The Do's & Don'ts Of Haggling In The Antiques & Collectibles Trade



Welcome once again to another instalment of 'Blog Post Monday'.

I'll be honest with you, I've been suffering from writers block this week.  The longer this lockdown has gone on, the more difficult it has become to think of new and interesting things to write about.  So, I put a cry for help out on social media, asking for ideas of what you'd like to hear about and I received some very good responses.  In fact, the idea for this week's blog was one of the suggestions sent in to me, so a great big thank you from me.

This week is about the do's and the don'ts of haggling over antiques.  There can be a fine line between insulting and accepting, and I'm going to give you my thoughts on the subject as a collector, an antiques dealer and as someone who has worked in an antiques centre.

So, as always, get that kettle on, get your note pads out and let me tell you what you should and what you definitely shouldn't do when buying antiques...



Let's start by remembering that each antiques dealer is a small business.  During my time working in an antiques centre, I feel like some customers forget this.  Each dealer has paid a price for the items they sell.  Each dealer has a lot of overheads that perhaps people don't realise.  And each dealer prices their items to reflect these factors.  Obviously, there will always be some wriggle room on price, but they are only able to do what they can do.  I would suggest that, if you feel an item is far more than you are willing to pay, find it somewhere else, because expecting a dealer to drop their price to meet your expectations is unreasonable.



One subject which is and will always be a contentious one is TV shows.  Look, I love watching the antiques shows as much as the next person, but you must remember one thing, and this is extremely important.  It is not reality.  Having worked in an antiques centre which played host to a number of the popular antique shows, I will let you into a secret.  A lot of the ridiculous discounts offered up to the stars appearing on these shows are scripted.  Not all of them, but a lot of them.  In the case of the antiques centre I worked at, the discounts weren't offered up by the dealers themselves, but by the centre.  This is in exchange for the publicity they get from the show being aired to millions of viewers around the world.

I remember one instance when a customer came into the centre and saw a collectible he was interested in, which was priced at £98.  He took me over to the cabinet and said, "look, I know how this works, I watch 'Bargain Hunt'... I want this item and I'm willing to pay £25 for it. That's my final offer...!"  Whilst I do love all of these TV shows and they do get a lot of people interested in antiques, they have also had an impact on the trade.  People expect to buy items for next to nothing and, unfortunately, this is not how business works. 



Let me put this to you.  When doing your grocery shopping at the supermarket, do you get to the checkout and start demanding to pay 20p for that £3 bunch of grapes...?  You don't, do you?  What you do is, you weigh up how much you really want them, against the price.  If you decide you do want them, you pay the price attached to them.  Whilst I'm not saying there shouldn't be a process of negotiation within the antiques trade, I am saying that you can tell the difference between a serious buyer and someone who is chancing their arm at getting something for nothing.

I accept that haggling is part of the trade and I love the fact that it is.  I think we can all agree that you get quite a buzz from the whole process.  But let's remember the points we've already discussed when we enter into the negotiation process.  In my eyes, the average industry discount is about 10%.  If you go into most antiques shops or centres, you will, in most cases, receive a discount of around 10%.  Obviously, there will always be the odd exception, but in general, I'd say it's the going rate.



There are, of course, certain situations whereby a dealer may be more generous with their discounts.  For example, if they have old stock and want to keep it moving, or, similarly, if you're interested in buying a number of items.  But, please manage those expectations.  All dealers are different.  Some will offer more discount than others.  Just because you got a hefty discount from one dealer, do not expect to get that same generous discount where ever you go.

I have been there, done it and very quickly learnt that you can't be a moron.  Nobody likes a moron.  People are more likely to cut you a deal if you're not a moron.  Generally, I live by the rule that 10% is the going rate, but if you're in the trade, dealer to dealer, you will likely get a bit more, it's just the way business works.  But again, I have learnt to manage my expectations and have set a bar of 20% for trade deals.  I never expect any more than that, but if I do get offered more, of course, it's very satisfying.  But, please, never expect.  Entitlement is an ugly trait.  In fact, if you're in the trade, it may well give you a bit of a reputation and word travels fast in the antiques community.  So, behave yourself.



To conclude.  My top tips for haggling over antiques are:

1.  Remember that each dealer is a small business and has overheads.

2.  Don't think you're on 'Bargain Hunt'.

3.  Manage your expectations.

4.  Remember that 10% discount is the going rate within the industry.

5.  Remember, expecting any more than 20% discount is unreasonable.

6.  Don't be a moron.  Be nice, be respectful and you'll be surprised at where it takes you.




Well, that's it for this week folks!  I hope you've found this guide enlightening.  As always, let me know your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below.  And, if you enjoy my posts, please show your support by subscribing to my blog, which you can do via the 'Home' page or by clicking on 'Create Account' at the top of this page.

Until next week, stay safe, keep buying those antiques and keep spreading that Source Vintage love!




Owner Source Vintage

Shop from Source Vintage here

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  • David on

    Ide really like to buy that vase from you. It’s priced at £90, what’s your best price please. Oh ok I can do it for 80. Mmm will you accept 50, no sorry that’s to low. How about 70. Let’s make it 60 and we have a deal. Oh go on then saying your such a nice person. Deal done at 60. The buyer goes home with the 60 pound vase .rings a friend and tells her she’s bought a vase at a bargain price. She goes on the say the dealer selling it didn’t have a clue,I got a bargain, you should come with me one day shopping there. The morrel to this story is. Stick to your original price, you will be more respected in the long run. X

  • Donna Hanson on

    It’s very unpleasant to offer some good things to sell and the dealer just has to be rude and asked that I “seemed” insulted. . . The potential seller, (me) of course was treated rudely and insulted me all throughout the exchange.

    It isn’t always the seller who comes to have a potential sale of their good items.

    I have bought a couple of things in “King Antiques Dealer” that were not perfect but had a shabby chic look.

    I had also bought vintage greeting cards from his store months ago, and decided to offer some (different ones) I hoped he would buy.

    I find antique dealers and consignment shop owners arrogant to approach.

    When he sarcastically told me to go peddle my items elsewhere, I should have wise cracked that he looked like “Sloppy Steve Bannon” to bring him down a notch or two. He wasn’t as special as he thinks he is.

    I was a nice as possible to him.

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  • Howard Emmerson on

    Hi Steven, so being in the trade for a number of years now I’ve experienced the good, the bad and the ugly side of haggling. One of which is the arrogant dealer, swathing about at a fair with an air of self importance. At Peterborough last year, one such chap pulled out a wad of money you could choke a Donkey with and literally threw £200 at me for an item with a price tag of over £400, needless to say he left with a flea in his ear and his obscene wad intact.
    Re: Bargain Hunt, I’ve appeared on the programme numerous times over the years, the majority of the so called ‘experts’ are polite and trustful of the knowledge you’ve built over the years, however, as always, there’s always the ‘bad apple’ in the bunch.
    One example if you’ll allow me, was at Nottingham Racecourse, Charlie Hanson (lovely guy) had bought a Georgian Solid Silver Marrow Scoop with his team and gleefully took it off to the Green room mid filming, Charlie Ross (one of the nicest guys in the trade I’ve ever met) came to see me, commented how nice the scoop was but stated that TF, the 3rd (expert) believed it to be as he termed it ‘spurious’.
    TF was looking at my stock later in the day, unaware that Charlie R had been to see me.
    I challenged TF regarding his consternation on the scoop and after a brief and slightly heated conversation he said arrogantly and with some venom “we’ll I wouldn’t have it in MY auction house!”
    Blood boiling I calmed myself lent over my pitch and whispered a little something in his ear, I’ll leave it to your imagination, but his reaction was priceless as he flushed up, stood straight, brushed his jacket and left rapidly.
    I suppose the relevance to this is that as dealer you must never be intimidated by a so called expert in there field, they will use it to there advantage, stand by your stock, you bought it because you know it, its background it’s history and its worth!
    I have to say, these situations are few and far between, in my experience 99% of the haggles I’ve had have been fun, sometimes informative but friendly with an outcome where the dealer and the customer part on happy terms.
    Hope this gives a further insite into the trade.
    Comments welcome,
    Howard Emmerson
    Class Antiques

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