Tuesday, December 4, 2012


by Dennis Barker
Its been a while, but for  many years, I owned an  antiques shop in Salt Lake.  But long before I could even spell antique, some curiously confused or deranged shop owner fell upon the idea, that it might be interesting, if the price of antiques were negotiable.  Subsequently, antiques dealers everywhere have been expected to follow in the dance. “Is this your best price?” is now the first step in the tango between dealer and collector.

When I sat behind the sales counter in my shop, it was unusual when a customer did not ask for a discount on his purchase.  Those times that the buyer offered the phrase “can you do any better on this?”, I had taken to responding, that “I’d be doing a little better if I could get an extra twenty bucks for it”.  Some customers offered a wry smile,  others stared at me as if I were from Mars, and I even had customers just set down the object of their affection, and walk un-bemusedly out of the shop. Apparently what amuses me, doesn't always tickle others.  In the end, I didn’t make up the rules, so I danced until my feet hurt.
Its always been my contention, that the dealer is usually going to get what he needs out of his merchandise, and if there exists a generally accepted expectation of a discount, it will already be built into the price.  This doesn't mean that  most dealers are not really negotiable.  Cost of merchandise, rarity of the item, and the dealers financial position can all effect his willingness to stand pat or further discount a sale.  The most equitable deal probably leaves both buyer and seller feeling just a little uncomfortable. In the end, collectors want to collect, and every dealer has to fill up his dance card.
Further complicating the situation, there seems to be, especially among many newer collectors, an opinion that antiques dealers pay little for their merchandise, and have fat margins to work with.  This is usually untrue. And, while the smart collector will try to get the best price possible, a low ball offer will often result in the dealer becoming less, not more negotiable.  Remember, to remain in business, the dealer has to pay his expense and make a profit. Keep in mind that collecting is not a blood sport, it's an enjoyable pastime.. If you want to haggle beyond the dealers price, do so with a smile, and if the dealer can’t accommodate you, tell him you’ll pass, and walk away.  It’s a small world, and it’s likely you’ll want to dance with him another day.


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