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Author Topic:   Changes in the Collector Market
Bob Schulhof

Posts: 194
Registered: Apr 99

iconnumber posted 05-23-2002 10:37 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bob Schulhof     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
We recently visited Los Angeles and did our traditional tour of the many quality antique stores in Old Town Orange and Pasadena.

What we found was a lot of classic Hot Wheels, and a complete lack of antique China and silver. There was maybe 20% as much silver as a couple years ago.

I discussed this with one of the dealers who always used to have something that interested me. She said that there is very little to buy and that in the area the old estates have been broken up and very few estates coming on the market for dealers.

I can't help but think ebay has had it's affect. If I had some quality small antiques (not furniture) would I pay my rent to have it in an antique mall or store with maybe a few hundred people walking by? Or put it on ebay where thousands could find it.

What have you found? Have the antique malls become junk shops?

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Posts: 1502
Registered: May 99

iconnumber posted 05-26-2002 11:03 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Brent     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Here are my observation from Indianapolis:
  1. To my mind, there appear to be too many wannabe antique dealers and not enough actual antiques. The result is a lot of stuff for sale that is less than 30 years old, or even worse, new items masquerading as old.
  2. Antique malls need to rent their spaces to someone, and they don't tend to be too picky about who it is. Some malls obviously care, and do try to only have dealers who deal in vintage items, if not always antiques.
  3. We have been here one year, and I have seen one mall go from a mixture of antiques and reproductions to almost entirely reproductions, if you can believe it. The last time I was there there was only a handful of items over 50 years old, and most of the rest were right out of the box.
  4. Silver, when you find it, is either ridiculously under priced or ridiculously overpriced.
  5. Most mall dealers have no idea what they are selling, and don't really care. Some do, though, and they generally are the first to leave when a mall starts sliding downhill.
  6. The big antiques shows this year have been fairly disappointing for the dealers. Sales are way off, for a variety of reasons. Still, I have heard rumblings that people just aren't collecting like they used to, which may be a more ominous trend.
more later...


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Bob Schulhof

Posts: 194
Registered: Apr 99

iconnumber posted 05-26-2002 11:53 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bob Schulhof     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Appreciate your comments, and wish we heard from more people.

Your observation that there are too few real antiques on the market and the dealers sdeeing too few customers would be consistent with ebay uber alles.

There were 9200 pieces of Sterling on Ebay today, some of it very interesting to me, which varies by collector. Quite a bit of it sells in a given week, quite likely more than all the dealers sell in the country combined.

To me this doesn't indicate a lack of collecting interest. It does make it harder for a dealer to buy anything and make a profit, and also seems to use up my collecting budget before the next antique show.

I remember the day I wanted to sell some silver and Replacements generously offered me about 20% of what they were selling it for. Probably silver dealers can only pay between 20% and 50% of retail to make a profit, except possibly for things that they know they can turn immediately.

It is pretty nice for me as a collector to be able to buy a piece for $50 and know there was a buyer right behind me at $49 should I want to sell.

Is the silver dealer the next dinosaur? Where do they buy? Are there still good estates where you can buy something over their dead body and the seller doesn't know what it is worth?

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June Martin
Forum Master

Posts: 1223
Registered: Apr 93

iconnumber posted 05-26-2002 12:47 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for June Martin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I think Ebay is definetely the overriding driver in changing the distribution channels for antiques. As Bob points out, why would a seller choose to put a nice piece of silver in a shop or mall or show where a few hundred people may see it when on Ebay the viewers come in greater numbers? If a dealer is in business, Ebay makes good business sense. We poor collectors and lovers of the hunt may have to satisfy ourselves with the tedious task of trolling Ebay and competing with everyone else. I think we can count the days when we can take off on the road and hope to find some delightful surprises. I guess that's progress.

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Bill H

Posts: 31
Registered: Jan 2002

iconnumber posted 05-26-2002 09:04 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bill H     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
As a collector, some of my best memories come from spending a few hours in an afternoon, talking silver with a knowledgeable dealer, looking at their new stock, listening to their stories, maybe even making a purchase...just enjoying each other's company and shared interest.

This pleasure is lost with eBay. Certainly I have access to more material, but the joy of collecting has been reduced to the act of acquisition. Certainly not as rich an experience as before.

Forums such as this allow for collectors to come togther again, to share the stores and information. Please keep up the great discussions!

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Bob Schulhof

Posts: 194
Registered: Apr 99

iconnumber posted 05-26-2002 09:34 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bob Schulhof     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thank you for your comments. Yes this kind of discussion may be our substitute. Your remarks in the joy of collecting brings me back to our most enjoyable years where collecting meant going off on a trip to somewhere we had never been before like the California Gold Country or the Baltimore Silver show with friends and the discovery of a new piece was just a part of the total experience.

Is this now lost? Well if so, would you please go get your favorite piece or place setting and post it on my Place Settings Forum so we can at least use this new medium to play show and tell?

Any dealers out there who would care to comment on the changes taking place?

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Posts: 58
Registered: May 2002

iconnumber posted 05-27-2002 07:05 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for suefromoz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I have just joined your fascinating Forum and have read these posts with great interest. The loss of the Antique store is apparent in Australia also. Oh, they are still there but are either selling virtually nothing, partly due to high prices, or have turned to more commercial items. New and nasty. I doubt that this is going to improve either.

I have recently been able to give up a job I disliked immensely and sell full time on Ebay. It has opened up a world of learning and enjoyment for me that would not be obtainable otherwise. For many, many years I have wished I had the resources and knowledge to open an antiques store but circumstances did not permit this. So I started by buying and went on to selling online. It has grown. And, I hope, I have too.

The immediate and direct result of this is that I have been able to access the knowledge that others have been willing to share. I believe firmly in this sharing and , in turn, will do likewise when I am confident enough in a particular area. My own interests were Oriental and English ceramics and now silver has been added to this also. I appear to be collecting sugar tongs. Well, 2 so far! But both over 200 years old. I could never have afforded or found this new interest without being part of the selling side. A major plus for me.

In the buying that I do weekly, there are always a good few things that I need to research, beyond my books. Books, I am amassing, but the ability to discuss is precious and very valuable to me. I mean that in a personal sense, although I also strive to present correct information when selling.

I look forward to learning about and enjoying the new silver world that has been opened up for me and I thank Brent most sincerely for directing me here. Before this I had never even heard of a cheese ball holder!


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Posts: 1069
Registered: Jun 99

iconnumber posted 05-27-2002 07:11 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for FredZ     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Here in the Southwest it is a similar scene as you all describe. Many of the fine dealers, who would occasionaly have wonderful items for me to buy, are now doing there selling on ebay. I have decided that the trend is not bad or good, just changed. I now have to search for many items on ebay. Occasionaly I still find what I am searching for at the malls and the private stores. Estate sales yield some wonderful finds as well. I can even discover great items at thrift stores. A great deal has changed with the advent of this new technology. We have to search for new ways to feed our passions and addictions. The new technology has allowed this fabulous forum as well and the access to a plethera of information. I have made a great many friends and valuable contacts over the years on the internet and even ebay. I would not want to change it back to how it was. The search is still the greatest thrill for me and the acquisitions are secondary. When I started collecting... The Salvation Army was my greatest resource.... That is no longer the case... As they say "The only constant is change."

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Posts: 1502
Registered: May 99

iconnumber posted 05-29-2002 04:06 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Brent     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Here are a few positive observations:
  1. eBay is still a source for tremendous bargains, and probably always will be to some extent no matter how many people use it. Any decent silver dealer these days is using it both to sell and buy. I would say that eBay has probably helped most dealers who have embraced it as a valuable tool, rather than shunned it as competition.

  2. Some silver pieces will always sell better in person than on the internet.

  3. I don't think the silver dealer will ever disappear. Every metropolitan area of any size can support at least one silver dealer, and probably more.

  4. Brides are still registering for sterling flatware at a decent pace, believe it or not. There is more interest in fromal entertaining these days, and silver is certainly part of it.

  5. There are still fields within silver that are greatly under appreciated. Modernist American manufactured silver, Continental silver and contemporary craft work is all under priced in the market.

  6. Anyone can get hooked on silver, and at any age. Show a child some silver, and you may have a new collector on your hands!

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Posts: 327
Registered: Mar 2000

iconnumber posted 05-31-2002 07:42 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for t-man-nc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote

Observations from the southeast mirror the same as other areas of the country. I have found that the smaller the local the more likely you are to find some rarities. Most of the Tourist Type locations in NC tend to be over priced, while true Antiques (silver) ever show up.

Since WEV's interesting Forum on Coin Silver got my attention, I have found that within about 100 miles in any direction, I can find a couple of bargains at a number of Malls, Antique stores, Flea markets, and Junk shops.

I stumbled on a coin mustard container / jar for under $100. which if you look on Ebay should bring more. Several Coin Teaspoons for 3-5 and a couple of Tablespoons for under 15.

So there are some places that do not use computers, and the Knowledge base on some subjects is not refined and the bargains do exist.

As for those places that use Ebay and sell in stores, I have found that the prices are 125 to 250 % higher in the store than you would find on Ebay.

Common Coin Teaspoons for 50 to 60 dollars each as an example.

Some of the sellers that have web sites will increase their silver 300% over the Ebay prices and some how they find buyers...?

The distribution channels like Ebay, Yahoo, MSN have greatly increased "Casual" Knowledge of antiques, and as they as a little knowledge in antiques can cost you a lot of money.....

I still look for specific hard-to-find items to complete my collection and will continue to make purchases on line and off, but I feel that to participate in the Ebay type frenzy may prove to be a little too much for me to sell pieces on.

I have a problem... If a piece is worth about $20, I have a hard time watching two people bid it up to $300, and not feel like I am taking advantage of someone....

Any Thoughts... "Smaug"

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Crocodile Mark

Posts: 55
Registered: Feb 2002

iconnumber posted 05-31-2002 09:35 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Crocodile Mark     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There isn't much difference here in Australia. Ebay has given everyone the opportunity to sell there own silver from their own home. Unfortunately it has caused the quality of the eBay auction to become very poor. The descriptions found on a great many of the auctions are poor, to say the least, and the photography is even worse. I find my auctions do well simply because I take my time and present good photos and I try to give an accurate description. I don't think I would want to buy from eBay regularly. Gone is the opportunity to touch and feel and allow an item of silver to impress. It has boiled down to bidding wars... shifty descriptions....... and sitting and staring at a screen. Maybe it is the future but does it have to be???

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Bob Schulhof

Posts: 194
Registered: Apr 99

iconnumber posted 06-01-2002 11:15 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bob Schulhof     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
We are pretty advanced collectors which make it difficult to find things on our want list even though it sometimes expands out of passion.

Yesterday on e-bay there were several delights to the eye, and while I would have rather enjoyed them in person I did get a charge out of even seeing photos of them and imagining. After all the biggest money maker on the Internet is still porn where pictures do not approach the real thing but are safer and cheaper. So photos must provide a vicarious benefit.

There is a complete 132 piece set of OLD Love disarmed, which at $10K is a good value but has no bids yet (excellent photography),
Some correctly attributed John Cook 1869 pattern forks that we have commented on in our forum and extends our research in the area, Some great H&S Medallion pieces, not the one we need but fun anyway and I bid $40 on an early 1800's French fiddle pattern spoon with great Hallmarks just because I didn't have one.

We recently picked up a couple key pieces for our R&B Trajan set from Antique Cupboard, one we saved $10 over website prices and the other we paid about the same.

And we did get to fondle it when we received it. We can't kick. People send me emails of rare stuff they have seen on ebay all the time.

We will often see a piece of Haviland China go for $30 one week and $90 the next (two people really wanted it) that would retail for $45, so dealers have to look at it as an averaging out process.

The fact that there are 9200 pieces of flatware listed has caused a number of changes. Since I have a regular job I cannot take the time go through every item listed in search of mislabeled treasures or even things I didn't know I wanted, which cuts down the fun. Maybe full time dealers can. This also means that popular collectors items that people might search for by name have a lively market while you might not sell a great old unusual piece that people don't know they want yet.

Fortunately the coin silver listings are only a few hundred.

Any of you who are dealers selling on ebay- where do you buy? Are the old estate sources drying up? Do people come to you with collections who don't have the desire or time to piece it out? Do you have to pay more because they know they do have an alternative?

Last note, ebay is not the most successful internet comnpany in the world for nothing. Possibly the greatest application of of the Internet is providing a market of diverse things to diverse people.


Highly collectible popular pieces will increase in value and as a buyer you can persuade your spouse that you aren't wasting money and that she can sell it over you dead body.

Unpopular ordinary stuff will go cheap if at all.

Those who want to expend the effort will find the most bargains.

Isn't that how it should be?

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Posts: 22
Registered: May 2001

iconnumber posted 06-25-2002 12:27 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Louise     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Hello all!

I agree completely with the sad state of antique outlets these days. I live in Dallas, where you would think sterling would be an easy thing to buy and find, unfortunately that is not the case. Most of the pieces here (either estate sales, thrift shops, or malls) are not of the quality or style I prefer (art nouveau) so I find most things on ebay.

Since I stated looking on ebay in 1999, a lot of things have changed. In the beginning I was buying like crazy. We joked about the mail box looking like Christmas every day. One day I actually had five post office plastic boxes full of treasures! Those days are now gone, now my big days are when I recieve three packages in a day. People are more likely to understand the computer and get out there and look. They are also a little bit more informed that in years past. Unfortunately this makes some of the deals harder to find, but they are still there. Since I also deal in a retail space I understand why so many dealers price as they do. Many of the spaces are too big or the dealer has so much that they have to get 300% markup or it just is not worth it to sell. My space is small so I keep my margin much lower and because of that my sales are great, even durring the slow summer months. So maybe the problem is not as much with on line auctions and sales but with many dealers over pricing their pieces.

I beleive we are all in for a drastic change in the way antiques are bought and sold. The basic things are getting lower and lower in price, but the very rare pieces are climbing everytime they make an appearance. So my thought is to look for the rare and fun things that will be treasures for all.

PS I have made semo great friends through ebay, some of which are members of this forum. Most dealer still enjoy talking to other dealers and collectors, even if they have to type to do it. smile

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Posts: 414
Registered: Jun 2002

iconnumber posted 06-26-2002 10:55 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Marc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Hi there to all.

As a successful show silver dealer with 22 years experience I can at least attempt to answer a few of the questions posed..

Silver is disappearing from shops for 2 reasons..

  1. Silver, like jewelry is a high risk item and is a target for thieves. It costs more to provide security to prevent losses and insurance to cover losses.

  2. Silver is being put on ebay. Why?.. the pieces are small and valuable and shiny.

Silver is one of the lower profit items around. Why?.. Because of the competition.
Market forces!
A Chantilly place setting is a Chantilly place setting and there are lots of them out there. I have to compete with all the discount houses. Since 1999, I have also had to compete with EBAY.. Folks walk up to the booth and after asking a price actually say "I can get that setting for $105. on ebay".
Sometimes I can beat the price, sometimes I have paid more and can't.

Replacement companies like the one here in North Carolina buy from a computer generated list.. The more they have of an item, the less they pay. That is why you see the disparity in buy - sell prices.

Where does the dealer buy?.. That is easy to answer. The same place you do!.. Dead people, shows, shops, tag sales, auctions, other dealers, ebay. Our advantage over the collector is that we do this full time.
At shows, we generally buy during set up, before the show opens. At tag sales we are the ones in line the day before. We call up the auctioneer the week before to see if the "silver spoons" listed say "sterling", or perhaps are marked "I.Vogler".

Buying at 20% or 50% of what I am going to sell an item for does happen, but not often, and not when I buy from the public. Buying from the public is a trust, and I, like many of us in the business bend over backwards to pay them fairly. If I get merchandise at 60% to 80% of what I am going to sell it for it works for me.

Concerning EBAY...It takes with one hand and gives with the other..

Buying is a lot harder, because the public and malls and antiques dealers now put on Ebay what they used to sell to us. Well, not all of them, but... If it does not sell, then they will offer it to me..

Selling at shows is a lot harder then it used to be.. A lot of my regular customers are just busting their Antiques budgets on the internet, so by the time the show rolls around, they are broke. The upside of this is that there will always be people who will need to touch the merchandise they are considering buying.

The amount of information on EBAY and the net in general, can make everyman feel as though he is an expert.

EBAY blesses me in 3 ways..

The first is that I can sell unusual silver at prices that would embarrass me if I priced them that high in my booth.

The second is that I can sell dead merchandise that has been kicking around for years.

The third and perhaps best reason, is that I reach so many more people than I ever could by doing shows.

I would like to say that the SMP Silver Forum is one of the best information sites I have found. I have helped and been helped. Thanks Scott, June and all the moderators and participants for making this so.

Marc Cutcher

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Bob Schulhof

Posts: 194
Registered: Apr 99

iconnumber posted 06-26-2002 11:38 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bob Schulhof     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thank you for your definitive response!

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Posts: 414
Registered: Jun 2002

iconnumber posted 06-26-2002 01:58 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Marc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A little extra..!

Don't give up going to your favorite shows. With the stock market in shambles it is only a matter of time until folks start investing in tangables again.


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Posts: 962
Registered: Jun 99

iconnumber posted 07-03-2002 08:29 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for vathek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Another problem is that rents locally have become so expensive that single dealer shops are only a distant memory. No one can afford to open a shop anymore, and people in my area are notorious for not wanting to pay much for stuff.

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Posts: 1203
Registered: Feb 2005

iconnumber posted 07-11-2008 08:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for jersey     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Just read this while tooling around & gee whiz.... all of these posts reflect most of the same thing happening in 2008.


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Posts: 962
Registered: Jun 99

iconnumber posted 07-12-2008 01:47 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for vathek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In my area near a large university it seems that most of the old estates that were put together by professors who lived in the same house for maybe 30 or 40 years and would travel during the summer and bring back nice stuff have all disappeared, their worldly goods dispersed to all points and now people tend to move much more frequently. I also wonder that more people tend to 'collect' something specific, whereas this older generation would have lots of nice stuff in many categories. Sadly I don't believe these days are coming back. Cycles only move forward.

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Posts: 414
Registered: Jun 2002

iconnumber posted 07-12-2008 04:18 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Marc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Hi all,

Let me add that with gold and silver prices where they are (high), and folks busting their butts to make ends meet,the quantity of good silver and gold being scrapped right now is comparable to that being done in the 1979 - 1980 era.

There are several new places to buy silver and gold, either for our collections or for resale..

Pawn Shops
Coin shops
scrap dealers

The pawn and coin dealers are getting silver and gold in, in such quantities, that most would appreciate some help in going through what they have.. They get rid of scrap every 2 weeks or so. I call or visit my contacts twice a week.

Be nice,.. be willing to pay them at least what spot silver is at that moment.. (around $18.75 per troy oz for silver today), no matter weather you are buying sterling, coin or 80%. This is usually 20% more than they will get for scrap. Do not be cheap, as they will kick you out. Don't waste their time..
Make your decisions fast.

Tell the owners that you are the local expert (if you are), and what you are looking for, and that if they have ANY questions concerning silver that they are buying, to call you on your cell phone... you will get calls like you would not believe, some of them asking for basic info "is it silver?",.. and always tell them the truth. If you do not know, tell them you will find out. Then do so and call them back.

Educate them. There are too many people doing business who think that they are part of a "secret society" and that what they know shouldn't be shared. Bullcrap! Spread the word..

When you first start doing business with a coin or pawn shop owner, always pay in cash.. It builds trust, and you will be called first.. and eventually, you may be able to pay with a check.. These guys do not take credit cards, ever..

This boom cycle in gold and silver is expected to last for at least another year, so go out, make friends with your local pawn shop owner or coin dealer, or scrap dealer, and increase your collection or your business.

There is so much silver out there waiting for you. Go do it!


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Scott Martin
Forum Master

Posts: 11377
Registered: Apr 93

iconnumber posted 08-25-2009 06:43 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Scott Martin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Even before the official declaration of the current economic downturn we witnessed a slowing of the antique silver marketplace.

During this period we kind of thought we would see more interesting things come to market and a softening of price. For us this hasn't been our experience. How about for you?

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Posts: 1626
Registered: Nov 99

iconnumber posted 08-27-2009 11:29 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for bascall     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
To a certain extent, things just seem to be holding for now which is fine. Not a lot of really surprising items showing up though.

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