“Where are all the antique dealers?” I wondered as I wandered through the roughly one-square-mile of dealer booths at the annual Hillsville (Virginia) Labor Day Flea Market and Gun Show. The show, in its 47th year, has morphed over the decades from a local VFW-sponsored gun show and flea market to a national event that attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.
My first visit to the show was nine years ago, and I’ve attended every year since. In 2006, my opinion was that the show would attract bigger spenders if they would re-name it the Hillsville Labor Day Antique Market. I was wrong. Nine years ago, almost
This was a common sight at the Hillsville Labor Day Flea Market and Gun Show, in Hillsville, Va., as shoppers toted pull-carts brimming with purchases, albeit filled with fewer traditional antiques. (Photo courtesy Wayne Jordan)
every row of vendors had an antique dealer or two (or more). This year, antique dealers were spread thin and it wouldn’t have been much of a show if it was billed as an “Antique Market.” Gone were most of the antique machinery, phonographs, Victoriana and furniture. Instead shoppers would find mostly mid-century knick-knacks, pallet lots of various consumer goods and junkyard paraphernalia.
As my wife made a purchase, she commented to the vendor about the dearth of antiques at this year’s show. “What do you consider to be an antique?” asked the vendor in his distinctly Australian accent. I got “the look” from my wife so I jumped in with my opinion, which is always at the ready. I gave my usual spiel about the U.S. Customs 100-year standard and the regular re-defining of the word by some antique writers (thank you, Harry Rinker). The vendor disagreed with me, as did several neighboring vendors (none of whom sold antiques). It wasn’t long before a consensus was reached: No one really knew what defined an antique and no one really cared one way or another about a “correct” definition.
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One of my favorite quotes (erroneously attributed to Mark Twain) is “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.”
Statistics are a business writer’s favorite device. I use them often to support my conclusions. Statistics help me make connections between what seem to be unrelated issues and draw parallels to the antiques trade.
It’s too easy to lie (deliberately or inadvertently) with statistics. It’s important to understand the studies that produced a set of statistics: Who did the study (and who paid for it); who the participants were; how the study was conducted; and what was being measured and compared. Statistics taken out of context (darned lies) can be used to prove almost anything, and if used often enough, can sway the opinions of a large portion of the population.
Take the Wal-Mart controversy, for example. Wal-Mart often finds itself on lists of “America’s Top 10 Most Hated Companies.” News of a Wal-Mart coming to town will cause most small business owners to tremble in their boots. But if you’re an antique dealer, one of the best things that can happen to your business is to have a Wal-Mart move into your zip code. Read More>>>
You may have seen the YouTube video preview (http://youtu.be/98BIu9dpwHU) posted by Amazon Prime Air eight months ago: It’s had more than 15 million views. The 1-minute, 20-second video tracks an Amazon order beginning with a customer clicking the “Prime Air 30-Minute Delivery” button online and ends with a drone gently placing a package at the customers doorstep (presumably within 30 minutes).
Of course, the video is just a “preview of coming attractions.” Amazon isn’t currently making deliveries via drone. The FAA disallows commercial use of drones (although some companies ignore the rule). But, once safety and privacy issues are worked out and insurance companies get a handle on underwriting such an enterprise, we can expect to see drones delivering packages nationwide.
Amazon isn’t saying what the cost to the consumer will be for 30-minute delivery. The unanswered question is: Will consumers pay the price? All indications are that most consumers aren’t willing to pay for super-fast delivery; at least not directly. Consumers’ No. 1 objection to buying online is delivery charges. Read More >>>
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about overseas selling, and perhaps importing items for domestic resale. I began to research the concept by interviewing a half-dozen acquaintances who have or are still buying and selling across international borders. Next, I read “Import 101” by Paul Lidberg [http://amzn.to/1qO8lGp]. My first impression was that import/export is not for the faint of heart, and perhaps I’d better stick to domestic selling. Although some of my friends are quite adept and successful at import/export, all had “horror stories” about problem buyers, payments not received or shipments confiscated by customs for some paperwork deficiency.
Making international sales can be accomplished quite easily selling through eBay, Amazon and other marketplaces. Making sales, however, is not the same thing as getting them delivered and paid for. Once a sale is made, someone has to fill out the customs forms. Packages could be checked at each border, at the whim of the local customs agents. Shipping to foreign countries may involve several different postal systems, all with differing size, weight and labelling requirements. Some countries don’t offer package tracking, and buyers sometimes claim that they never received their packages. Without tracking proof, who can argue with them? Some eBay sellers have regularly lost money and suffered bad feedback regarding “missing packages.” One of my eBay-seller friends swears that he was providing golf shirts for free to foreign customs agents and their families. Read More>>>
This auction was “way back up in the hills,” so there were no cell phone signals or WiFi connections available. Consequently, no credit or debit cards could be accepted: Cash or check only. Everything was sold absolute to the highest bidder. There were no lot numbers; items were auctioned individually or grouped on an ad-hoc basis. There was no catalog. There were no buyer’s premiums and no Internet bidding. There were no smartphones for checking prices online and no browsers calling partners for a consultation. It was like stepping back in time.
As I sat in my Coleman camp chair waiting for my lots to present, I had time to watch the crowd and reflect on how much the auction business has changed in the past 20 years. It should come as no surprise to anyone that the changes – buyers’ premiums, credit card fees and simultaneous online bidding – have benefitted the auctioneers first, consignors second and bidders last.
It was with great pleasure that I watched a first-rate auctioneer work the crowd in front of him to get the best possible prices for his consignor. No online bidders would thwart the plans of the local crowd. Read More>>>