flea market
flea market

How to buy antiques and collectibles as gifts

Sometimes buying antiques or vintage items at a flea market is not just a quest for self-satisfaction. Flea markets are also the perfect place to find original gifts for your loved ones and friends when you’re running out of ideas (or not) to surprise them.

And if you’re still a little sceptical about the whole flea market thing, think of it this way: in a shopping mall or shopping centre, you’ll find stuff that was launched less than 6 months ago. At a flea market you’ll find at least 300 years of history in one place.

Still not convinced? Check out these great tips from Heather Camlot of Canadian Home & Country to become a flea market addict!

Top tips for finding the perfect gift for that special someone on your list

Buying presents for some people on your Christmas list is a breeze – Timmy wants a boxcar for his wooden train set, Mum is desperate for the latest P.D. James thriller, Cousin Mary wants clothes vouchers. Others, however, can be much harder.

Why not focus on a loved one’s hobby, collection or general interest and buy an antique or collectible as a gift – a vintage scarf for the fashion student, an antique camera for the photography buff. Sound appealing? Here’s how to choose the right gift and have fun doing it.

Antiques can be very personal and show how much you’ve thought about them.

Know their taste and style

Before you set out, have an idea of what you’re looking for. “Be very clear about what their interests are,” advises Laura Harding, co-owner with her husband, Douglas, of Southworks Antiques in Cambridge, Ont.

  • For collectors: Know what they’re missing and how particular they are about condition.
  • For stylists: Have an idea of their taste and decor – is their dining room dark woods and reds or light pine and sage?
  • For hobbyists: Let your hobbies guide you. “If someone loves Daschunds, get them a figurine, something they can start collecting, something that enhances what they already love,” says Harding.
  • For the sentimentalists: Evoke the past. Harding bought a Thumbelina doll for her sister, who isn’t a collector, and she loves it. “It brought back all these memories for her.”

Still unsure? Stick to items you would use yourself, or something that can be used in a new way. “We had a woman here who bought sterling silver sugar tongs as a shower gift,” says Harding. “Not many people use sugar tongs anymore, but she told them it was for picking strawberry tops. The brides loved it.”

Do your research

No matter what you’re buying, understanding quality and price is essential. But because of the rarity of an antique and the near impossibility of comparing two identical objects, research is key to knowing why pieces are priced as they are – and whether that price is fair.

Resource books are great for learning about identification marks and price ranges, although they may not be up to date when an item is available. “Demand can change. Chintz was very valuable a few years ago. Now decorators don’t want it,” explains Harding. In addition to general price guides such as Miller’s and Kovels, look for books and websites dedicated to specific antiques and collectibles, such as jukeboxes, coins or Royal Doulton bunnykins. You may also want to talk to members of a collector’s club, especially if your gift recipient is a member, as they may know exactly what to buy, at what price and where to buy it.

Shop wisely

Although the internet is great for research, Harding prefers to shop in person. “You have to be much more careful when you’re shopping online,” she explains. “The ability to take an item back, to take action, to get a refund, becomes more difficult.”Going to a physical store also allows you to get up close and personal with an item; to pick it up, look at it under the light, check for cracks and assess the best price for the condition. “The more you deal with antiques, the more you’re around them, the more things become apparent in your examination,” she explains. “It’s the right weight, the right size, the right markings.” Separating the real from the fake is a tricky business.

Guides such as Antique & Collectibles Trader and Repronews.com provide information on what has recently been reproduced and how to tell if an item is a reproduction.The best way to shop for antiques and collectibles is by word of mouth, says Harding. You can also visit the Canadian Antiques Dealers Association, which lists sellers who have agreed to adhere to certain standards and include item descriptions on all invoices – important if you need to take action.

While each shop has a different policy, it’s up to you as a buyer to inspect the item carefully. At Southworks Antiques, all sales are final unless the item turns out not to be what was described on the invoice. Be creative but play it safe

Here are some final advice and wisdom as you set off on the hunt:

  • Buy antiques, save the planet: antiques are the purest form of recycling, which the younger generation really appreciates.
  • Stay financially sound: even in poor economic times, a good quality antique will hold up for years and usually retain its value.  No re-buying because the MDF chipped.
  • Have fun: even if you don’t have an idea, browse to get your creative juices flowing.
  • Go traditional: if you like books, don’t buy a $600 book press. Buy a book.
  • Be fair: Stick to gifts that don’t need to be on display.
  • Buy with confidence: if you’re not happy paying a certain price, don’t pay it.

When it comes to antiques and collectibles, the more you know – about the item and the recipient – the better your purchase will be. “Antiques can be very personal,” adds Harding. “And they show how much you’ve thought about the person.”

So next time you’re travelling abroad, think twice before rushing into one of those boring, tourist-oriented shops that sell you a tiny Hong Kong Eiffel Tower for $40! Spend a few hours at the flea market, where you’re sure to find a genuine and inexpensive gift made just for that special person.

source: Canadian Home & Country