| Sheila Howell
Today many of us spend a good amount of time online - chatting with friends, reading the news, and of course - shopping. Many small businesses have had to shift how they do business in the past 10 years because their customers are shifting how they make purchases. While some small business brick and mortar stores have stayed away from selling online, many others have taken advantage of the opportunity to grow their business by appealing to online shoppers.
This is true of antique dealers also. Buying antiques and vintages used to be a very tactile pleasure - touching a story from the past to bring it into our modern lives. But more and more antique dealers are selling their inventory online - and some are even closing their brick and mortar antique shops and selling exclusively online!
When I opened European Finds, my intention was always to be an online antique store. I can travel to Europe to stock my antique store... but most people can't. By opening an online antique marketplace, people from across the state, across the country or even around the globe can visit my shop, learn more about antiques - and even buy an antique treasure or two.
As an antique dealer who also buys antiques to stock my online shop, here are my tips on how to buy antique and vintage pieces online.
7 Tips for Buying Antiques Online
1. Call The Owner
We try to provide detailed information about each antique piece we post online, but its impossible to address every question a buyer might have. Our website has a Contact page, and each of the social media sites we promote our antiques on has a messaging function to contact us.
And, you can always pick up the phone.
I'm proud of our inventory and am happy to answer buyer's questions about our pieces. If an online antique dealer doesn't respond to your questions, won't get on the phone or doesn't offer any contact information, I'd be nervous about doing business with them.
2. Make An Offer
It's easy to be turned off by the price of an antique. Depending on its provenance, quality and availability antiques can be very expensive. If you really want a piece but can't pay the posted price, make an offer. Many antique dealers are willing to consider all reasonable offers. And you never know what's going on. For example, at European Finds when we have a new shipment coming in, we often offer special prices on our antiques because we need to make room in our warehouse for new pieces.
Plus, if you're a buyer who is interested in several pieces, an antique dealer may be willing to negotiate a special price on 2, 3 or 5 or even more pieces. Many dealers also offer special to-the-trade pricing options.
Always be respectful when negotiating, and don't insult the dealer or their inventory! We're proud of our offerings, and hope you like our antiques too!
3. Be a Search-aholic
Don't be a shopaholic, be a search-aholic. Learn how to use the search feature on Google and on antique websites to find what you're looking for. Many sites will offer similar pieces at very different prices. Do your research, cross-reference and compare, take notes, and find out why the pieces are priced so differently (see #1above!)
Learn how different antique dealers describe similar pieces and use all those terms when searching for antiques online. Experts - antique dealers and interior designers - will likely describe the same piece very differently than a homeowner who doesn't have a background in design (but has excellent taste!)
4. Ask For A Video Call
When shopping for antiques online, take advantage of technology! You can always ask the dealer for my photos, but why not schedule a FaceTime or Skype call so you can "see" the antique you're interested in, up close and personal!
5. Inquire About Payment Options
When shopping online, I prefer to pay via a source that is private, secure and verified, such as a credit card or PayPal, versus a personal check. Make sure you're comfortable with the payment options, especially for expensive or valuable pieces.
6. Ask About Return Policies
Inquire about what type of guarantee an online antique dealer offers. At European Finds we want our customers to be happy. That's why we point out any damaged or restored antiques, and encourage you to ask questions and be fully satisfied before you decide to buy.
7. Understand Shipping Options
Shipping a large antique across the country will no doubt cost more than shipping a small piece across the state. But how much more can depend on a lot of factors:
- Do you need expedited shipping?
- Did you request white-glove service?
- Does the piece your buying weigh a lot?
- Is the piece very fragile and require special crating?
Good luck with your online antique shopping! I hope you score something special - and I hope you score it at European Finds!
European Finds has beautiful antique furniture styles from France, Italy, England, Belgium and Holland - our selection includes gorgeous European antiques from every corner of the Continent. Some are extremely rare, others less so, but all are historic, authentic survivors from a bygone era, and will make lovely additions to your home or office.
Note: Our inventory is always changing, so be sure to check back frequently for our latest additions!