My last blog post was a list of six wonderful questions to ask a vintage dealer. So of course I needed to follow that up with a list of things not to ask a vintage dealer. There are some that it's perfectly fine to ask and we would even welcome, but there are some that if you feel starting to come across your lips, just stop, no matter how tempting it may seem. So let's just jump right in.
- How much is this *item I have* worth? This one is...one of my least favorite questions I get. While I am so grateful to be thought of as knowledgeable in my field and let me repeat that, I am grateful to be thought of as an expert, I don't know off hand the worth of every single vintage or antique out there. Even professional appraisers generally have specialties they focus on. Ceramics for example, or watches or guitars. Nearly every single item I sell in my shop I have to, or have had to in the past, research it to find out how to price it. And I daresay I've gotten some wrong and probably let some quite valuable little treasures slip through at appallingly low prices. So when you randomly show me something you have and ask me to tell you what it's worth, you are asking me to spend my valuable time doing your research for you. If you just don't have the time or the skill set to do said research yourself, your best and most ethical bet is to hire an appraiser. That's literally what they do for a living and can give you the most realistic and educated answer and be paid for their work.
- Can you tell me the history of this *item I have*? How old is it, where did it come from, etc? The answer to this is pretty similar to the answer above and is not the same as asking for a specific item's past life. This question is more of a general thing, like, when were snow globes invented ( which I happen to know was in the late 1800s). We don't know everything there is to know about all vintage items and its not really fair to a vintage dealer to do this work for free. In order to answer this, I'd have to dig into and research it in all likelihood. And guess where'd I go? Google. That's not the only resource to use but its nearly always the first and its a really good one that anyone can access.
- What a cute Thrift Store! This one is a hard nope. When I had my brick-and-mortar store I used to get that all the time and it was so frustrating. There is a distinct and very real difference between a vintage or antique shop and a thrift store. For one, we pay good money for our items, thrift stores get them via donations. For another, thrift stores are random jumbles of all sorts of things, whatever comes across their donations. Vintage/antique stores are stocked with highly curated and chosen inventory, usually well researched, and displayed, cleaned, pressed, steamed, repaired and so on.... The only real similarity is that we all sell previously owned items. Other than that they are completely different things and while I've seen some darling and charming true thrift stores, it is not at all flattering to have my vintage boutique compared to one.
- And in that vein...here is the next thing Not To Say to a Vintage Dealer, "This is So expensive for a Thrift Store!" And all I can say to this is see the above, and ARRRGGGHHHH!!!!
- Where do you find your stuff? This question also falls into the category of What TO Say to a Vintage Dealer so this is part two of this particular question. The appropriateness of this question really depends on your intention behind asking it. As I mentioned in my last blog if your intention is a sincere interest in the mysteries of our unique and fun career, then by all means go for it. If your interest however is a secret desire to glean our trade secrets for your own nefarious purposes, then it's not ok. And I'll tell you we can almost always tell the difference. After so many years we can nearly smell it on you. I know other dealers who just say, "I never tell", and on the other hand I also know some that will share whatever because they figure that there's so much work involved that one or two attempts at it will be enough to stop all but the most determined vintage hunters, or they just don't care. I know some who are hugely offended by anyone even asking this simply because they've been burned too many times. I even know one lady who kicked people out of her store for asking this question. The feelings behind this question kind of run the gamut of all extremes. Myself, I fall somewhere in the middle leaning towards the more open-to-sharing. My best answer when not so well-intentioned people ask me this is usually, "Oh tons of places, a lot of people call me with things to sell and we set up a buying appointment, or I do very long roads trips across the country. I've even been known to dumpster dive!" The idea behind this being to be pleasant and polite but let them know it's hard effing work finding all these treasures. And that answer is 100% true. But its not complete, I have other means as well, and usually I'm happy to share those with folks who are truly curious and not out to just reap my knowledge. So, this is a touchy, maybe the most touchy and tricky, question. But a good general rule of thumb is if you are truly curious and want to know more about what the vintage dealer does and how, then by all means ask away. The worst we can say is no. But if you have any nefarious reason for asking then please double think it. The knowledge is all there anyway online which brings us back to Question and Answer Number One again, doesn't it?
And I believe that's a good place to stop for this article. I have to admit it's been a rather fun one to write, simply because we all love a good gossip sometimes, don't we? I hope that these two posts were both educational and at least a little entertaining, and I'm happy to answer any comments or questions if there was anything I didn't mention.
As always my sweet Misfits, be safe and I'll see you next time! Leave me a comment if there is anything you want me to blog about, I"m always open to suggestions!
That was so interesting to read about the questions asked, etc. I miss seeing you. I’ll make an appt. sometime soon and Stacye and I will make the trip to Burbank. I have a few items you might be interested in. Much success to you. Earlene
Toadstool Farm Vintage replied:
I would love to see both of you. So much love to you and Stacye.Jacqtoadstoolfarmvintage.com -——- Original message -——-