Writing About Home Businesses: 1 Collecting



Not always an area in which any specialist knowledge is required of the businessman or woman, the world of antiques and collectors’ items can be as basic or as specialised as one might wish it to be.

At one end of the scale, there are dealers whose entire operations revolves around extremely rare and valuable specimens; at the other there are those who deal quite happily and profitably in small items of household ‘junk’, and just as many who deal exclusively in the highly specialised fields of old postcards, stamps, ephemera (paper items), books, coins memorabilia and so on.

Some dealers work entirely from home; others venture to car boot fairs, antiques fairs, collectors’ fairs and flea markets to supplement their already lucrative incomes.

Those who choose to operate entirely rom home do so via many varied means, almost certainly reaching their customers via the postal services, or else by personal and prior invitation into their homes.

For some the manner of reaching their customers is to have lists of suitable items prepared for perusal by one’s potential customers.

Sometimes that list is printed into the body of collectors’ or special interest magazines, that is where the cost of such advertising is not prohibitive.  At other times, that list might instead by posted out to intending customers who will then place their orders direct.

Many dealers in books, stamps, ephemera and postcards, operate an approvals service for their customers, whereby selected items are posted out to customers who then look through their packages usually with a certain time limit being set or the task.  Customers subsequently return unwanted items along with remittance for those items retained.

Exactly who to mail those items is something which presents itself by several means.  The operator might compile a list of all persons who have approached him or her from press advertisements.  He or she might instead join any of the many specialist collectors’ clubs designed to bring interested parties together and cater for their specialised needs.  Many such book and stamp collectors’ clubs exist, and ‘The Ephemera Society’ provides for the more exclusive needs of the collectors of yesterday’s paper items.

At other times, the collectors’ needs are met via the many newsletters available to special interest groups, as is certainly the case for the collector of early vintage postcards.  Simply joining these clubs brings the great advantage of access to a list of all collectors and fellow members, and of course their interests, from which the basis of a specifically targeted mailing brochure might be planned.

Acquiring stock is not the difficult exercise it might seem.  There are many specialised auctions operating in Britain alone, details of which are usually available in ‘Exchange & Mart’ and numerous collectors’ magazine.  Car boot fairs, fleamarkets and antiques fairs, fleamarkets and antique fairs, even jumble sales, are known to yield excellent items for stock.

Suitable items can also be acquired by means of ‘wanted’ advertisements placed in local magazines, shop windows and specialist magazines.  The latter in particular finds a steady stream of regular contributors to the honest dealers’ stock. By ‘honest’ the intention is to stress that a fair rice should always be offered for stock, if that is you are to come by that band of browsers and part-time dealers who in looking out for items for their own collections and stocks, will also scour local fleamarkets and car boot fairs for items you too require.

Costing of stock is the factor most likely to cause concern to the beginning dealer.  Here the best yardstick is usually to settle for
a little but definite profit, one which takes into account cost and time in acquiring stock, postal charges, cost of advertising and so on. It’s all a matter of trial and error and something which always becomes easier with time.  And given that we all allegedly have a Magpie instinct, there must be millions of eager customers out there ready, willing and able to pay for what you have to add to their collections.

Incidentally, those known to have an immediate and successful impact in the antiques and collectors’ field, have frequently been those to have hit upon a collecting trend shortly before it takes of.  Such was the case around ten years ago when old postcards from pre-1st world war times were almost universally available for a token 10p per specimen, but which today can command anything available from o1 to several hundreds of pounds each for the right items.

Other trends that created a very useful and profitable wagon upon which to climb, included ‘Beatlemania’, anything to do with the 1950s, Guinness memorabilia, and for book collectors there now is  positive dearth of Dr. Who, William, Billy Bunter and Rupert bear titles.

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