Thanks in large part to the popularity of TV shows about finding antiques and collectibles, there has never been more interest in doing so than there is today. A lot of people do it as a hobby, but if you’re good at it, it can also be a way of making a living. If this is something that you’d like to do, read on.

Establishing value

The most challenging aspect of trading in antiques for the beginner is working out what things should cost. Fortunately, the internet is a big help with this. It gives you the option of searching for similar items to see what they’re trading for. Doing this on your phone can help you get an idea of what it’s worth paying even when you’re exploring flea markets or yard sales. Over time, however, you will find that you can work much more effectively if you build up your knowledge. This is a field in which you should aim to keep learning all the time.

Safe storage and restoration

Once you’ve acquired an antique of a certain value, you need to ensure that it retains that value. This makes safe storage imperative. In most cases, this means keeping your antiques dry and away from bright light. You should avoid keeping different kinds of metals next to each other as this can speed up corrosion. You’ll need an adequate amount of storage space that’s free from pests such as woodworm.

If you’re trying to restore antiques, be very careful. Simple work such as cleaning away dirt with a dry, soft brush or removing the tarnish from silver can help you get much better prices when you sell, but more advanced restoration techniques, unless you’ve been properly taught, can lead to expensive mistakes.

Profitable types of antique

For those who know their literary history as well as traditional antiquing, there’s a good deal of money to be made in the antique book trade. Rarity is a big factor in this market – not just in terms of title but also edition, artwork, and theme. The physical condition of books is also important, of course. Fakes can be a problem, but usually only at the top end of the market.

If you’ve thought about trading in art, you may have hesitated at the thought that you’d need millions of dollars. It’s not all about Monets and Van Goghs, however. Some businesses are doing very well by identifying impressive work by artists who are not yet world famous. The Art Futures Group, for instance, collects works by Chinese artists and rents them to businesses.

Money-making tips

Get out and about

While it’s possible to buy and sell antiques successfully online, the real money tends to be made by people who spot bargains in unexpected places. Keep an eye on the local papers for sales of the contents of old houses – a particularly good place to find interesting items.


It’s impossible to be an expert in every area of antiquing, but by focusing on a particular area, you can build up your knowledge to the point where you can easily identify fakes and assess the value of items on the spot – an especially useful skill for buying at auction.


If you’re specializing in a particular area, get to know traders who specialize in different ones. You can look out for items that might interest one another, and alert each other to markets that you think might be promising without compromising your own opportunities.

Don’t fall in love

One of the risks of learning more about antiques is that you’ll get more and more attached to them. It’s hard not to feel excited about an unusual or beautiful item that you’ve struggled to acquire, but you can’t make a living this way unless you’re ready to sell.


Making money in the antiques trade is, ultimately, all about negotiating good prices. It might take a while to build up your skills and confidence, but there’s nothing inappropriate about haggling – it’s something that you’ll need to do if you’re to be a success.

Like any new business sector, antiquing is full of challenges and it will take a while for you to find your feet. If you’re willing to make the effort, however, you’ll find it an intriguing area in which to work. It’s an area where intelligence and curiosity are major assets and you really can get ahead through hard work. You’ll also get to discover amazing things that will give you a unique perspective on the world – and if you’re really lucky, you could get rich.