How to be a good antique fair vendor
September 23, 2019 12:01 PM   Subscribe

I'm going to sell antique (120-200 year old) wooden carpentry planes at the Alameda Antiques Faire. I've read suggestions from previous AskMes about art fairs. Is there anything different about selling at an antique fair that I should know?

This is my first time selling at an event like this. I'm selling about 100 tools but I don't have a lot of display options. Seventy five percent are about the same size and shape -- 9ish by 5ish by 1ish inches. They'll be organized by their purpose, with each category separated by dividers. Most will be laid flat on the table; some will be loosely stacked in and on wood boxes. Each will have a sticker price tag. I'll have a big banner and several tabletop signs and business cards. There's nothing to hang up or put on an easel. (I'm using those previously linked AskMes as a guide for other supplies I should bring.)

This setup is the same basic setup used by other tool sellers at this fair. But is there something more I can do to set me apart?
posted by not_the_water to Work & Money (5 answers total)
You could trace the shape of the end of the iron onto the label so customers can see what shape molding they cut without lifting each plane.
posted by Botanizer at 1:21 PM on September 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Hi! I sell antiques at flea markets from time to time; I'm not familiar with the Bay Area specifically.
  • Be prepared for haggling; people watch American Pickers and Pawn Stars and immediately do the math, "It's $50, I want it for $40, so I offer $30 and we work towards the middle", which becomes annoying the tenth time it happens, but the formula is out there and you can't break them of it. You're not obligated to do so, but it's expected and therefore you can pad your prices a bit to accommodate aggressive hagglers. But, if someone's buying multiple items, it's considered appropriate for them to ask for a discount; also, depending on how quickly you want to get rid of things or don't want to load them up again at the end of the day, you have some flexibility too
  • Be ready for the hagglers either way; come up with your max discount (20%? 25%?) and be able to do the math in your head quickly. We usually do 20% because it's move the decimal point one place and double, easy to figure. Edit: but don't offer discounts, make them ask.
  • Be available and friendly, you're there as a salesperson. Nothings worse than coming up to a booth, having a question and the vendor is nowhere to be found, or facing away and/or looking grumpy. My father-inlaw's schtick is to wear a very gaudy tie to start conversations. Make smalltalk, have a joke about a particular item on your table, etc.
  • Price things in even-dollar amounts so you don't have to make coin change. Dear god, do not price things at $19.95 due to retail pricing theories, because you'll need to carry ten tons of nickels around. Bring lots of ones, fives, and tens; we usually estimate about $150 in change when we start, because everyone who shows up right away either has 20s from the ATM or $100s from the bank and needs change made. Go get a nail bib from the hardware store to carry everything around in.
  • Try to know as much about the items as you can; people will ask. That doesn't necessarily need to be technical knowledge, but where they're from, when they were made, the family history behind them , etc.
  • Don't feel bad about things being somewhat disorganized. Collectors like to dig. If you have more inventory than you have room on the tables for, just set the boxes out where people can see them, and look around inside (make sure everything is priced). Immediately fill in spaces when things sell.
  • Let me emphasize this: make sure everything is priced. I walk away from booths where you have to ask how much every little thing is, and I'm not the only one. And if you miss one, I guarantee that's the one somebody will pick up.
  • No matter how you price, someone's going to be a jerk about high prices or poor quality or how you used the wrong word for something. Don't let it get to you (and some people do it as haggling leverage, they make it sound like they know more about the item than you to let your guard down, but it's a sign of how bad they want the item)
  • The odds of shoplifting are high pretty much no matter what you're selling, just be prepared for shrink.
  • Be immediately prepared for rain or other inclement weather, it appears very quickly so you need a plan for packing up before anything gets damaged.

posted by AzraelBrown at 1:47 PM on September 23, 2019 [8 favorites]

As someone who buys the exact object you're selling: I'd really love it if you organized them at a high level by their use, then within that by their condition.

(It'd also be great if you varied the price based on condition, but that's a business decision for you to decide!)
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 2:08 PM on September 23, 2019 [3 favorites]

Depending on the condition of the planes (I'm assuming a lot of these are molding planes) you could have some scraps of wood planed with some of them to show the molding profile. If you are separating them by use, rather than put all the rounds together and all the hollows together, match them up as pairs where you can.
posted by bajema at 2:28 PM on September 23, 2019 [4 favorites]

Have somebody that can cover for you when you need to pee or fetch a coffee or whatever, and give them the trust & power to sell for you - folks are gonna walk away if they can't buy right then & there, while they've got the object in their hand.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 9:04 PM on September 23, 2019 [2 favorites]

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