You’ve been collecting antiques for a number of years, and now, you have an impressive, extensive and amazing collection. It numbers dozens, maybe even hundreds of pieces, scattered across shelves, bookcases, display-cabinets, and tables all around your house, apartment, or particular room in your house. And you want to buy more stuff! But you don’t have the room. Or perhaps you want to make a hobby or a small business out of selling antiques?
Either way, you’ve decided that you want to start selling off your antiques online. How should you do this? What do you need to consider when you start? If this is you, then relax, and read on…
How to Sell?
Selling antiques online can be tricky, frustrating and boring, but also exciting, fun and enthralling. Which one it will turn out to be, for you, depends on how you go about selling stuff. There are probably loads of guides online telling you how to sell things successfully online; this guide is designed for the complete and total greenhorn, who hasn’t sold so much as a paperclip to a puffin before today. So, how do we get started?
What You Will Need…
To sell antiques online, you will first need:
- Antiques that you want to sell.
- Knowledge about what they are and how much you can expect to sell them for.
- A bank account which is accessible online.
- An account or profile set up on an online sales website or group (Facebook, Gumtree, eBay, etc, etc. Pick the ones that work for you).
- Knowledge of how much to charge for postage.
- Knowledge of adequate packing procedures.
- A decent camera, and knowledge of how to take good photographs.
As you may have guessed from the list up above, a lot of the startup has less to do with what you have, and more to do with what you know, or what you will need to know, in order to begin. Get familiar with online funds transfers from bank-account to bank-account, familiarise yourself with your local post-office and what it will cost to post parcels of various weights to various locations around the country, or if you’re feeling bold enough – around the world!
Learn how to use your camera, and learn about the stuff that you’re going to be selling. If you want to make a successful go of it, then solid preparation is the key.
From the very start of selling, make sure you keep records. Postage-receipts, addresses, names, and a spreadsheet of every item you’ve sold. When, to whom, for how much, etc. If you become good at this stuff, you’ll be selling far more things than you’ll ever be able to remember. The last thing you need is for someone to pull a fast one on you, and you have no record of what happened previous to the sale. Keeping accurate records is essential to figuring out how things are going in the long-run.
Having decided on, researched, photographed, and priced what antiques you’re going to sell, it’s now time to start selling! Make sure that your bank account is one which people can deposit money into, and which you can transfer money out of, find a sales website that works for you, and start setting things up.
The first thing you need to do is to pick somewhere to sell stuff. Numerous free websites exist, such as Gumtree and Craigslist, etc. and this is a good place to start since it’s easy to understand and there are no hidden fees.
Another place to check out is Facebook. Facebook groups for the sale of antiques and collectibles are numerous and are scattered all over the internet. Just make sure that any groups you join are for your country! The people who run most of these groups are just ordinary folks like you and me, who like you and me, just want to sell stuff, make a bit of money, meet people, and see nice things. Most of them are friendly and casual places where people can make a quick dollar and have fun doing it.
Once you’ve sorted out your banking and payment details, your postage costs and the platform from which you’ll be launching your new commercial endeavour, the next step is to actually start listing things for sale! The fun part!
Listing Items for Sale
The first thing to do is to open a new listing or a new posting. A good listing should contain details such as what the item is, how old it is, important or special details, any flaws or damage, where the item is located (in case someone wants to pick it up personally), along with any serial numbers, model-numbers, or product-names.
Make sure that your listings have good-quality photographs which are clear, sharp and crisp. No blurriness, no lens-shake or anything like that. Make sure that people can tell clearly what an item is, and how big it is. Include measurements if you have to. And take photos of the item from as many angles as possible!
Last but not least, make sure you list the PRICE, whether this is negotiable or not, and how much the cost of postage is likely to be.
Then, you play the waiting game.
The most important attribute apart from honesty, that you can have as an online seller, is that of patience! Some items sell really, really fast, some can sit for months. My fastest selling item was a toy sewing machine that was sold in less than half an hour from the point of listing. My slowest item was a set of silver napkin-rings which languished online for half a year before they were finally snapped up.
Don’t lose heart. Refresh or bump up your listings from time to time, or offer discounts, and just WAIT. Sooner or later, the buyer for you will show up. Sometimes you’ll even get repeat-customers – and if you do – treat them like golden eggs – because they’re the ones who’ll give you the best testimonials!
Handling A Sale
Someone likes your stuff and they wanna buy it! Maybe it was that pocket watch, or the silver bowl, or the 1890 edition of Oliver Twist? Whatever it was, you’re about to make your first sale!
Alright, stay calm. Smile and do a little happy dance, and then get down to business.
After you’ve made sure that the person absolutely wants your stuff, you need to determine two things:
- How will payment be made? Paypal? Direct Deposit? Cash?
- How will he or she get the item that they want? Post? Delivery? Pick-up?
These are the things you need to discuss with your potential buyer. If delivery or pick-up is in order, then paying by cash is probably best. If you need to post the item, then you’ll need to decide whether they’ll be paying through paypal, or through a direct bank deposit. And you need to remind the buyer that there is also the cost of postage to consider (which is traditionally paid for by the buyer).
Make sure that you calculate the postage-costs correctly! What the item weighs is not what you’ll be paying in postage – You haven’t taken into consideration stuff like packing, wrapping, boxing and whatever else might be involved first! As a rule – always add 200-400g in weight to whatever the item weighs, when calculating the cost of postage.
An item which weighs 300g might cost $5 to post. But after padding, packing and boxing, it might weigh 550g. And packages over 500g might cost $8 to post instead of $5. That being the case, the price of postage should correctly be $8. If the item sold for $40, then the total price is $48.00.
These are the little nuances that you have to keep in mind! I got burned loads of times miscalculating the price of postage when I first started, and boy, does that ever eat into your profits! So remember to keep it in mind!
Also, if you’re accepting payment through paypal, remember that there are paypal fees to take into account (again, usually paid for by the buyer), or else you’ll find even MORE of your profit being eaten up in extra prices!
Take as long as you need to calculate the weight and therefore, the cost of postage, and any payment-fees, before tallying up the final result and giving the complete price to the buyer. If they agree, then arrange how you’ll get the item to them.
Will they pick it up or ask for it to be delivered? Where and when? How will you meet or stay in contact?
Will postage be necessary? If so, you’ll need the buyer’s full name and their postal address, and they need to send you proof of their payment online (usually in the form of a screenshot of the payment-completion page from their bank’s website).
Packing and Parcels
Once you’ve sorted out the price of the item, postage, and any extra fees, and the buyer has agreed to these, has paid, and has sent you their postal address, the next stage is to package the item.
If packaging the item for postage is necessary, there are a few ways to do this. You can either pack the item yourself in your own packaging, or you can use a box, bag or envelope supplied by your friendly neighbourhood post office. Which option you select is determined by the item in question, and the cost.
Post offices generally sell pre-priced boxes and envelopes or bags, whereby you’ll pay a fixed rate on a package, and can put into it whatever you want, so long as it’ll fit inside properly. Then you simply tape it shut, address it, and post it at the counter.
If you prefer a more individual and personal touch, there’s always the option of packaging your antiques yourself. Just keep in mind that if you do this, there are certain things you have to remember if you want the parcel to arrive safely at its destination.
Picking a Box
Once the sale is completed, the next step is to pack the item for postage. Start by wrapping it up with newspaper or bubble-wrap at least twice around the item, so give it some shock protection. Tape it shut and then find a box for it.
The box should be stiff cardboard, and should be slightly larger than the item you’re packing. You don’t want a box that’s too big, because the item will bounce and rattle around inside it, potentially damaging it, and you don’t want a box that’s too small – if something heavy lands on top of it, it might crush the box and the item inside!
Put the item into the box and pad it around with bubble-wrap or old, scrunched up paper. Then close the box and tape it shut.
Since most people will just use whatever cardboard boxes they have to hand (usually reused from something else), you might also want to wrap the parcel in plain paper before postage. This also keeps the exterior surface of the box underneath, clean, so that the recipient can reuse it for their own postage or packaging needs, should they want to. Wrapping the box also gives you a convenient place to write down the postal address, and your own return address.
Postage and Tracking Numbers
Once the item has been paid for and you’ve packed it safely, it’s time to post it. Take it to your local post-office and hand it in. It’ll be weighed and the price (based on weight) will be calculated. When you pay for the postage, you should get a receipt.
Make sure you keep this, as it’s not only proof of postage and price, but also, it should also have a tracking number. This is the serial-number of the receipt which is pasted onto your parcel when it is processed at the post-office. The tracking number (called ‘Item I.D.’ or similar) is also printed on the receipt given to you by the postal clerk.
Make sure you remember this, and pass the number onto the buyer, as this will allow you and them to keep an eye on the parcel as it is processed through various post offices during its journey. Every time the parcel is scanned at checkpoints, the tracking information is updated online. You’ll be able to see what progress has been made on the delivery, and your recipient will be able to check when the item will arrive at their home or business.
Online Sales – General Tips
If you’re selling antiques in an online social media setting, such as a Facebook group, always remember to be courteous and friendly. Word of bad experiences spread FAST on social media. All you need is one legitimately unhappy customer to screw over your entire reputation as a seller. So smile and be happy.
Be patient. Sales are seldom quick. Things can sit for weeks and months before they sell, but they will, eventually, sell. Just make sure you make a halfway-decent profit on them, that’s all!
You are the one who has to pack the item for postage. You are the one the seller will blame if the item is broken when it arrives, because YOU didn’t pack it properly, you numpty! So make sure you pack properly, and calculate the cost of postage correctly! If the buyer complains that postage is too much, then they’re not the buyer for you. Do not compromise on this – all it takes is one broken parcel to screw things over real good. Do not cut corners on postage!
Make sure you post clear pictures from varying distances and different angles, and be absolutely honest about the item and what you know about it. Remember also that a good sales pitch from a person who knows a lot about what they’re selling is more likely to succeed than a half-assed attempt by somebody who knows nothing!
You will occasionally meet people who for whatever reason, change their minds or can’t hold up their ends of the deal. Discretion and tact are vital in dealing with these people. Sometimes it is a real and honest mistake on the buyer’s part. They typed in your bank details incorrectly or something like that (it’s happened to me, so I know!).
On the flip-side of that – when you copy down their postal-addresses, make sure you do it properly and double check, and ASK the buyer if it’s correct. Never assume anything.
That said, sometimes you really can meet some people out there who insist on keeping sticks up their butts, and will tell everyone about it and let it affect everything. People who grumble and howl and bitch and complain are no fun to anybody. The less said about them, the better, and the less you deal with them – better still. If you have a particularly bad experience with a buyer, then if the power is within your grasp – you should report them to the relevant online sales authorities.
Last but not least – remember to have fun! Selling things online is a lot of fun! It’s thrilling being able to give people stuff they want at reasonable prices. It’s fun being able to play shopkeeper. It’s fun thinking that the stuff you don’t want anymore, will end up in the antiques collection of another person, and that it will be appreciated all over again with fresh eyes and new enthusiasm. So go forth and conquer!