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A long story, made short and then lengthened again

flatback
Flatback to the drawing board

How time flies…and other such bon mots of clicheville. I hadn’t realised it had been over a month since my last post but it has, it seems, and as the minutes, hours, days and weeks headed south for the winter, so my attention was turned to other things.

Anyone in business will understand that if something isn’t working it needs changing. Cue some hefty decision making and sacrifices on our part to try and head in a more profitable direction. Our main aim (that’s business partner and myself) is to be able to find ourselves a bigger place to live. We currently occupy a shoebox. One where the architect’s aim was to capitalise on the ground space available rather than the living conditions. There is a slight similarity with Victorian living for us: cramped conditions and too many ornaments, though thankfully we do have running water and an inside toilet.

We’re not after a jet set lifestyle (though a holiday would be nice), or loose cars and fast women; there are no ambitions towards rock n’ roll hedonism just a second bathroom, a kitchen with more than a metre of worktop space and a workshop for me so I don’t have to sand furniture outside in the rain.

The first part of realising this ambition began in November with our “Posh Fair”. Our relative success has spurred us on and we have now booked for four more this year. We have revamped our stock: collecting together beautiful objets d’art, fabulous jewellery and rare collectables (ouchies for the bank account). To clear out some of the bits n bobs which have been hanging around for so long they are, quite frankly, starting to hurt our eyes with their lingering, mouldering presence, we are also operating as wholesalers – let someone else deal with all the Staffordshire flatbacks, broken snuff boxes and bright copper kettles ( really not one of my favourite things).

This is a sweeping change. In one corner – top quality antiques, jewellery and fine art and in the other, old bits of brass, diamante and poorly executed daubs. Really? who can tell the difference I hear you ask. Well the discerning collector for a start. One who won’t quibble over price, who will expect to pay what an object is worth and who think the E in Ebay stands for evil.

I actually do, even after a week of cell blindness
I actually do, even after a week of cell blindness

As part of this business partner and I have decided to clear out our Etsy store by having a bit of a sale. Most of the stock will be removed and the shop will retail only the best quality (we may even move to Ruby Lane) Its hard work as there is a lot of sorting involved but we’re closing next  Monday for a complete revamp. So yes there is only one week to grab a bargain with a 25% discount.

All this, plus building the ultimate in office management suites (it should have been done in MS Access but quite frankly that sent shivers down my spine so I’ve ended up creating a rather magnificent, if I do say so, beast in Excel), has torn me away from the interwebs – a rent, I must confess , which has not been so difficult to bear.

So please, forgive our absence for a wee while longer. We will be back with a new name, new branding, new stock and of course our world beating Office Management Suite…if I ever get it finished. Now where did I leave that macro?

Follow us on social media: Google+, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest  for more on these exciting developments as they happen.

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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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