How to Shop an Antique Show

There are many types of antique shows.  There are the very fine vetted shows like the Lauritzen Gardens Antique Show, there are the “regular” antique shows, flea markets, and the ever popular Junk Stock type shows.  I approach all of them the same way.

Antique Shows can be so overwhelming if you have never been before.  There is the crush of people and all that eye candy, or not.  How do you navigate?  Sometimes a good strategy is to start at the end and work your way forward.  The crush of people will be less, and you will have a bit more quiet time.

 Usually I take a quick walk thru the entire show “casing ” it if you will.  This gives me the chance to see where I want to focus my attention.  I find that antiques call to me.  They kind of say “here I am, come take a look”.  That being said, if you do see something that is screaming at you, you may want to act, because it may not be there on the second go around.  I tell myself if it is meant to be, it will be there.

Talk to the Dealers

They want to share their knowledge and experiences with you.  Sometimes you can find out the most fascinating information.  If there is something in their booth that is appealing, ask them the who, what, where, and when.  When did it come into their possession, what is it’s origin, who was the last owner.  Sometimes they have part of those answers and sometimes they have them all.  Finding out as much about an antique as you can only enhances the joy of ownership.

I once purchased three pieces of blue and white transferware from a dealer at a show because they were together.  They had been priced separately but the dealer was telling me that she had purchased the three pieces from a collector.  Well, I couldn’t split them up.  It was part of their story, part of their history.  I wanted that history to carry on.


Most dealers expect this and work that into their price.  You won’t always get a better price but hey, it’s worth the try.  When you are negotiating above all be respectful and kind.  You can usually offer 10-15% below  the asking price and settle on something in between.  The pitcher I purchased in the last post I did pay the full asking price for it.  I tried to get it down a bit but he felt he had priced it fairly and I agreed and respected that.  The bottom line is how badly do you want it.  Don’t be afraid to walk away.

Two years ago I was at our local Junk Stock.  I had just come off a buying trip thru the midwest and didn’t feel I could make a big purchase at this show.  Mainly I was just there to take a look and see what this Junk Stock stuff was all about.  I spied the only non junk item at Junk Stock.  It was raining and buried under a bunch of junk.  I couldn’t believe my eyes, is that what I think it is?  Yep I think it is, so I went to take a look.  All I could see was the side of a wooden box, that seemed to have a sloped side.  As I unfurled the junk on top, what I saw was a highly figured mahogany slant top traveling desk.  (Thomas Jefferson used one of these.)

18th Century slant top traveling desk.
18th Century Antique Slant Top Travel Writing Desk

The tag said WWll writing desk price 275.00.  I wasn’t in the market but I was surely fascinated.  The dealer saw my interest and came over.  I knew what she had was an 18th-early 19th C traveling desk with secret compartments and inkwells.  I did not give this away but I had no intention of buying it either.  She said make me an offer, I said this is beautiful, but I don’t want to insult you.  She said again make me an offer.  What was in my head was 195.00 but what came out of my mouth was 175.00.  She agreed much to my astonishment and I am now the proud owner of that traveling desk.  What the dealer knew was that selling that box at a place like Junk Stock was a long shot.  Most people in the midwest have never even seen a traveling desk let alone know what or who would have used one.  Whether she knew what she had remains to be seen but I am sure she didn’t know it had secret compartments.  I came home determined to find the secret compartment and sure enough it was there.  I was giddy.

Buy with Your Heart

Don’t worry about the practicality of where you will use something it will find it’s way in your home.  I have said this a million times.  Once you have asked your questions of the dealer and brought it home take it a step further.  Do some research.  Find out about the things you collect, broaden your scope and you will find it will enhance the joy of being the temporary custodian of an antique.

Living with antiques has been one of my great joys.  I tend not to buy the precious and fragile.  Okay I have broken things which is heartbreaking when you consider something has survived 100 years until it came into your possession, but you know that’s the breaks.  Very bad pun.  I loved them while i had them and they have created a sense of surprise in my home.

Get out there and have some fun.
Enhance your home!


3,265 Replies to “How to Shop an Antique Show”

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