Mar 27, 2015

Estate Wins Ruling vs. IRS on Art Collection

Rumor has it that estate attorneys all over America are gleefully dancing around their desks.

The reason for the lawyerly ruckus was that the Internal Revenue Service had just lost a case with major implications for the estates of collectors. At issue was whether an estate could parcel out an art collection according to the rules of “fractional ownership.” Fractional ownership is an accounting method whereby several individuals can share ownership of a tangible asset. While this case involves a multi-million-dollar art collection, the tenets of the can be applied to any collector who wishes to make arraignments for dispersing a collection after their death.

Generally, the asset involved in a fractional ownership situation is something like real estate, a yacht, a racehorse or other high-value property. Sharing ownership in an asset also involves sharing the expenses involved in keeping the item: insurance, maintenance, storage and such.

Fractional ownership is an accounting method whereby several individuals can share ownership of a tangible asset. A recent case ruling finds that collectors can use the rules regarding fractional ownership to an art collection for estate purposes will affect owners of collectors big and small.

Texans James and Margaret Elkins shared an interest in their art collection with their three children. Their collection of 64 works was impressive and included artworks by Picasso, Pollock, and sculptor Henry Moore. When Mrs. Elkins died, Mr. Elkins allowed a 27-percent share of 61 works to pass to his children plus a 50-percent share in the three works by Picasso, Pollock and Moore. Read More

Mar 26, 2015

Can Your Antiques Business Pass the Acid Test?

Back before Saturday Night Live there was a radio comedy troupe called The Firesign Theatre. Their routines included a game show titled “Beat the Reaper” in which contestants were injected with a deadly disease and had less than a minute to analyze their symptoms and guess what disease they had. Those who did would Beat the Reaper. Those who didn’t … well, you get the idea. I suppose the comedy was all in the presentation.

A common tension-building device used by fiction writers is to place the protagonist in a situation where catastrophe is imminent and time is running out: Our hero is short on air, ammunition, fuel, time, or some combination thereof. If I was in such a situation, I might find some comfort in knowing just how long I had left. When the end came, I would at least know what had happened.

I wish I could say that about my first business. When the end came, I offered a dazed look to the accountant and exclaimed “What happened?”

She gave me a look reserved for the young and ignorant and said simply: “Let me see your books.”

I handed her my check registers along with a list of assets and liabilities and a box of receipts, which represented the extent of my bookkeeping back in those days. She grimaced and said, “Get back to me in two weeks.” Read More

Feb 14, 2015

Books the Antiques Experts Use

antiques books
I recently read a comment on an antiques forum that referenced a 2009 blog post titled “Being An Antiques & Collectibles Dealer Isn’t Rocket Surgery, But…”. The post was by Deanna Dahlsad, and is found on the Collector’s Quest blog. Mixed metaphors aside, Ms. Dahlsad shares the point that like both rocket science and brain surgery “knowledge is power; nowhere, perhaps, does that time-honored adage ring as true as in the world of antiques.” She goes on to discuss the need for ongoing antiques education (and does so admirably).

When the post was made in 2009 the economy was near the bottom of the recession, and times were tougher for antiques dealers. The point of the blog post was that in tough times, well-educated dealers tend to fare better than dealers with limited knowledge. Many paragraphs were spent discussing the one-and-only organized home-study antiques course and how undertaking its program of study would benefit dealers.

As an avid reader and graduate of the afore-mentioned home study course, I think I have a pretty good grasp of what educational resources are available for those interested in the antiques trade. And, I’m firm in my opinion that no single educational source can meet the needs of 21st century antiques and collectibles dealers.

Don’t get me wrong; a solid foundation in antiques is necessary for everyone in the trade. Even for dealers who specialize in a particular genre, the public expects antique dealers to be generalists and know a little bit about everything. That means that all dealers should have knowledge of historical periods, style identifiers, manufacturer’s marks, and construction techniques for furniture, metals, and types of glassware and porcelain. A knowledge of restoration techniques is helpful as well. But that knowledge by itself isn’t enough; the range of collectibles is simply too overwhelming. Read More

Feb 5, 2015

Trend Spotting with Web tools

google trends
It’s been said that “a rising tide lifts all boats.” By that reasoning, as the economy improves, all of us should be seeing greater sales revenues. Of course, the “rising tide” of the economy also increases our taxes and expenses, so, relatively speaking, we may not be any better off than we were at low tide. What’s needed for our individual businesses isn’t a rising tide, but a tidal wave in our particular niche. Or, if not a tidal wave, at least a wave big enough to catch with our “fiscal surf board” and ride to Fat Bank Account beach.

How do we spot “waves” that we can ride to greater revenues? With the Internet, it’s easy: We look for trends. On the Web, a trend is an indication of search volume over time. When search volume over a period of time rises, search engines interpret the rise as a trend.

Trending topics that are both within and without our product niche can help our sales. The key to using trends is to know where to find them, how to interpret them and how to apply them. Let’s explore this topic a bit: We’ll start with several easy-to-find antique industry sites, and then look at a way to create a custom analysis to spot trends for the products you sell.

One of my favorite industry sites for checking “what’s hot and what’s not” is Read More

Feb 3, 2015

Find More Time by Using Online Tools

if this then that
This time of year, many antique dealers are breathing a sigh of relief. The holiday selling crush is over. For the past month or so, administrative chores have been put on hold in order to service in-store and online customers. Hopefully, most of us have

Catching up on administrative tasks and end-of-year/first-of-the-year paperwork is a necessity of doing business.
Catching up on administrative tasks and end-of-year/first-of-the-year paperwork is a necessity of doing business.

fattened bank accounts to make up for all the hard work. Now, it’s time to buckle down and address those year-end administrative chores like taking inventory, catching up on payables, scouting new inventory, and contacting customers that we were too busy to contact during the selling season.

As we “catch up” in January, we often realize that in our holiday haste we missed some opportunities. Every January, I speak with customers that I had put on a back burner (in order to deal with the customer in front of me) only to discover that they had made their purchases from a competitor instead of me. My competitor (or his advertisement) was in the right place at the right time, and I wasn’t. When I consider the missed sales, I wonder if perhaps I shouldn’t have advertised more, or posted specials more frequently to Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, my blog, or email, or a half-dozen other digital channels.

In order to “be where the customers are” we have to “go where the customers go.” Sometimes, that’s hard to do. We’re on Facebook, they’re on Twitter. We’re on Twitter, they’re on Pinterest. Or eBay, or Etsy, or Google. It’s all a matter of visibility. These days, the internet has made visibility cheap: social media platforms are often free, and the major selling platforms are cheap relative to the cost of running a bricks-and-mortar store. The problem is that when we’re real busy (like during the holiday season) who’s got time to maintain a presence on social media? And even if we did have the time, how much difference would it make to our sales anyway? Read More