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So many Pies, so few fingers

Image courtesy of googleBusiness partner said once that we needed to think outside the box, push the envelope and have our fingers in more than one pie. While I wholly disapprove of the business speak (which envelope? Where do I push it to? Just across a desk? When I’ve pushed it what would have been the point – its an envelope?) and we do sell some boxes (including a rather nice writing box which needs some attention but will be glorious) and I do like pies, the point was a good one.

Sometimes this game can be a bit like digging the garden with a teaspoon – an inordinate amount of work for very little reward – so spreading the work makes sense. A little bit online, a few choice fairs and so on and so on. Ideally we’d love to convert an old country pub into an antiques centre, keeping the bar and optics in situ (but of course only I would be allowed a tipple during opening hours);  but until the market picks itself up from the slump it appears to be in, we are stuck in our shoe-box, carefully picking our way to bed through a mountain of Arts and Crafts copper, bronze lamps and art deco beads.

The trouble with spreading the load is that it still creates more to do – don’t get me wrong, this is a far better way to earn a living than any other I have tried, but sometimes the lure of a little jobette in the local bakery, where my fingers could be in a completely different, fruit based pie or two, can be quite strong.

Nevertheless we do have our fingers in many vintage style pies and recently took a cabinet in one of our local antiques centres. A charming place in a little market town with great footfall and 7 day opening. We started with a few lower end items of “yesterday’s antiques” but despite business partner’s reservations, have now decided to raid our better quality stock – well it just looks better (and it is assuredly outside any of our boxes)

SO, every so often you may visit our store and find something missing – this is due to what we call our Antique Relocation Programme (ARP): don’t worry, if it hasn’t sold in the shop, it will be back online in our Etsy store within a couple of weeks.

The point of all this waffle?

Ahhh, today is the first day of re-integration for some of our ARP objects and we have some choice pieces too. They are back online with fluffy new descriptions and ready for the scrutiny of the Interwebs. Pictures (but no links) below. Keep up to date with whats on and offline by visiting us on our Google+ page, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. And under duress from business Partner, hopefully there will be a more topic ridden blog coming soon – maybe something on pies…or pyrex!

 

 

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Happy Birthday Touchstone Vintage

It’s our 1st birthday. Well, not our actual birthday – we’ve been in business for over 20 years – and the name Touchstone Vintage is a little over a year old, BUT it’s our Etsy birthday. We opened our Etsy store one year ago today. An insignificant date really (unless its your birthday too) but we launched with no sales, fewer than 10 items and nothing more than a pocket full of dreams.

One of the first listings on Etsy.
One of the first listings on Etsy.

As with the first year of any business whether online or brick and mortar, the first year (so they say) is always a struggle. “Teething problems” is not the phrase. Learning to negotiate myriad terms and conditions, set up payment options, find stock: list, list, list. Photograph, describe, correct errors, deal with customers – some of whom are a joy to chat with, others for whom manners are a concept which only relate to someone else.

Then of course there’s Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. Never an easy bunch who don’t seem to want to make being in business an easy task. But…once these little pitfalls have been circumvented for the first time, they are never quite as onerous. So for our first birthday I would rather reflect on the sheer joy of hearing my phone make the “cha-ching” noise when someone purchases our vintage treasures. The cheering feedback from someone who is “Wearing it RIGHT NOW” and the friends we have made along the way.

It may have its problems but Etsy is a community, the focus on teams and forums has helped lead us not entirely blindly through the year and come out with a wealth of sales which exceeded our expectations. And for the year ahead?

Bigger, brighter, bolder

Well we have some great plans. Some larger heavier items, more focus on art and antiquities and a bigger, brighter, bolder store. We aim to move house this year, mainly so my office/workroom is not in my bedroom, but also so we can increase our stock to give you – the antique hungry public – a wider choice of beautiful objets d’art and vintage jewellery.

There’s no call to action in this piece except to ask you to join us as we step into our second, exciting year. We are sure there will be something you just can’t live without, a great gift for a family member or friend and a little bit of history along the way. Follow our blog through WordPress or via E-mail and join us on Twitter, Facebook, G+ and Pinterest for all the latest.

I’m off to blow out a candle and sup on something cold and sparkly. Maybe next year we’ll have a party to which you, yes you, will assuredly receive an invitation.

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Video killed the antiques dealer

Only one of many
Only one of many

Cue some light orchestral, 30s style background music, a vintage car and some antiques experts; stick several pins in several maps and what do you have? A televised antiques themed Eurovision song contest – entertaining but with little substance or artistic value.

I am thinking of one particular BBC programme here, but there have been – and I’m sure will be – others with a similarly simple premise: to buy and sell antiques and along the way “educate” the audience as to historic and monetary value of said objects.

The original Antiques Roadshow achieved this goal by drifting around the upper echelons: selecting high quality pieces appraised by genuine lifelong experts and realising (often) high prices. Looks of shock and awe notwithstanding, it fairly represented the current antiques and fine art market without the hovering spectre of “resale bargains”.

The TV execs next great idea was to add a populist twist. To create celebrities of the experts rather than the antiques, to create artificial buying and reselling opportunities and to create a market of “collectors” whose instincts are guided only by the pound (Euro, dollar, yen) signs in the eyes.

I should briefly explain the show I have in mind (Possibly the most entertaining but also the most damaging). Two experts drive several hundred miles, in five legs over five days with a starting budget of £200. On each leg they purchase 5 items and sell them at auction aiming to make an overall profit at the end of the week

Wonderful but with two MAJOR problems.

Firstly – retail pricing. The show presents bartering as an extreme sport with bargainous peaks and drops of up to 90%. Believe me, items with a starting price of £200 are NEVER sold for £20. Most dealers will circle around a 10 – 20% discount and no more.

With the installation of a TV crew, many a dealer’s marbles appear to vanish, creating a public view that unrealistic 90% discounts are standard. It is more likely that the BBC pays the full asking price off camera while on screen the dealer accepts improbable offers in the name of publicity.

Secondly (and this applies to most of the populist shows) the auction.

Antique dealers rarely buy from antique centres or shops to sell at auction. This makes very little business sense. Most non-specialised auctions sell to dealers who are hoping for at least 100% retail mark-up. General auctions (Depending on the auctioneer) will, at best, generate a trade price and often struggle to achieve full market values.

Worth a lot more at this fair than at auction

In this TV format this can mean substantial losses if the item was a little over-egged to start with. Auction prices on most TV shows should be regarded as a wholesale price – but sadly more and more retail customers think that because something sold for a song on TV it is worth far less than any ticket price.

While dealers agonise over pricing – allowing a bit for profit while not overselling; today’s antique outlet has become a temple to head shaking, eye rolling disbelief and reverberates to the sound of breath sucked slowly in over the front teeth. The bargain hunting spectre with exaggerated expectations, released from its televised prison, hovers – greedy and poised to destroy.

Naturally, there are other factors to consider – internet auction sites (where prices range from the ridiculous to the sublime), economics, payday; but nothing is such an exhaustive drain on value as false expectation.

Instead of just ranting though, I have designed a more realistic TV antiques show format – it maybe less entertaining but is certainly more lifelike:

Two experts travel several hundred miles in a vintage car with a budget of £200 accompanied by some light orchestral, 30s themed music gathering five items a leg over five legs. They can buy anywhere but at the end of the week they have a pitch at an antiques fair. The one who generates the most profit is the winner. The catch? The buying public, with unrealistic expectations, will attempt to knock their £200 price tag down to £20.

I’m still waiting to hear from the bigwigs at the BBC, in the meantime I’m off to re-price everything by 90%.

Check out some of our fairly priced antiques and very reasonably valued vintage jewellery in our Etsy store:

www.etsy.com/uk/shop/TouchstoneVintage

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