Job as an Antique dealer

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Carol James runs an antique business in Derbyshire. She became interested in antiques through her grandparents who owned some antique furniture. Now she has turned her hobby into a career.

Can you describe your job as an antique dealer?

I sell antique oak and country furniture and long case clocks. The business is based at an antique centre with 30 other dealers, but I also sell at antique fairs across the country. I often buy from other dealers and from auctions. Sometimes private collectors want to sell some of their pieces, so I will go to their houses to look at the furniture and decide whether I could sell it in my business.

How do you know what to buy?

I must be sure that the items I buy are genuine. I check that each piece is made using the right materials and techniques for the period – whether it has the right sort of hinges, for example. Much of this knowledge comes from experience, and I'm still learning. I use reference books a lot, and learn from other dealers.

What hours do you work?

The antique centre is open Monday to Saturday 10am to 5pm and Sunday from noon to 5.00 p.m. The staff at the centre will sell my stock for me if I am not there, but I try to go in every day.

I deliver furniture to customers. That is hard work and it can mean an early start, sometimes leaving home at 7am. I need to market my business as well, so I often spend my evenings addressing envelopes for mailshots and following up with telephone calls to potential customers.

What happens at an antique fair?

I decide what stock I am going to take to the fair, and two days before the event I book carriers to pack up the furniture and take it to the venue. I spend the day before the fair setting up my stand. I try to lay it out like a room setting, so people can wander round and imagine the furniture in their own homes.

Fairs are usually open to the public for two or three days. I try to be as friendly and helpful as possible. Some days at fairs can be very quiet, and the time goes slowly, but it's important not to look bored. Fairs are also a good opportunity to meet other dealers and see what sort of stock they have and what prices they are charging. It's another good way to learn.

What qualities make a good antique dealer?

You must enjoy talking to people and be friendly and helpful. It's also important to be enthusiastic about the things you are selling and to be able to communicate your enthusiasm to customers. Being interested in history is essential as well.

What do you like most about your job as an antique dealer?

Selling a piece of furniture to someone who loves it as much as I do. I'm always pleased when a customer comes back to buy from me again and again. It means that they trust my opinion and think I provide good value for money.

Carol's route to her job as an antique dealer

  • A levels.
  • BTEC Business and Finance.
  • Various jobs in payroll and accounts.
  • Started own business three years ago while still working full time.
  • Recently left to be a fully self-employed antique dealer.

Carol's antique dealer tip

  • It can take a long time before you make any money from antiques. You will probably need to have a job so you can support yourself while building your business in your spare time.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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