How Online Auctions Revolutionized the Antique Market

How Online Auctions Revolutionized the Antique Market

There are treasures everywhere you look. Rare things. Exquisite things. Glorious, decadently opulent things. Tarnished things. Rusted things. Obscure, indistinguishably dull things. These objects are not in a gallery, a museum, or a royal palace. These items are not in a yard sale, an attic, a basement or garage. They’re all available for purchase online.


The digital marketplace is revolutionizing how antiques are being bought and sold due to the inefficiencies of cluttered antique shops and the competitive connections facilitated through online marketplaces.


When a customer walks into an antique shop, the typical question to ask is, “Can I help you find something today?” or, “Are you looking for anything in particular?” 9 times out of 10 they are. Whether it’s a Francis the First salt spoon, The Beatles’s Abbey Road Vinyl, or an edition of Ben Franklin’s Old Farmer’s Almanac, the problem many antique stores face is not necessarily “possessing a certain item” but locating it. Many antiquers are ready to go on a treasure hunt, and they’re in luck. With one employee, thousands of items some as small as a rotary broach to items as large as massive mahogany chest – finding a specific item in an antique store is like finding a needle in a haystack. Items get buried, moved, manhandled, and stolen, so the likeliness of a part-time sales associate being able to pinpoint the attenuate antique you’ve been searching for is slim to none. However, the online marketplace has the unique ability to organize and aggregate items big and small, expensive and inexpensive, in an easy to read, simple to sort format.

As a former sales associate at a local antique shop, I can’t tell you how many times I had a customer try to offer me half and yes, even a quarter of the ticketed price. Many people perceive antique stores as a flea market, garage sale, or a charity case and just want to give you “a little money” for your item. They do this because it may be 6 months, a year, or never before you get another offer. The sad statement is, before the invention of the internet, they would be right. The internet has 3.2 billion users across the globe giving anyone who has an online store the opportunity to sell to 3.2 billion people. The once “needle in a haystack offer” becomes 3.2 billion fish in the sea. Like traditional auctions, online auctions truly define the value of an item-what people are willing to pay. Unlike traditional auctions, online auctions reach billions of people in a single listing. Online auctions match the right product with the right buyer. Because antiques are often one of a kind, rare items, the right buyer and right seller could be thousands of miles apart. Only the internet has the ability to make that connection. The antiques industry is a $1 billion industry. An industry, that 15 years ago was done all in brick and mortar stores.


Today, 64% of reported antique sales are done online, according to an article by Consumer Reports.


The internet has revolutionized nearly every industry and the antique market is no exception. It has the unique ability to magnify a specific market, its buyers and its sellers, and propel an industry into uncanny success.


Online auctions are the future of the past, and the future is now.




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