Selling Antiques Online – A Beginner’s Guide for Beginners

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.
  • Patience!

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.

Keep Records

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.

Getting Started

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:

  1. How will payment be made? Paypal? Direct Deposit? Cash?
  2. 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!


Antique Brass Fire Extinguisher

You honestly find the weirdest things in charity shops. I picked this up about a week ago, for $20:

If this looks like a giant syringe…well…you’re not far wrong!

What we have here is an old-fashioned hand-pump fire-extinguisher, from the era around 1910-1930. It’s a Pyrene-style solid brass automotive fire extinguisher, of a kind that used to hold a fire retardant chemical called carbon tetrachlorine.

These small (14in. long, 3lb-weight, 1qt capacity), hand-pumped fire-extinguishers were very common from the 1910s up to the middle of the 20th century. Unpressurised and worked by hand, they were usually mounted in steel frames and stored on (or inside) early motor-cars, to be used in the event of a car-crash. They’re almost iconic with old cars – it’s like, you couldn’t have a car made before the Second World War, and not have one of these go with it!

They work very simply. You hold the barrel in one hand, turn the handle with the other (to the left), pull out the plunger, and, taking aim (and a firm grip!) you pump the handle back and forth. This builds up pressure inside the cylinder to force out the firefighting fluid through the nozzle at the front. It’s basically a giant, brass water-pistol or super-soaker, but it takes considerably more muscle to operate it!

One good thing about this extinguisher is that it is infinitely reusable. After emptying the 1qt (approx 1 litre) capacity in the cylinder, all you need to refill the extinguisher is a screwdriver (or a large coin) and a supply of water.

As these extinguishers were not pressurised (you have to pump them to do that, remember?), it’s actually really easy to open them and refill them, as there’s no chance of them exploding if you try to do so.

These extinguishers have a screw-down filler cap at the top of the cylinder, next to the pump-handle. A large coin or a suitably sized screwdriver is all you should need to unscrew the cap, and then refill the cylinder. These old pumpers work just as well with water, so provided everything else is hunky-dory, you can use these extinguishers almost limitlessly. Once they’re empty, simply unscrew the cap, lock down the handle, fill up the cylinder, screw the cap back on, and you’re ready to go!

It was a lot of fun cleaning, polishing and testing this extinguisher. The fact that it’s 90 years old and still works is pretty damn impressive in my book. It just goes to show the quality of workmanship back then.


Polishing Antique Metalware

In my humble opinion, one of the most fun things you can do with your antiques is clean them, and bring them back to the former glory that they once knew and enjoyed when they were young. Being able to see them gleam and shine will give you a much better appreciation of their workmanship and quality, and a greater understanding of what they looked like when they were new.

In this post, I’m talking about polishing antique metalware. Specifically, polishing antique silver, and antique brass. How to do it, why to do it, and how to prolong the shine.

Polishing Metals. Do or Not Do?

This is the same bland, stupid, water-kneed excuse that I find everywhere: “Polishing antique metalware destroys its value!”



Prove it. Go on, I dare you. Prove it.

As long as I’ve been alive, I’ve been into antiques, and as long as I’ve been into antiques, I’ve heard people wailing this cry like some ancient rain-song for imaginary sky-lords. And y’know what? I just don’t buy it. Never have, never did, never will.

I never will, because of the fact that brass and silver have been polished for centuries in the past, and have, and will, be polished for centuries into the future. Part of the whole reason people BUY brass and silver is to polish them! There’s no point in owning it if you can’t make it look nice. I could show thousands of pictures of antique brassware sold by auction houses, antiques shops, online dealers, professional restorers and eBay sellers, who routinely polish all their brass and silver.

So should you polish, or not?

Honestly, it’s up to you. Just don’t buy into that spiel that polishing it will destroy it. It will not. You only destroy it if you polish it the wrong way, and how to polish silver and brass the right way is part of what this posting is about.

How Do I Polish Brass?

Right. Let’s start with the easy one: Brass.

The go-to polish for brass is BRASSO. Invented in 1905, it’s been the standard brass polish for well over 100 years now, and it still works great for most applications. If you can’t find Brasso, then any good, general-purpose metal-polishing liquid will do.

Polishing brass can be done in a variety of ways. Either with rags, with superfine steel wool, or even just by hand. Which method you use will be determined by what the item is, and how easily it can be polished.

Polishing with a Rag

Polishing your brass with a rag or cloth or paper-towels is the accepted way of doing most polishing. This is good if the piece is large and requires a lot of extensive polishing and you need to cover a big surface-area. Just make sure that you fold the rag or paper-towels regularly, and use a fresh rag or paper-towel when it comes to buffing and polishing, right at the very end.

Polishing by Hand

This method is much messier than polishing with a rag, but in some ways, it’s a lot more fun!

To do this, you will need:

  • Brasso.
  • A clean towel.
  • A bucket of hot, soapy water.
  • Something to polish.
  • Clean hands.

I generally do this with smaller objects that you can hold in your hands – things like candlesticks, snuffers, brass trays…anything small and made of brass. Just pour a small amount of the liquid polish onto the brass and simply rub it thoroughly all over with your hands!

You will get REALLY messy doing this, and your hands will turn black, but the advantage is that you can rub and polish and clean literally EVERY part of the item, and reach into places which rags and tissues can’t access. This means that the overall finished result will be much better.

Once you’re done polishing really well, and your hands, and the item in question – are black from all the grime you’ve scrubbed off of it, then dump the item (and your hands) into the bucket of hot soapy water and wash the item, and your hands, thoroughly. Then pull out the gleaming piece of polished brass! Finally, dry yourself, and the item, with a towel and give it one last polish. Done!

Polishing with Steel Wool

Polishing brass with steel wool should only be done as a last resort. This is what you use to polish brass which is REALLY tarnished. You found something that’s been in a shed for 50 years. You dug it out of the ground. It’s been up in the attic since before grandpa died. That sort of thing. Only use this method if extensive and exhaustive scrubbing with the first two methods failed to yield any results.

Extremely tarnished brass will not always yield to Brasso alone. It might work, or it might not. Chances are, you could polish the item all day using Brasso, and get nowhere. That’s because of the thick layer of grime that’s dried and encrusted itself onto the metal, which the Brasso just isn’t strong enough to scrape off. That’s where the steel wool comes in.

Now, before you run off and get the steel wool pad that you have in the kitchen, I should clarify that you’ll be using a very specific type of steel wool for this sort of polishing. It’s 0000-grade, superfine steel wool. You can generally find it in any good hardware supplies store. It’s specifically designed for polishing and antiques restoration, so – if used properly – it shouldn’t damage anything.

Start by filling a small dish with liquid metal polish. Rip off a clump of polishing wool and get it into a manageable-sized lump. Dip the steel wool into the liquid polish, and then start scrubbing away at the brass.

If your brass item is really, really, REALLY heavily tarnished, this will take a long time, and quite a bit of elbow-grease. The combination of Brasso and steel wool is, in most cases, more than enough to cut through all this grime, but it requires persistence. Above all, resist the urge to use a coarser grade of steel wool. You’re trying to scrape off the filth – not scratch the brass!

Lacquer Removal

One important thing to keep in mind with antique brass is that some people put lacquer on it. Lacquer is a clear-coat protective fluid that dries on top of the brass, like paint, and provides a layer of protection on the brass against oxidation and tarnishing. It’s important to scrape off any lacquer from your brass before you polish it, because otherwise all you’re doing is polishing lacquer, which isn’t what you want to do.

You can buy specific lacquer-stripping chemicals, or you can use the ultra-fine steel wool to do it instead. You’ll know if there’s lacquer on the brass if you see any sort of cloudy or hazy parts on the metal (that’s where the lacquer is starting to dry and crust up). Just scrape it off like tarnish and then polish the exposed brass underneath.

Once you’re done with the polishing, you can either re-lacquer the brass, or you can do what I do, which is give the brass one final buff-over and polish with…olive oil.

Olive oil will give the brass a slight matte-finish, but it will also protect the brass from excessive tarnish. It’s easier to remove, and easier to put on, helps to clean the brass, and won’t harm it at all. Rub it on thoroughly with a paper-towel and then enjoy the shine!

How Do I Polish Silver?

Polishing silver is a much more delicate proposition than polishing brass, and as such, much more care should be taken in its cleaning. Silver is a much softer metal than brass, and as such it dents and scratches much more easily. Because of this, harsh chemical cleaning agents and abrasives of any kind should be avoided when trying to polish and clean your silverware.

When it comes to cleaning silver, you should use the softest and least aggressive polishing compound or liquid possible. Many people use, and swear by ‘silver foam’. It generally comes manufactured by two brands: Haggerty’s, and Goddard’s.

Silver foam is a bit like liquid-soap for silver. It’s a soft paste that comes in little plastic jars. Scoop a bit out and rub it onto the silver. Just like with Brasso, you can decide to do this with a rag, or with your bare hands, depending on what the piece is.

This is the back of a pocketwatch from 1925. It hadn’t been polished in decades, as you can see. And it’s got an ugly stripe and yellow gunk on it, from where the price-sticker had been on it for years and years and years.

After rubbing the paste on and polishing off all the tarnish, then you can simply wash the paste off with warm water. It starts to lather up a bit when you do this (hence the name ‘silver foam’), but basically it just washes off just like any other regular soap. Then simply dry the object with a soft towel.

Of course, silver foam is a very gentle polishing agent. Don’t expect it to remove anything especially harsh. If you have something on your silverware that you just cannot get off (like glue residue or staining from a price-tag or something like that), then you can use SILVO (the silver brother of BRASSO), but this should be a last resort.

Polishing the watch, first with silver-foam, and then with a couple of drops of Silvo has removed the gunk, grime and tarnish from the watch and restored it to its original glittering shine. Not bad for something that’s nearly 100 years old!

Silvo is meant to be used for polishing steel, chrome, pewter, silver and other white metals, but it is quite tough stuff. The smell alone when you open the bottle is proof of that! Using the smallest amount of Silvo possible (like, a few drops), is enough to clean off most hard, stubborn stains or marks on your silverware. But don’t use this to polish the entire piece. It’s quite abrasive as a polish, and it will rub away fine details like engravings, hallmarks and other decorative features.

General Polishing Tips

When polishing metal – gold, silver, brass, bronze…whatever…there are certain things you should always keep in mind.

The first thing is to use the right polishes and the right techniques. Always start with the most gentle option first, and then progress to the more aggressive ones.

Make sure that whatever you’re polishing is bare metal, and not plate. Polishing silver plate or nickel plate or chrome plate, or brass plate will just wear it off and expose the metal underneath, which can sometimes look really unsightly. Look for scuff-marks and wear-spots, to see whether or not something has been plated or not. In most cases, real silver will come with hallmarks, although they’re often well-hidden, so scope the piece out with a strong magnifying glass to be sure.

Apart from that, general polishing advice is to polish as infrequently as possible. Polish once, polish well, and then leave it alone! You shouldn’t need to polish something again for several months or even years, if you’ve done it properly. Excessive polishing damages fine details and rubs away engravings, marks and patterns. That’s the last thing you want to do!


Making Antiques Videos!

Hey everyone,

Been a while since I posted in this blog, and that’s because I’ve been making videos about my antiques on my new YouTube channel. Can’t be having a YouTube channel with no videos in it, so I’ve been busy shooting a few, and intend to make more as regularly as I can.

It irritates me greatly how YouTube and Google and Gmail and all the rest of it, are all linked together in one long, fiddly, tiresome chain like they are nowadays. To sort out this mess I closed and deleted my old channel and moved some of my better videos over to my new channel, which should now be my permanent home for videos.

Feel free to rate and leave comments in my videos. They’re lots of fun to make, even if they are a nightmare to try and upload!

Here’s a video I made about my Toulmin & Gale writing slope from the 1860s:

I do intend to make videos about all the other writing boxes that I have in my collection, along with other stuff in the near future, so keep an eye on the channel if you want to see what’s going on!