When you think of antiques, you probably think of the tv show American Pickers. For some reason, people love watching those two guys drive around in their van and dig through people’s attics. I enjoyed watching the show regularly myself when I was living with my parents and had access to cable TV. It must be the youth in us who still love treasure hunts.
What you may not know is that you can do exactly what the American Pickers do if you have the necessary resources in your community. My dad and I started an antique booth together back in September of 2018 and it has been reasonably successful.
My mom had already been selling antiques at the same antique mall we sell at for a while, so we were able to use her as a case study before we decided to get a booth of our own. We got on the waiting list for a booth and within a couple of weeks, one came available.
Is there a good antique mall near you?
Obviously, you’re going to need an antique mall in your area. You can go on google and search antiques to find local stores. Once you’ve found a store, go check it out in person. There are different types of antique stores, so you might not have the same opportunity as I do, depending on your area.
The store I sell at rents out little sections of the building (called booths) to vendors. We have to pay a flat monthly rent fee and then 10% of our sales on top of that. Renting a booth is my favorite way to sell antiques because it is the most passive option. You could try selling at a flea market if you don’t have access to a booth, but you’re going to have to sit there all day. The antique mall where we sell at has their own cashiers, so all we have to do is put items in our booth and they handle checking out the customers.
If you have an antique mall that rents out booths in your area then you’re all set! Unless it isn’t a good store. You should go to the antique mall as a customer a few times to get a feel for how they run their business and see if it’s busy. If the store isn’t very busy, it may not be worth it to try to sell there. Thankfully, there have been multiple customers in the store every time I’ve been to our booth. If you have an antique mall near you that you feel good about, put your name on the waiting list for a booth.
You probably like antiques if you’re considering a booth, and finding the items will be the fun part. Here are a few places you can get antiques from:
- Yard sales
- Estate sales
- Thrift stores
- Local auctions
- eBay/Craigslist and any other online marketplace
- Online auctions
- Word of mouth/friends
With all of the different options of places to source from, it won’t be hard to find items for your booth. The harder part is getting the items at a low enough price to be able to sell them for a profit. It may take some time to learn what a good item is and how much you should pay for something. A good rule of thumb is to try to pay barely anything for your items when you’re starting out. If you can get items for a dollar or two, it isn’t going to be hard at all to make a profit.
I got a bunch of these vintage cartoon glasses for about $0.65 a piece. They're slowly selling at $6 a piece.
When it comes to what kind of items to sell, I think the more variety you have the better. Some people may do well specializing, but it’s easier to sell a wide variety and most of the time it’s more profitable. Just sell stuff you think is cool. Nobody is buying antiques for their practical use, they’re just collecting them. If you have cool items that are worthy of collecting, you’re going to have sales.
Something else you can do with a booth is sell repurposed furniture. Right now, it seems like you can paint just about any kind of furniture white and it will sell quickly. I don’t redo any furniture right now because I don’t have the time, but my dad has done pretty well with the furniture he has refurbished.
Pricing your items
Since I know I’ve got 10% coming out of my price, as well as the monthly rent fee, I try to to get close to doubling my money on each item I sell. Since we’re still pretty new at selling antiques, my dad and I are just guessing what something is worth most of the time.
One thing you can do is walk around the store and see if anyone is selling the same or a similar item as the one you’re trying to price. If you see someone else selling it, you can see what they have it priced at and try to charge a little less. It’s funny, a lot of mine and my dad’s regular customers are other vendors. It’s crazy to think that I double my money sometimes and the person who bought from me is going to try to resell it for even more.
You can also search the internet to see if the item is being sold and what it’s selling for. You have to keep in mind that the items selling on the internet have to be shipped and are priced accordingly though.
Setting up your booth
Once you’ve got a booth and have some items to sell, it’s time to set it up! My dad and I got our booth before we were ready, so we just had to throw our few items in the booth until we could make it look the way we wanted. My dad built shelves and put some beams up, so our booth kind of has an old general store vibe to it.
The important thing about setting up your booth is being different from the other vendors. Make your booth unique and you’ll have more people take interest in it. Some of the booths at the store we sell at look like the vendor just brought their items and dumped them in the floor. This is the worst thing you can do with your booth. Put some time into staging your booth to look really nice and you’re going to be moving items quickly. Think about ways that you can be better than anyone else in the building.
Mine and my dads booth is designed differently than all of the other booths with the way it has shelves around the entire booth perimeter. Since there are a lot of shelves, it’s easier for customers to look through our inventory and find items they like. I heard some of the other vendors talking about how slow their booths were in December and it was actually the best month my dad and I’ve had yet.
How much money can you make?
If you’ve only got one booth, you’re probably not going to be able to quit your job and sell full-time. It’s a fun little hobby, but we certainly haven’t been breaking the bank. Last month, we had a combined gross sales of about $1100. My dad sold a little more than I did and after the fees and cost of items sold, I made a total profit of $259.
The good part is that selling antiques takes very little of my time. I go up to the booth about once a week and I find antiques when I’m shopping for eBay items. I’m only spending a couple of hours a week on the booth. If you’re wondering why I don’t just sell antiques on eBay, the items I put in the booth either don’t sell well on eBay or they’re big and I don’t feel like packing and shipping them.
If you’re looking for a new hobby that will bring in a little extra money each month and like antiques, you might enjoy having an antique booth.
All you need is a good antique mall, some decorating skills, and items to sell! I love it because it’s as simple as putting a price tag on something and dropping it off at the store.
If you've got a question, you can join our eBay reseller Facebook group. We focus more on eBay, but I'd be happy to help with selling in an antique booth as well.