiring dealers in antiquarian books, prints, and maps? I've done the obvious online searching and haven't had much luck. Other ideas welcomed. Thanks!
posted by crazylegs to Work & Money (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Since there isn't really a registry of people who have officially decided to retire from a largely self-employed profession, you are going to have to pull your data using some assumptions.

Call up LexisNexis and tell them you are doing a major marketing push, but want to check viability. Ask for a 5000 name list of antique dealers in your state (and going into nearby ones if necessary). Tell them you want only people over 50, and that you need current tax mailing addresses, business and personal phone numbers (cell and landline), business names, business mailing address, and business and personal emails. Probably over half the data will be outdated or incorrect, but that still leaves you with a list of people to reach out to who may or may not actually be retiring and/or interested in selling to you.

Normally this is a paid service (which is probably worth it if this is the only way to grow your business), but I know someone who talked them into a free 50,000 person list for a real estate marketing gig. He is a very skilled negotiator / salesman, so YMMV.

Your next step is to figure out how to reach out to those people successfully, which gets into marketing strategies that are probably best addressed in a separate question.

The success rate on something like this (lots of factors like whether they are actually retiring, what their stock is like, etc) is going to be low, but with 5000 names, even a 1% success rate will mean cleaning out an antique shop every week.

You'll need some software to manage the data -- don't try to work off the spreadsheets, you'll drive yourself crazy. Upload it to a freeware CRM system.

Good luck!
posted by ananci at 9:36 AM on December 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

My friend does this with collectable records. He constantly networks record dealers and collectors as well as place ads in local papers and on Craigslist. Most of his stuff comes from people wanting to get rid of collections, not stores.
posted by lester at 1:20 PM on December 17, 2016

Keep an eye on sites like auctionzip?
posted by MsMolly at 6:11 PM on December 17, 2016

Advertise in a trade publication.
posted by misterbrandt at 8:35 PM on December 17, 2016

"Old book men" (I don't know why there are so few women in the profession) are an odd breed. I know a retired rare/antiquarian book dealer. I keep bumping into him in the local thrift store, in the book section, where he is buying: more books. He still has a massive inventory. He figures he might take up dealing again eventually -- maybe internet-only -- who knows -- but, I don't think those books are leaving him until he dies.

I think it is unlikely that you will get good prices on valuable/saleable stock from living booksellers. They will either sell those rare pieces at a good price themselves, or leave it to their heirs. Who will then turn to Dad's friend in the industry and get a good price that way.

I would suggest more networking with living, actively working, dealers in books and paper ephemera. Not that they will give up their secrets/sources easily, but you want to thrust yourself into the rank of a proper Old Book (Wo)man -- one of their kind -- rather than a filthy casual. And then, yes, newspaper ads. "Collections bought" and the like. You want a collector who has died, with heirs who don't give a fig about the dusty old paper hoarding. (Call my daughter in 40 years or so.)

(I don't know what's out there for trade publications. AB Bookman's Weekly was the publication, but as with so many other print items, the internet did it in and it folded years ago. I have long hoped for a "Best of AB" book, and if you found a pile of them I'd buy them just for the insight into the info and culture instead of the listings.)
posted by kmennie at 12:40 PM on December 18, 2016

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