Collectibles Business Owner The Buzz


There are a number of opportunities for self-employment when it comes to the collectibles industry. But to be successful in this competitive field, the experts say you need to pick an area you have a strong interest in -- not just one in which you think you will turn a quick profit.

"People have been collecting since the day Eve first saw that apple. There are always collectors," says Susan Pennell. She is the editor of a collectibles magazine. "I'd choose what appealed to me personally and surround myself with collectibles that I loved, not trying to chase the dollar. Businesses resting solely on profit don't last.

"You should always love what you do. Pick an area that you want to spend long hours promoting....And as with any career choice, make certain that before you commit your hours and your life to something, you are passionate about it."

Rich Rotman is a Massachusetts collector. He says picking the area of collectibles your business will focus on is the first and most important thing you should do. "Then become an expert in that area. The most successful dealers, auctioneers, [and] retailers are the people with the most knowledge," he says.

"Reputation is a key element to making yourself a success. Follow an honor code of ethics and good business practices. Your customers will be loyal forever."

Where you want to operate your business -- in a shop or over the Internet -- is the next choice you will have to make. Rotman cautions that owning and operating a store is very expensive.

"A retail operation works on keystone. That means that everything you sell is at 100 percent markup. If you buy it for $50, you need to sell it at $100," Rotman explains. "Often, the collectibles business does not have such high margins."

Low overhead is important, stresses Rotman. He adds that you might want to consider operating your business out of your home.

Rotman says he would recommend start-up businesses operate over the Internet. He offers several tips for gaining traffic once you set up your site.

"Provide plenty of information relating to your collectibles. Give people a reason to come [by having] a chat room, forums, information, products to buy, video or audio links. And finally, always make yourself available through e-mail," he says. "If your website is good and you do a little marketing to the search engines and newsgroups, then word of mouth will do the rest."

Whatever avenue you are interested in pursuing -- opening an auction house, shop or Internet business -- there are things you can do now to prepare.

"Talk to collectible retailers," Pennell says. "Most of them were collectors to begin with. Many doll and teddy bear shop owners have started [their businesses] because they were filled to the rafters at home."

Attending trade shows and auctions is also a good idea when preparing to open your business, Rotman says. "A lot of the work is done on the weekends with trade shows and going to flea markets. That is important," Rotman says.

He adds that networking is an important part of succeeding in this industry. "You have to be outgoing and ask a lot of questions. When you ask a lot of questions, people are always thrilled with the fact that you are asking them. That is how I started meeting people. When I went to shows with my family, I would go off on my own for a couple of hours...and I would ask people all kinds of questions."

Rotman says trade magazines are a good source of information about trade shows and auctions.

"There are also thousands of collectibles websites where you can send people e-mails and they are more than happy to respond to any questions you have. That is a good way to get rapport going with people in different industries," Rotman says. "You can meet a lot of people in different collectible chat areas, as well."

Negotiating skills are also an important part of surviving in this field. "Having some business and communications skills would be ideal," Rotman says.

Pennell offers several tips for people thinking about starting their own collectibles business:

  • Check out the competition to see if your idea has been done.
  • Find out about suppliers and how they will distribute to you.
  • See if artists will sell on consignment.
  • Set up a website and investigate other sites.
  • Market your website by asking for links to your site from other sites.
  • Try to get free publicity by writing for media. See if you can insert coupons into a mail-out that goes to homes in your area.
  • Invite collector club members to your grand opening.
  • Hold seminars at local libraries.
  • Try to attend and perhaps exhibit at trade shows (teddy bear shows, collectible shows and doll shows).

Pennell cautions that you need to remember that like all businesses, there are ups and downs when it comes to the collectibles industry. "Distributors may go bankrupt. People may not come to your shop," she says.

She adds that there are many avenues that one could take in the collectibles field. "For example, [there are] stamp, coin and sports card collectible dealers or contemporary art collectibles and there are antiques and memorabilia. There are as many things to collect as there are collectors," she says.

Links

icollector.com
Provides news and information on sales, dealers and galleries

Collectibles on eBay.com
Browse the collection and see how it's done on the world's biggest online auction site

World Collectors Net
A meeting place for collectors that provides news and links