Appraise your own junk

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How to be a good junker

Posted by L Abbott on January 7, 2011 at 1:10 PM Comments comments (1)

     After my Grandmother passed we closed our store. By this time however my mother and I were hooked. We traveled some distances to antique stores and flea markets. At first the dealers were mean watching a little kid picking up a piece of pottery to find its mark, but it wasn't long before they knew me and trusted me, even teaching me things about antiques.

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     We knew all the dealers in a 50 miles radius. I have fond memories of those dealers that are no longer here. We had a place that was bustling in the day, called The Red Barn. (Not anymore, today it's a real junk pile) It was a massive place that also housed a car lot. I knew everyone there and it was a joy to see them. Sometimes we only went to visit as the inventory didn't change all that much.

     This is how I learned to be a great Junker.

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     First get to know who you are dealing with. Or what you might call networking. They all knew what my mom and I collected and would hold things for us they thought we might like, or at times calling us before putting it out.

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     Mom had collected Political buttons from the time she was really little, and it over flowed to all pin backs, and all political items. She also collected hundreds upon hundreds of salt cellars, and butter pats.

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     I found myself to be a collector of dolls, even though I didn't know as much about them as other things. Alright I didn't know JACK, until I joined a doll board. Then I found out most of the dolls I had were "junk", Such is life, I still loved them.

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     I also had an impressive collection of bells and figurines of porcelain, bisque and well any material really. Oh help us all, books! Then I came to love Asian jewelry. And for some reason anything made of metal and wood and some pottery. I think it's because I was always surrounded by glassware. Today it's still not a favorite of mine.

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     So the first step is to network. It's really important to know your dealer. I for one will not talk to anyone that goes on about their crap like its gold, or talk it up to be something grander than it is.

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     This is what I call a wheeler dealer. Mom had one that drooled over her pin backs, and even lifted one from her collection. (I still remember your name buddy)

It's easy for me to know a wheeler dealer because we not only bought, but we used to sell.

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     If the person rubs you the wrong way, walk away. You'll find your item somewhere else. Unless you feel you can out bullshit them that is. Oh I might go visit to see if they have that one thing I cannot live without, or out of pure boredom, but networking, nope. That would be scraping the bottom, and they never "deal" with you. They are the "know it all's" of the Junker world, and never are looked upon politely in the circle of Junkers.

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     A real dealer deals! They know when they buy the overhead they want out of their item. They never try to sell you something for book price. Why? Because they wouldn't buy something for that price of course! They know the real secret to selling is, fast turn over at a reasonable profit. In these days of the internet there is no "book price" it's what people are willing to pay for it.

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Gesh it's like walking into a used car lot and paying the marked price. Please tell me you don't do that!

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     The best of dealers when they see you trying to wrestle with yourself about buying an item will offer you a better price. I have a list of favorites myself. Don't be afraid to ask for a lower price. Dealers that rent out space are usually allotted 10% mark down. Don't feel bad, when they mark it down, they know exactly how much they can go down and still get a profit. Don't be greedy either. Most will know what's its worth; don't push it, now you are becoming a pain.

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     There is another thing I have learned. I like to fix things, and uglier and more beat up the better. I have made a name for myself of trying to save things. I have also made a name to haul things away. So when a barn, house or garage goes down, I get a call. Most times these things are free. Not always, but the prices are always good. I am providing a service; I am cleaning out the crap they didn't have the heart to throw out. They also know I will do my best to breathe life back into the item.

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     I'm not sure how that began. I used to ask for beat up things for projects I know. Some dealers don't want to mess with bulky furniture that take up space, and don't give them a profit. This was not an overnight rep I got; I put the word out whenever I could.

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     I got the real rep by digging in the trash. I will climb in a dumpster at auctions to get that prized piece of crap. Then I wait for the question I always hear. "What are you going to do with that thing?" Fix it of course. Then I would go back with the fixed thing to show it off.

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     It's always a good idea to know prices. Look through completed items on eBay, get lots of books. You know those really old out dated antique books? If they have lots of pictures they are not obsolete. They have images of things you learn are worth something even if they prices are wrong. It's like a memory game. "I remember that chair from my books!" It's a buck or two and you know you have something! Also books supply names, dates, and important things to look up on the net to find it's real going price.

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     If you have or buy antique books remember this. You can NOT go by the prices in there. You have two things going on here. One. The high prices are usually documented by an auction where things go high. Auction prices you will not get, I can promise you that.

     If you quote to a dealer, "This is listed in Kovels for X." A dealer is going to smile and walk (if they don't run) away from you never to return.

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     The second thing: In the books that list everything you have to remember one thing; There is not one single person on this planet that knows the price of every collectible and antique out there. It's just not possible. Always get a second opinion, look on line, and compare books. Believe nothing of what you hear, and only half of what you read.

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     How much can you get out of your item? Only what a person is willing to pay. You will hardly ever get book price, and if they are a dealer you will NEVER get it. If you never get it, you have a nice item you can't sell.

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     What you all might find sad. My stuff really isn't worth that much one at a time. I get something worth a bunch, its outta here. Oh sure I have an item here or there worth some money, but it's not here because its worth "X" it's here because I love it. Such is the life of a Junker.

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     Here is another tip. Let us say you want to sell on eBay. Don't list your item high. Let the collectors make the price. This I see a lot with books. You go to the rare books sites and they say your book is worth $5000! Good luck with that! There is something either really special about this book, or they are out of their minds. There is always someone else out there selling it for a good reasonable price. Do your homework! There is always a small chance you have that rare high priced item. Find an expert and get it appraised professionally.

If you are afraid of not getting what you want out of it eBay is not the place for you.

The very last tip to being a great junker? Love people. All kinds of people, because that is who you will be dealing with!