A look at the design, market and legacy of Victorian pottery

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Negotiating Your Majolica Purchase

Anyone who deals in antiques knows that just about any marked price is negotiable. If you keep in mind the following six rules, you'll have the upper hand in any price negotiation.

Most dealers know that people like to negotiate for a better price. For this reason they intentionally mark up their prices so that the negotiated price will approximate the price that the dealer actually needs to get. When you ask for their "best price" or their "dealer's price" you're going to get the price that they really need. Pursuing a further discount will generally cut into a dealer's profit margin, and since the profit margin for most antique dealers is in the 10-20% range, there isn't a whole lot of room there. Remember, dealers are trying to make a living. They don't go through the trouble of finding the piece, sitting through a five hour auction to buy the piece, cataloging the piece, marking the piece, packing the piece and hauling it from one place to another for the love of the antique. They need to feed their families just like you do. If the dealer's best price isn't near where you want the price to be, move on. Another one will come along. Nagging them for a bigger discount may work in the short term, but many dealers will just resent it. They will consider it boorish, and be less likely to offer you a good price the next time you want to buy from them.

Whatever you do don't try to negotiate a better price by pointing out the piece's flaws or trying the "you must be crazy to ask that" line. Dealers know what they have, what they have invested in it and its value. They're not interested in hearing you degrade their merchandise or the price they are asking for it just to get a better deal.
So the first rule of negotiating a price is to respect the dealer.

When buying directly from a dealer, you're in a better position to negotiate than if you're buying retail through a shop, but how you pay for your antique will also make a difference in the final price.

Most antique dealers and malls offer a standard 10-15% discount to anyone paying with cash or a check. This is because dealers have to pay a percentage of their sale to the credit card company for anyone who pays by a credit card. While many dealers today will take credit cards, there are many who still do not. This is particularly true in the case of outdoor venues where dealers are operating as their own agents. In large antique shows the show management will frequently offer dealers the convenience of credit sales for their customers, but at a price. This brings us to the second rule of negotiating for antiques: carry cash or checks. It puts you in a stronger bargaining position than if you need to use plastic.

The third rule of negotiating a fair price is to consider the venue itself. Dealers at a three day antiques show are generally more willing to negotiate a better price than someone who runs a shop. When you do your negotiation makes a difference too. It's a pretty well known fact that you're likely to get a better deal at the end of a show than at the beginning. Setting up for an antique show is difficult, backbreaking work and the less the dealer has to pack up, the happier they will be, so they are generally more flexible with their prices at the conclusion of the show. Of course the disadvantage here is that the most desirable pieces are often the first out the door and you're likely to lose out if you wait. This leads us to the fourth rule of negotiating.

Evaluate desirability. What are you interested in purchasing? An extremely rare piece of majolica is going to be more difficult to negotiate down in price than a more common piece. You certainly can try to negotiate down the price of that rare George Jones strawberry server but don't be surprised if the dealer is less likely to offer a big discount on it than if he would a more common server, so consider the item. If the dealer has more than one of the same item they will also be more flexible in negotiating down a price than if it was a one of a kind item.

The fifth rule of negotiating is bundling. The more you buy from a dealer the more likely you'll be able to get a better deal. It's not at all uncommon for a dealer to offer an additional 10% discount if you purchase more than one item from them. The more you buy, the bigger the discount. This leads right into the final rule.

The sixth rule of negotiating is familiarity. Being a repeat customer with a particular dealer will certainly give you an advantage when trying to buy from them. Dealers love steady customers. Often a strong customer/dealer relationship will incourage a dealer to buy especially with your interests, and your pocketbook, in mind. In such cases, the price offered in a private transaction is often much cheaper than if that item were put out on the shelf.

Negotiating a fair price for your majolica can often be very satisfying. Knowing that you paid a decent price and not an exorbitant one will make for a much more pleasant antique experience. Everyone likes to get a bargain. If you keep these simple rules in mind you're bound to get a good price and a lovely piece for your collection as well.

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