If you love antiques and have a great eye for the trade, learning where and how to sell antiques online can help you take your talents to the next level. Understanding how to market antiques is key if you want to succeed in this competitive business, and these real-world tips will help.
How to Sell Antiques Online
Before you decide where you'll be selling antiques online, it's essential that you understand the process. According to IBIS World, there are over 8,000 online antique retail businesses in the US, so you need to make sure your business can stand out.
1. Find Your Niche
When you sell online, it's a good idea to specialize in a particular kind of antique or time period. This allows your customers to think of you as an expert in a particular area, and it's a great way to get repeat business if they associate you with something specific. There are lots of areas you can choose, but a few ideas for niche areas include the following:
- Vintage kitchen collectibles
- Antique toys and dolls
- Tools and mechanical items
- Political memorabilia
2. Become an Expert in Your Items
One additional advantage to finding a niche is that you can become an expert in that area. You need to know everything you can about the things you'll be selling so you can properly identify these antiques and assign a value. Know how to decipher antique markings and which factors impact the value of the items. If you're uncertain, it can make sense to form a relationship with a trusted local antique appraiser. This information is essential for competitively pricing your antiques online.
2. Take Gorgeous Photos
Someone buying an antique from you online won't have a chance to hold the item in his or her hand. Your photos need to be good enough to replace the traditional shopping experience. In addition to making your items look great, the photos need to cover all the things someone shopping for this item might want to examine. Keep these tips in mind:
- Digital photos are free, so take lots of them. You can go through them and choose the very best ones.
- Take your main image from the perfect angle. Avoid reflections and distracting things in the background.
- If you know how to use the settings on your digital camera, try to blur the background to help the customer focus on what matters in your photo.
- Think about how your customer would look at this item in a shop. Then take photos of everything that matters, including the back, bottom, and any tiny and important details.
- Make sure you include photos of damage, cracks, or flaws.
3. Write a Compelling Description
Just like your photos, the descriptions you write for your items can make or break your sales. You need to include everything a shopper needs to know about the piece, including the style, era, features, and any damage. You also need to use your description to help market your item. Here's how:
- Consider your customer. What is it that makes this person want your item? Is this person a collector or just looking for a great accent for the home?
- Think about how your customer is searching. Is there an era or specific item this person wants? If so, use those terms in the description.
- Be honest so your customer will trust you. If there's any damage, describe it up front.
- What makes this piece really special? Your customer wants to feel like he or she is buying something unique and interesting.
4. Research Shipping Options
No matter what you're selling, you'll need to find a way to get it to your customer. Some things, like books or papers can be shipped inexpensively through media mail. Others, like very fragile antique china, must be carefully packed and shipped. Think about what you'll be shipping, how you'll be packing it, and which carrier will ship it best. Then make sure you include the shipping and packaging fees in your item cost when you sell it online.
5. Prioritize Customer Service and Interactions
Because your customer can't meet you in person, he or she needs to feel your support online. Be friendly in all interactions and give customers a chance to ask questions or express concerns. Encourage feedback, since positive reviews can help promote your business.
Where to Sell Antiques Online
Now that you understand what you need to do to make your business successful, it's time to consider where you want to sell. There are lots of options for online retailers, but a few are really good for antiques.
eBay - A Huge Customer Base
As one of the first places people think of buying and selling antiques online, eBay offers a huge customer base for your wares. When you list something on eBay, you are capitalizing on this gigantic pool of possible customers. However, selling on eBay requires a hands-on approach. You'll need to take photos of the items, write great descriptions, support customers directly, and handle shipping. Here are the basics:
- You can start an eBay store, which lets you specialize in a certain type of antique and set overall policies about how you do business.
- You pay an insertion fee and a selling fee, often totalling about 2% to 12% of the item's selling price.
- eBay lets you accept PayPal payments, making it easy to keep track of money and make sure you get paid.
Craigslist - Local Sales Online
Craigslist also offers the ability to list things online, but you are selling to a local customer base. The listings are free, but you need to do all the work. That include taking photos, marketing the items, and handling interactions with the customer. You don't get the added advantage of customers finding your wares by browsing; they need to search to find you. These are a few more things to consider:
- Craigslist doesn't penalize you for having an item listed for a long time, so if you want to wait for a specific price, there's no downside.
- Your customer base is limited to local shoppers. This means you need to sell things that are in demand locally.
- This is a great option for big items like sewing machines that are expensive to ship, but it may not be ideal for smaller antiques.
Etsy - Perfect for Creating a Brand
For a small listing fee and about 5% of the sales price, Etsy gives you the ability to create your own store brand. This is a good idea if you want to encourage a loyal customer base and an overall look and feel to your store. You can specialize in selling antique textiles, for instance, and have a whole store devoted to that. You'll be responsible for handing customer relations, listing items, and shipping everything. Here are some of the other considerations to keep in mind:
- Each listing expires after a period of four months, which means you'll need to pay to relist it at that time if it doesn't sell.
- It's a good idea to optimize your shop with listings that will show up in Etsy's search. Otherwise, your wares can get lost in the thousands of items available.
- It may make sense to promote your items by paying a fee, especially if you are planning to get repeat business or have antiques of great value.
Ruby Lane - Good for High Value Antiques
Think of Ruby Lane like a virtual antique mall. Just as you'd have a stall or booth at an antique mall, you have a storefront on Ruby Lane. You pay a premium to be part of the service, but there are some advantages too. Set-up fees can top $100 with about $69 per month in regular maintenance fees on top of that. However, for that price, you get to list up to 80 items, and you don't have to pay a commission when something sells. This makes it a good option for higher value antiques, which could have substantial commission fees on eBay or Etsy.
- Ruby Lane is a speciality service, which means people come here to specifically shop for antiques and collectibles.
- Although the up-front costs are high, the lack of commission can work out well if you sell high value items.
- If you want to list more than 80 items each month, you can pay a small fee to do that.
TIAS - Great for Lots of Small Items
If you want to sell a lot of smaller antiques, consider TIAS (The Internet Antique Store). This site, which has been around since 1995, does not charge per-item fees or a set-up charge for your shop. However, you pay about $35 to $40 per month, and there's a 10% commission. For high volume sales of smaller value antiques, this may be a good choice.
- You can sell just about any type of antique on TIAS, but it's especially suited to things like figurines, costume jewelry, and paper ephemera.
- TIAS isn't as popular as some other antique sites, which means you may need to do some of the promotion yourself.
- You'll handle listing and photographing items, shipping them, and interacting with customers.
Go Antiques - No Commissions
Go Antiques is another antique specialty site that lets you create a custom shop and sell your wares. You can choose from one of three plans, ranging from about $25 to about $75 per month. There are no commissions, and the main difference between the plans is how many items you can list. Because Go Antiques doesn't charge commissions, it's a great choice for big ticket antique items. However, it doesn't have the search power of Ruby Lane, so you will need to work hard to promote your business.
- Go Antiques is a good choice for any type of antique item. You'll see a lot of jewelry, collectibles, and glassware.
- Like most other sites, it's a good idea to specialize and create a brand. That gives you a look customers can count on.
- Go Antiques highlights new sellers, giving you a boost when you first start your shop.
Facebook Marketplace - Reach a Local Audience Online
Like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace lets you reach a local audience. You can list anything from a pair of headphones to a house, all from your own page or your business page. You can create a listing for free and use up to 10 photos to show the details of your item. However, to use the checkout portion of the system, you need to pay 30 cents per item and a fee of just under three percent. There are some reasons to consider selling antiques on Facebook Marketplace:
- If you want to avoid shipping and instead make local deliveries or arrange for the customer to pick up the item, this is a good option.
- Even the three percent fee for the checkout system is less than many other online selling platforms.
- You can easily promote your items using your own Facebook page or one for your business.
Turn Your Hobby Into a Business
It takes thought to set up a business selling antiques for cash or credit, but the results can pay off. Take your time creating a niche and choosing where you will list your items. Your work will turn a great hobby into a rewarding business.