Oct 25, 2015

New Hosting for Resale Retailing

I've migrated the Resale Retailing blog to a new location as of October 24, 2015. All future posts will be made to http://www.resaleretailing.com.

Thanks for visiting. See you at the new location!


Sep 29, 2015

Galax VA Antique Shops

March, 2010 GALAX, Va. – Progress comes slowly to the Blue Ridge Mountains of southwestern Virginia. It was not until after World War II that highways, electricity and telephone service became available to many of the rural areas between the mountain metropolises of Roanoke and Bristol, Va. The cultural stewpot of Scots-Irish and German immigrants simmered there for over two hundred years, cooking up a culture of independence and self-sufficiency. The area became known for its moonshine liquor, coal mines, lumber mills, and mountain music.

In 2010, the local mines are tapped out; the lumber mills and most of the furniture factories have closed. However, the mountain music, now known as Bluegrass, is thriving and keeps the local economy alive. Bluegrass music has become so popular that the Virginia Tourism Board has organized the Virginia Heritage Music Trail (“The Crooked Road”), a winding corridor of southwestern Virginia highways and back roads that takes visitors on a self-guided mountain cultural tour.

Midway along the Crooked Road lies the city of Galax, Virginia, with a year-round population of 6,700. Located near mile marker 213 on the Blue Ridge Parkway and a short drive from Interstates I-81 and I-77, Bluegrass music brings several hundred thousand visitors to Galax annually. The Old Fiddler’s Convention alone (the second week of August) brings over 60,000 visitors in one week. The visitors come to participate in the local music festival, hike the mountain trails, eat southern style barbecue, and shop in the local antique stores.

Galax boasts five antique stores in a two-block area in the center of town, plus LaRavierre’s auction gallery at the edge of town. A sixth downtown store,>>>Read More

Sep 25, 2015

Avoid Falling Victim to the ‘Sunk Cost Fallacy’

photo courtesy of  lawschoollies.com/
In the following scenario, what would you do if you were the dealer involved? At an estate auction you find a lovely Nickelodeon (coin-operated player piano with drums, etc.) that seems to be in working order. The auctioneer claims that it “has been partially restored and plays well. Just needs tuning.” You check WorthPoint.com and find that a similar item recently sold for $9,850. When you’re the winning bidder at $750 you think you’ve struck gold.

You hire piano movers to take it to your shop, and that sets you back another $175. You call to get the piano tuned, and the tuner tells you that it can’t be tuned; it needs new tuning pins. And, by the way, as long as you’re getting new pins, new strings would be beneficial. Of course, the piano must be moved to the tuner’s shop and back at a cost of $175 each way. New strings and pins cost $1,200. You have $925 invested so far; do you spend another $1,550 on top of that to realize a potential profit of $7,375? Your total investment will be $2,475; you’ll almost triple your money when it sells so you decide that it’s worth the risk. And besides, you already have about $1,000 invested and you don’t want to throw that money away.

Once the work is done the piano sits in your shop for five years. Along the way, you pay to have it tuned regularly and an occasional note repaired. Your customers enjoy hearing it play, but priced at $10,900 none offer to buy it. One Saturday a customer offers you $1,500 for the instrument; it’s the only offer you’ve ever had. Do you take it? Or do you hold on to the piano in the hope that you will at least recoup your costs? >>>Read More

Sep 23, 2015

In-Store Spending on the Rise (Again)

It seems that eCommerce and Big Retail have finally learned what we antique dealers have known all along: Customers prefer to handle and inspect an item before they buy it.

For years, retail analysts have touted online selling as being the future of retailing. And in the board rooms of The Big Guys, decisions were made on the basis of that research. If research produced credible numbers, you see, then highly paid execs could point to the research as the basis for their decision-making. Boards of directors would then be happy and the execs could keep their jobs. “Show me the money!” say the directors. “Here it is!” say the execs, pointing to the research.

A recent report by TimeTrade Systems Inc., titled “The State of Retail 2015,” just brought all those boardrooms back to reality, though (or it should have). The report begins:
“TimeTrade recently conducted a survey of 1,029 consumers, which asked in-depth questions regarding their perceptions and behaviors around retail shopping. What the survey reveals is that>>>Read More

Sep 11, 2015

The Green Man Tradition: Collecting an Ancient Icon

“It’s Pagan,” she said, pointing to the image carved into the crest rail of an antique chair. “And I won’t have Pagan symbols in my home.”

I let her remark slide. I don’t waste time arguing with someone whose mind won’t be changed. Besides, she was partly correct: the symbol was Pagan. And Christian and Muslim and Hindu and Celtic and Hebrew and Wiccan. It was the symbol of the Green Man, which, for thousands of years, has been carved into wood and stone, etched into jewelry, and painted on canvas.

Chances are that you have seen this symbol (or family of symbols, actually) but you may not have recognized it for what it was. You may have seen a carving where the entire face was composed of leaves, or maybe a face with vines or branches sprouting from the mouth, nose, ears or eyes.

Rather than the facial cavities sprouting foliage, you may have noticed that the facial hair was made up of leaves or fruit. Maybe you’ve seen a head surrounded by foliage wherein the leaves were not actually part of the face. Within the general description of “face with foliage” the variations are almost endless; there appears to be no standard representation of a Green Man.

Carved into antiques and architecture, you may see: >>>Read More

Sep 10, 2015

Collecting Vintage Salesman's Samples

“She Ran Away With A Shoe Drummer” read the Chicago Tribune headline of April 19, 1890. The ensuing article told of a great scandal: a recently married young socialite left her husband to run off with a travelling salesman (“drummers” in those days were travelling salesmen, called such because they would “drum up” business for their employers). This scenario was apparently so common at the turn of the 20th century that the phrase “she ran off with a drummer” became part of the common lexicon. It was incorporated into the plots of stage plays, dime novels and silent films.

A hundred years ago, there was an entire sub-culture built around the profession of travelling salesman. Many boarding houses, restaurants and hotels catered to these itinerant businessmen. Trains offered discount fares to regular users (similar to today’s frequent flyer miles). Drummers sometimes achieved celebrity status, and their comings-and-goings were heralded by local newspapers.

The Bloomington (Ind.) Daily Leader featured a regular column titled “Among the Drummers,” which featured news and gossip about travelling salesmen. “This has been another week of many drummers,” noted the July 25, 1891, edition of the Leader: >>>Read More

Sep 9, 2015

Understanding the Auction Consignment Process

Arguments rage as to whether it’s better to consign collectibles for resale via auction or to sell them oneself via private treaty. Detractors of the auction method say that auction house fees are too high: up to 50 percent of an item’s final price. Auction enthusiasts say that the auction method of selling is inherently better and ultimately brings higher prices regardless of the fees. Which point of view is right, and what difference does it make?

Depending on what you’re selling, either point of view can be right, and knowing which point of view is best for your circumstances can mean more — or fewer — dollars in your pocket. If you’re considering consigning your collections for resale, here are some points you may wish to consider before consigning to an auction house.

1. Make sure your items are genuine. Generally, serious collectors know that their items are the “real deal.” But when collectibles are inherited or sold through an estate executor, a collection’s provenance may come down to family hearsay. This is where the advice of a reputable auction house or >>>Read More

Sep 8, 2015

Achieve Higher Prices Through Storytelling

A baseball cap worn by Neil Armstrong after the Apollo 11 mission sells for $12,000. A typewriter belonging to novelist Cormac McCarthy sells for $254,500. A football used during the NFL’s “deflategate” scandal sells for $43,740.

Baseball caps and footballs are commonly available for under $10; typewriters for under $100. Clearly, in the above sales the extrinsic value of the items greatly exceeded the intrinsic, functional value of the items. A $6 baseball cap shades the eyes as well as Armstrong’s $12,000 cap. A $100 typewriter types as well (in some cases) as a $254,000 typewriter. As antique dealers, we understand that an antique’s extrinsic value — its rarity and provenance — are major contributors to an item’s price.

Sometimes, though, prices achieved by run-of-the-mill consumer objects — ones that are neither rare nor of noteworthy provenance — reach absurd levels. Why do we humans imbue such common items with high value? Antique dealers who understand why this happens can achieve higher prices for their merchandise and move those dull, old inventory items off their shelves.

Material Culturist Tara Bloom states: “Objects or artifacts often symbolize something more than their intrinsic nature … through personal association objects gain subjective meaning based on the memories that we have of them.” According to writers Glenn and Walker, such “memories” can be artificially created and passed to an objects new owner.

For the past two decades The Significant Objects Project, an ongoing study by brand analyst Joshua Glenn and New York Times Magazine contributor Rob Walker, has demonstrated that common objects can be infused with extrinsic value even where none actually exists. When that occurs, consumers are willing to pay higher prices for said objects. >>>Read More

Sep 7, 2015

The Format Wars

Those of us over a “certain age” have seen format wars come and go: VHS vs. Betamax; 8-track vs. cassette; Apple Mac vs. IBM DOS; Blue-Ray vs. High-Definition video. Each of these technologies served the consumer in a similar way. Each format required compatible hardware in order to make its “software” work; Betamax tapes couldn’t be played on a VHS player, and vice-versa. Eventually, in each case, one format won out over the other, leaving some consumers with obsolete technology and eBay sellers with another collectible to hawk.

The above format wars pale in comparison to the first media format war, the grand-daddy of all format wars: the contest between disc and cylinder recordings. As with other competing formats, product compatibility was required in order for a format to operate. The first format war foreshadowed those to come, and the story is instructive to both collectors and technology buffs. >>>Read More

Sep 6, 2015

Operating is Risky Business Without Insurance

In my July 26, 2012, Behind the Gavel column, I related a story about the Mountaintop Antique Mall in Hillsville, Virginia. This popular mall near Interstate Route 77 is one of my favorite places to visit when I go antiquing near Hillsville. Last month, intending to visit Mountaintop, I drove right past the mall entrance. Thinking that I hadn’t been paying attention, I circled back and was momentarily confused: the mall was gone. There was nothing there but the gravel parking lot and a few outbuildings.

I drove to a neighboring antique store, and there I got the story: In the winter of 2014 the roof had collapsed under two feet of snow in high winds. To quote the Galax Gazette, the 12-foot-high ceiling “came crashing down on countless collectibles, furniture, glassware, art, pottery and showcases.” Though mall owner Charles Nelson had insurance, many dealers do not.

Unfortunately, there seems to be a general lack of concern about insurance among small antique dealers. Allison Steeves of insurance brokers Steeves, Smith and Associates in Monroe, Connecticut, is very blunt about this situation: “The problem is that antique dealers don’t look at themselves as business people,” she said. “Based on the contracts they sign for their booths, any exposure makes them liable”.

Angie Becker, president of both the Antiques and Collectibles Insurance Group and the Antiques and Collectibles National Association [http://www.acna.us/], agrees. Antique dealers are often underinsured and at risk of serious loss. Lack of liability insurance is the most prevalent issue, says Becker.

Regardless of where a dealer does business – in a storefront, antique mall, flea market, fair, antique show, auction or estate sale – accidents involving their displays leave them liable for damages.

For example: >>>Read More

Jul 9, 2015

Finding Value In Those Old 78 RPM Records

The bidding stood at $16,800 until the last few seconds of the eBay auction. Then, auction sniping software kicked in. Within seconds, the bidding soared to over $30,000. The final selling price of the item was just over $37,000.

What was it that caused all the fuss? An old shellac 78 RPM record by Tommy Johnson on the Paramount label, released about 1930. The winning bidder, noted collector John Tefteller, drove from his home in Oregon all the way to South Carolina to pick up his win, dubbed “The World’s Most Expensive 78.”

The lesson to be learned? Perhaps auction-goers, estate executors, antiquers and thrift shop scourers should think twice before passing up a box lot full of old 78s. Says Tefteller of his win:

“The seller… found the record some years back at an estate sale. He absolutely did not realize what he had and how rare it was until he put it on eBay. Within the first few hours of being listed on the auction site, another collector tried to stop the sale by offering the seller $4,000 for the record. Fortunately, he let the auction proceed and I was able to win it in the final moments.”

Not all 78s are rare and collectible, though. Just like stamps and coins, there are many available and most are worth pocket change at best. How, then, can one quickly assess the contents of such box lots to see if there might be gold among the shellac?

With the right approach—says Tom Roberts, noted Harlem-Stride style pianist, music historian, and 78s collector—an experienced eye can make short work of assessing a stack of old 78s. In a conversation earlier this week, Tom shared his methodology with me. >>> Read More

Jul 7, 2015

Protecting Your Sole Proprietor Estate Assets

You’ve worked long and hard to build your business. You have a great reputation, strong cash flow, a solid asset base, and reliable employees. You operate “lean and mean” as a sole proprietorship. You may be a car mechanic, consultant, plumber, eBayer, building contractor, landscaper, professional or other entrepreneur.

Then you die unexpectedly without an up-to date will or succession plan. What happens to your business?

In most cases, the business will fall apart, for a variety of reasons. The law recognizes no difference between a sole proprietors business and personal assets. When the owner dies, accounts are frozen. No one is permitted to sign checks or distribute funds, sell retail inventory, or create liabilities (payroll, etc. for completing in-progress jobs, for example). Even if an office manager or payables clerk has the authority to sign checks, he/she is not allowed to do so when the proprietor dies. >>> Read More

Jul 5, 2015

The Need for Estate Sale Operator Licensing

The headline of the consumer complaint post was brash: “They literally stole our whole house: they sold $42,527 worth of items and gave us a check for $1,682.” The details of this homeowners’ plight were tragic: he had been “ripped off” by an estate sale company.

According to the story on ripoffreport.com (specific company/client has been redacted due to liability concerns), the complainant had a 10-room, five-bedroom home filled with expensive furnishings, including dozens of pieces of Waterford crystal, Hutschenreuther fine china, unique decorative pieces, a piano and fine furniture. The estimated market value of the contents was $42,527. Said the homeowner: “On the (liquidator’s) final report, 80 percent of the items were missing and unaccounted for—they just disappeared. They offered me a cash payment of $1,682 for the entire household and lame excuses and blatant lies for the missing items that I directly questioned them on.”

The estate sale business is booming, and more new companies entering the field will result in still more complaints from consumers. Unfortunately, the estate liquidation industry is largely unregulated, as estate tag sale liquidators are not required to be licensed.

The estate sale business is booming, and more new companies entering the field will result in still more complaints from consumers. Unfortunately, the estate liquidation industry is largely unregulated, as estate tag sale liquidators are not required to be licensed.

Today, there are more than one hundred such companies operating in the same area. Such rapid growth is consistent throughout the United States. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the 40 million citizens over the age of 65 rose 15 percent from 2000 to 2010. By 2030, it is expected that the number of Americans older than the age of 65 will rise to 72 million. The rising demand for estate liquidation services has caused many companies to enter the field, and many more will be added in the next decade. >>> Read More

Jul 3, 2015

Five Steps to Take When the Liquidation Company Says No

It’s a common occurrence: an executor calls an estate sale company to provide an estimate for liquidating an estate’s personal property and the liquidation company says “no thanks.”

Why does this happen, and what can an executor do when it does?

It happens because liquidating an estate’s personal property can be a monumental job, and there has to be enough high-dollar goods available to make that job worthwhile for a liquidation company. Once an estate’s heirs have claimed their “due” and stripped an estate of its most valuable assets all that’s left for an estate sale company is “the dregs.” There’s often not enough money in run-of-the-mill household goods to be a profitable undertaking for a liquidation company.

There’s often not enough money in run-of-the-mill household goods to be a profitable undertaking for a liquidation company. If this happens, there are other steps you can take.
There’s often not enough money in run-of-the-mill household goods to be a profitable undertaking for a liquidation company. If this happens, there are other steps you can take.

Even when the heirs aren’t interested in an estate’s personal property, some estates just aren’t worth the trouble. Other estates may seem like a lost cause, but how is an executor to know for sure? What if an executor has everything hauled off to Goodwill, only to find out from nephew Bill that there were about a dozen out-of-print first editions on the bookshelf, and that the framed 45 RPM record by Tony Sheridan and the Beat Brothers wasn’t an old high school buddy’s band, but rather an early iteration of The Beatles? >>> Read More

Jul 1, 2015

Why Millennials Don't Want Their Parents Stuff

There was a time when prosperous Americans eschewed durable consumer goods. Rarely would they buy a mass-produced sofa or dining set. Instead, they bought functional antiques that would hold their value from generation to generation and not be fodder for the dump in six or seven years. Take the DuPont’s of Delaware, for example. The Winterthur Museum (a former DuPont estate) houses one of the finest collections of antique furniture in America. The estate wasn’t furnished with antiques for their artistic value, but rather for day-to-day use.

Baby Boomers are getting stuck with family treasures because today’s Millennials—the next generation of heirs for these goods—don’t want them. So, how does one go about getting rid of these items that, in generations past, were passed down to the younger generations?
Baby Boomers are getting stuck with family treasures because today’s Millennials—the next generation of heirs for these goods—don’t want them. So, how does one go about getting rid of these items that, in generations past, were passed down to the younger generations?

For generations, antiques were passed among family members as part of an estate. With each generation, well-cared-for antiques became more treasured and heirs were almost always glad to get them.

America’s middle-class homes followed the same pattern: a family’s “treasures” were passed from generation to generation, even if the treasures were modest. Ultimately, the homes of Baby Boomers became repositories for the trappings of several generations of collectors and hoarders.

It seems like the Boomers will be stuck with these “treasures,” too, because today’s Millennials—the next generation of heirs for these goods—don’t want them. Marketing polls in recent years have “sliced and diced” the psyche of Millennials, and determined that (for the most part) they just don’t want their parent’s “stuff.” They don’t want the overstuffed furniture, they don’t want the boxes of memorabilia, and they don’t want great-grandma’s mahogany secretary. >>> Read More

Jun 29, 2015

When Does a Hobby Become a Business?

It was apparent from the wording of his forum post that Ben was overwrought. He had just received a 1099-K from eBay and feared that he would owe the IRS a lot of money. Ben wanted forum members to advise him on how he could maneuver through his difficulty.

It seems that Ben’s uncle had passed away, and a cousin (the estate executor) wanted Ben’s help in liquidating a garage, basement and closets full of 35 years’ worth of auction acquisitions. The family was aware that Ben was an active eBay seller, and they felt he was the ideal resource for selling the items. Out of a sense of family obligation, Ben accepted the job. The estate would pay him a modest fee for his help. But the proceeds from the estate sale added to his recurring eBay income lifted Ben above the $20,000 in payments and 200 transactions needed to generate a 1099-K. The amount he would likely owe exceeded the amount the estate had paid him, and since the estate was now closed out, there was no money available to cover the shortfall.

According to Ben, his eBay selling had never before reached this sales level. Although he admitted to regularly profiting from his selling activities, Ben claimed that eBay selling was “only a hobby,” and he felt that it was grossly unfair that the government should treat him as a business, and that eBay should issue him a 1099-K. >>> Read More

Jun 27, 2015

Slippery Slope: Employee Mis-classifications Lead to Crackdown

A vintage furniture dealer I’m aware of is on a “slippery slope” that may land him in jail. His transgressions? There are several, but the most serious is designating employees as independent contractors that should be classified as employees.
In their search for more revenue, federal and state governments are cracking down on business owners who mis-classify employees, as well as independent contractors who don’t claim all their income. And the penalties for doing so can be serious.
In a 2014 interview, attorney Jeffrey Davine, a partner with Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp LLP, told the website Law360: “If a business mis-classifies a worker and the government ultimately finds they should have been an employee, in theory, the business is responsible for paying all taxes they should have withheld, plus the mis-classified employee’s share, plus interest and penalties … If you multiply that by several employees and several years, the business could be looking at a devastating tax liability.” 

In the same article, Michael Fried, a partner with Fried & Rosefelt LLC, states:

“More recently I’ve seen common, everyday problems turn into criminal prosecutions, as opposed to staying in just the civil arena … In the past you had to really work hard to get criminally prosecuted for failure to pay employment withholding taxes.”

Not any more, apparently. >>>Read More

Jun 25, 2015

Rousing Customers’ Senses Leads to Closing Sales

All the marketing you’ve ever done to promote your business is completely wrong and has been a gross waste of money. At least that’s what Dr. Neal Martin would have us believe in his book “Habit: The 95% of Behavior Marketers Would Have Us Ignore.” I’m not convinced by Dr. Martin’s book. Effective marketing has a natural flow, and “Habit” would have us attempt to short-circuit that flow. Dr. Martin’s argument – that customers act out of habit rather than conscious design – is based on research by cognitive scientists who contend that up to 95 percent of our behavior is controlled by the unconscious part of the brain. Retail businesses should, according to a press release [http://www.nealemartin.com/press_releases.cfm] regarding Martin’s book: - >>>Read More

Apr 2, 2015

Historic Barn-Found Car: The ‘Mussolini’s Mistress’ Alfa Romeo

It seems that nearly every week, someone finds a classic car in a barn, garage or some other out-of-sight place. Recent finds include a rare Ferrari discovered under a pile of magazines in a barn in France, a 1969 Lamborghini Miura S left in an underground parking garage for three decades, and 60 classic cars left to rot for four decades on an estate in western France.

The 1939 Alfa Romeo 6C2500 Sport Berlinetta, given by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini to his mistress Claretta Petacci.
The 1939 Alfa Romeo 6C2500 Sport Berlinetta, given by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini to his mistress Claretta Petacci.

Although the above “barn finds” were high-end cars owned by rich collectors, most rediscovered classic cars are more modest: an old Chevy left in a garage by great-grandpa; a Packard stored in a farmer’s barn, or a Corvette left in a boat house. If these cars could talk, they would all have stories to tell about their owners, drivers and admirers.

But only one car can tell a story about a toppled regime, hurried escape, capture, execution, decades of oblivion, rediscovery and restoration: the 1939 Alfa Romeo 6C2500 Sport Berlinetta, given by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini to his mistress Claretta Petacci. Read More

Mar 31, 2015

Before the Radio Flyer,there was the Studebaker Junior Wagon

Studebaker Jr Wagon
From my appraisal archives comes a relatively rare estate find: a Studebaker Junior Wagon.

Vintage car enthusiasts are likely familiar with Studebaker automobiles; they were manufactured form 1902 to1966. Studebaker began as a blacksmith shop in Indiana in 1852, and when the Civil War broke out the Studebaker brothers became a major vendor of supply wagons to the Union Army. Studebaker continued to make wagons and carriages until the early 20th century, when the company began to produce automobiles.

This Studebaker Junior Wagon, in need of restoration with chipped, peeling and worn paint some age cracks in the wood, is still a relatively rare find and worth $500 to $600.
This Studebaker Junior Wagon, in need of restoration with chipped, peeling and worn paint some age cracks in the wood, is still a relatively rare find and worth $500 to $600.

Studebaker Junior Wagons were promotional items; they were carried by retail Studebaker dealerships. Originally intended to promote Studebaker farm wagons, the Junior became so popular that it continued to be sold at Studebaker car dealerships even after Studebaker stopped making farm wagons. The wagons were built for children, and were usually pulled by a goat, large dog, big brother or Dad.

The first Studebaker Junior wagons were built by Studebaker, but the wagons were in such demand that production was taken over by Indiana’s South Bend Toy Company. With increased production, distribution became nationwide when the wagons were offered through the Sears, Roebuck catalog and toy retailers. The wagon typically sold for $9 to $12. Early ads for the product featured President Teddy Roosevelt’s son Quentin. Read More

Mar 30, 2015

2015 Sellers Choice Awards for Best Online Selling Platform

From the very first televised Academy Awards show on March 19, 1953, Americans have been enthralled by awards shows. The Academy Awards brouhaha has completed its 87th presentation and still draws a huge audience. This year we will further be exposed to award shows for film, television, theatre, several genres of music and a relative newcomer, the “Webbies.” Corporations, professional and media organizations have jumped on the “awards” bandwagon and hold annual dinner events to praise their own.

I stopped watching such shows more than two decades ago; I became weary of all the mutual glorification that occurs.

There is one annual award presentation that I look forward to every year, though. This particular awards presentation helps me run my business better and puts dollars in my pocket. It can put dollars in your pocket, too: it’s the annual Sellers Choice Awards presented by EcommerceBytes.com (http://bit.ly/1AwGM4Q). The Sellers Choice Awards recognize the top online selling platforms, and the winners are chosen by folks like you and me who actually sell online.

EcommerceBytes, an informational resource devoted to online sellers, debuted the award in 2010. The website simply oversees the award process; nominees and winners are chosen by EcommerceBytes readers. In 2015, more than 12,000 online sellers participated in the awards survey, almost double the 6,124 voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences who chose this year’s Oscar© winners.

Readers chose 12 finalists from the available online selling channels, and rated each on a scale of 1-10 in four areas: profitability, customer service, communication and ease of use. The finalists were Read More

Mar 29, 2015

Bye, Bye, Miss American Pie: Don McLean's Famous Lyrics Offered at Auction

Bye, Bye, Miss American Pie; took my lyrics to the auction hoping someone would buy.

On April 7, 2015, Songwriter’s Hall of Fame inductee Don McLean will say “bye-bye” to the working manuscript and typed notes for his iconic 1971 hit “American Pie.” The 16 pages comprised of 237 lines of manuscript and 26 lines of typed text is expected to bring between $1 million and $1.5 million at Christie’s. The work may be viewed there between April 2-6 at the auction house’s New York gallery at 20 Rockefeller Center from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The 16-page working manuscript for Don McLean’s hit “American Pie,” comprised of 237 lines hand-written lines and 26 lines of typed text is expected to bring between $1 million and $1.5 million at Christie’s when the work goes up for auction on April 7.
The 16-page working manuscript for Don McLean’s hit “American Pie,” comprised of 237 lines hand-written lines and 26 lines of typed text is expected to bring between $1 million and $1.5 million at Christie’s when the work goes up for auction on April 7.

McLean’s song has become an American classic. It achieved #1 status on billboard in 1972, the longest pop song to achieve that rank: it runs for 8 minutes and 36 seconds and takes up both sides of a standard 45 RPM record. In an era when most pop songs were between 2-3 minutes long, it’s surprising that “American Pie” got any airplay at all. Most radio stations played only the “A” side of his release. I suppose deejays were motivated by the catchy phrase “took my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry.” Read More

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