How Does Consignment Work?
Antique store owners and “dealers” are usually licensed to buy items (much like a pawn store) and generally only pay a fraction of an items worth. This is because in business a profit must be made and no one knows how long it will take for that item to sell. If I would buy an item knowing I had a buyer for it – I would be willing to pay more for it. It can also cause hard feelings when you pay so little for an item and the seller returns to the store, to see a really high price on it.
An auction has little control and is a buyer’s market – and normal, not terribly rare items can sell for less than their value. The person who left the items at auction receives whatever money is left after commission and fees.
So when we began – I felt it more comfortable and honest, to just do consignment. I generally let the person know what the item will be priced at - and take a percentage if it sells. The good news is the item always belongs to the consignor and they maintain control. We get our commission because it is taking up our store space and being seen by our clientele’.
It is interesting to see what people think has value and to hear the stories that are attached to items that have been passed down – most of them being untrue and embellished.
On the flip side-the item that someone is ready to discard thinking it has no value is a real story teller.
Many years ago, I went to look over an estate to do an estate sale. The house was pretty well combed through – with the heirs having spent a few days going through the place and “throwing away the junk”. Remaining were rooms of furniture – a few accessories – and some art. There was a dumpster out on the driveway and I peeked in to see that all the memorable items had been tossed. The little keep sakes that someone keeps for 40 years – the items that showed wear – all had been tossed. They were not tossed because the family had been heartless and not cared about the items, but were tossed because they felt no one would want their uncle’s old worn chair – or grand-mother’s old post cards. It is difficult when you are personally and emotionally attached to an estate to determine what has value or not.
Another time a woman came in with 2 items to sell – she had a beautiful antique porcelain box that in today’s market had a value of about $250 and she had an old lighting fixture catalog from the late 1800’s. She was convinced her porcelain box was the treasure and told me to just get what I could for the old catalog. I noticed the catalog was for a company that manufactured the lights for train cars. Knowing the train market was still strong – we got her over $500.00.
Antique prices also fluctuate more now because of the internet. Sale prices are pretty much simply “Supply and Demand”’’ therefore, some antiques have gone down in value and other rarer items have crept higher in price.