What I Dig Through

What I Dig Through

As an antiques dealer, or picker, I spend my days digging through great volumes of stuff trying to find the things collectors want.


On any given day, I might be at an auction, sorting and sifting through the items and boxed lots and waiting for specific items to go up for bidding. I might be driving around, going from rummage sale to garage sale to yard sale, looking over all the used clothing and household items for the vintage collectibles and antiques. I might spend hours at a single thrift shop, sorting through, piece by piece, thousands of old crafting booklets (see photo). I might be waiting in the snow for my chance to enter an estate sale. I might be waiting in the rain (or, if I’m lucky, in my car waiting out the rain) at a flea market. I might be on the way home from the grocery store and find myself stopping for an impromptu dumpster dive or negotiation with a guy just cleaning out his garage.

Such glamorous work, right? *giggle*

Most collectors appreciate these efforts and understand that’s why prices are what they are; I am paid, in part, for my efforts in finding the collectible needle in the proverbial hay stack. Collectors know how much work this is because they’ve done it themselves. Collectors pay not only because I was the finder of the keepers, but because they may not have the time to search as many places, for as many hours, as I do.


Have you ever noticed the number of people who complain about prices dealers ask for?

Not just comments made in antique malls and flea markets, but the accusations made in comments left at blog posts and forums about collecting television shows?

People seem so outraged that pickers, auction buyers, dealers, pawn show owners, et al want to buy low in order to turn a profit. As if they would sit on a floor at a thrift shop, sorting through every single craft booklet, for several hours — on the chance they’ll find anything interesting. And, should they find something deemed worthy, take the gamble on the investment hoping for a return if and when another person finds it worthy of their own collection.

If these people who complain about the unfairness of pricing had ever put in such time and effort, well, they wouldn’t complain!

(And, of course, dealers also have overhead or costs of doing business. Whether it’s a physical shop or selling online, there are costs beyond the initial cost of the item.)

I know most of you reading here are collectors — and many of you are pickers and dealers too. So you get all this. But sometimes a girl just has to defend the realities of collecting, to vent a bit. Even if it is like preaching to the choir. *wink*

(Feel free to vent yourself by leaving a comment!)

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Deanna is the founder of Inherited Values, among other sites. She is also an antique dealer.

4 thoughts on “What I Dig Through”

  1. I have no problem with the prices most dealers ask; the work is not easy. I do have a problem with dealers who lowball on prices when people come to them with their possessions and then mark up an obscene amount. Yes, they are a business, but since these items are dropped in their lap with no effort, why try to squeeze every penny out of someone selling their own things. Worse, the dealer who recognizes a really valuable item and doesn’t tell the person and offer to pay accordingly. If it’s another dealer who has not done their homework, fine, but a little old lady?

  2. Hi Barb,

    I’m not sure what you mean by low-balling in terms of prices dealers pay…

    Even when someone brings items to a dealer, there are costs of doing business, if not the same overhead of running a physical shop. Most all the shows on TV, which is where so much of the dealer or picker animosity comes from, show a markup lower than most retail businesses (and product makers).

    I guess the little old lady in this scenario is like the rest of us: she can wait and hope to get a higher amount from the individual collector who intends to keep it, paying whatever costs and fees are involved in advertising, selling, storing, etc.; or she can sell for a lower price to someone willing to invest in the item(s) and the costs “someday.”

    Yes, there’s always a few bad apples in any industry — but usually such actions ruin the dealer’s business quickly because the dealer’s earned a bad reputation.

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