Antiques: A How-to Guide

By Casi Owens

 What exactly makes an antique? Where do you go to buy one? What should you pay? When is the best time to buy? Why are antiques so collectable?

Curt Mark, a collector, buyer and seller of five years of antiques, said the best place to go is to an auction.

Now you maybe asking yourself, what exactly is an auction? An auction is a place where anyone can buy antiques. Mark said, “When you walk in you get a number, sign your name, address and phone number. They also check your driver’s license.” Mark said to pay attention to the start time. He said if you could get to the auction a few minutes before it starts, “It will give you more time to walk around and look at the items and being there early allows you to get some good deals.” He says most auction houses hold at least one antique auction a month.

Once the auction begins, the auctioneer gives a welcome message and it begins. “Most of the time they sell all the crap first,” he said. “The really good auctioneers will sell the good stuff first.”

            Mark stresses you have to pay attention to the bids because they go fast. He said to bring a pen and an extra piece of paper to write down how much you bought or sold for each item.

            When asked what exactly makes an antique Mark said, “It depends on what it is and who you are talking to.”

Exactly how old is an antique? “Some people say it’s 30 years, 50 years or 100 years,” he said. “For cars, a classic is 30 years and anything older is an antique. A lot of people will say for most things it is a 100 years, but that’s their opinion.”

How do you define something that is always changing?

“People lie and tell you something is older than it really is to get more money,” he explained. He added that a person can do research on the color and pattern of things like quilts or vintage glass. He said for things books and toys, look at when they were made. He said it is important to do some research because “people can be wrong.”

As for the worth of antiques Mark said, “It’s worth whatever you can get out of it. At auctions, it depends on the crowd and who wants it. People who want the deals with stay all day.”

Mark cautioned that the buyer should be aware, adding that if items are selling for less, “you have to consider we are in central Indiana , where we have lost a lot of UAW jobs, times are tough.”

When ask if it was ethical to bid on your own items to drive the price up, Mark said, “It is unethical, but it happens and when it does you don’t go to those auctions.”

He said if you are smart about what you are buying, you can make some money and have some fun collecting, buying and selling antiques.




Have you ever wanted to sell some of your antiques, but just do not know how to start? Mark said the first thing you need to do is contact the auctioneer. He said you can call the auction house and they will give you the contact information.

“The auctioneer will explain the percentage to you and how much he gets paid, he will assign you a lot and you lay out your items and sell it,” he noted, adding that you will also sign a contract to the percentage, sale date and what he will pay you. Mark said the auctioneer normally gets about 20 to 30 percent of the selling bid.

Mark said it is important to go to the auction where you items are being sold so that you can write down the sold amounts and have an estimate as to what you should make after the percentage has been taken out.

As for when your items will be on the block, he said, “Most of the items are grabbed in random order, but sometimes the auctioneer tells the assistants what to show next.”

Mark said not to be discouraged because “sometimes your stuff sells low and other times high.” He said, “Sometimes you have to cut and run!”

If auctions do not seems like the thing for you Mark said, “your other option is to sell yourself at sales, but you have to pay for gas, food and a lot fee that can cost anywhere from $60 to $100.”

As for other places where you can buy or collect antiques, Mark suggests going to rummage or garage sells to get pieces.