Precious Vintage: How to Deal in Antiques and Collectibles for Profit and Pleasure

The  day job.
In among my more serious writing work I've been planning this guide to dealing in antiques and collectibles for some time. My last writing project, involving a murder in my family in 1881, was extremely 'serious', not to say harrowing, so it was something of a relief to turn to Precious Vintage. (If you're interested in the more serious book, you can read a bit about it here on my writing blog, or even pre-order A Proper Person to be Detained.)

Writing, even well published writing of the kind that I've been doing for more years than I care to remember, is, for all but a privileged few, not at all well paid. So when online sales became possible, I decided to try to supplement our family income by turning a lifelong hobby into an income source. I started selling antiques - mainly antique and vintage textiles. I love writing, but needs must, and the income streams from antiques and collectibles are much more controllable and far less random than income from writing. Besides, I love antiques too, and antique textiles in particular often find their way into my fiction.

Cue more than a decade later and although I'm still writing, the antique dealing seems to have become my day job. I have an eBay store and a shop on a splendid site called Love Antiques. I visit our local saleroom regularly, scour charity shops, antique markets and boot sales, or venture further afield to other salerooms.

I first started going to auction sales with my late mum when I was in my teens. She collected pottery and porcelain but I found I was always attracted to the textiles: shawls, linens, lace. This was at a time when few other people seemed to appreciate them. Gradually, I acquired a small collection of my own so that when I first thought about selling as well as buying, I had some 'stock' to move on. One of the first rules of dealing in antiques is to enjoy them and then let them go, because something else will always come along soon!

Precious Vintage
When I go to salerooms, or boot sales or markets now, I notice that a great many people, young and old, are venturing into this world in an attempt to make some additional income. It struck me that a simple, straightforward guide would have helped me when I was first starting out - so I decided to write one. Precious Vintage is a beginner’s guide: a look at some of the options available to anyone considering starting out as a dealer in vintage and antique items, even in a small way. My focus is on the UK market, although much of the advice and information is transferable, especially since so much buying and selling is conducted online and worldwide. The book looks at all kinds of options for sourcing your stock, and has a useful section on care of vintage items. It goes on to cover ways of selling, with a wealth of hints and tips about everything from car boot sales to auction house etiquette and online selling.

This doesn’t pretend to be the ultimate, definitive guide, nor does it promise to make you rich. But if you’ve been thinking about dipping a toe in the exciting and often lucrative waters of antique and vintage dealing for a while, but have been afraid to try, this may just give you the reassurance and the background information you need to give it a go.

The 200 year old house and garden.
You may be wondering what lies behind the name of this blog.
Recently, in an effort to consolidate our various activities (too many!) into a single recognisable brand, we came up with the idea of the 200 Year Old House. In the middle of some domestic crisis or other, my husband exclaimed 'how to live in a 200 year old house!' and it stuck.

He is an artist and woodcarver. He used to build and restore rocking horses. Now he paints, but also decorates pieces of vintage furniture in his own gorgeous style.  I write and deal mainly in textiles. But besides that, we live in rural Scotland, in a 200 year old house with an out of control 200 year old cottage garden. We have a wealth of knowledge about home restoration, cottage gardening, cottage style  - and the ups and downs of county living. My eBay store and Love Antiques store and our Etsy store all have the same name.

So many of my customers are buying vintage and antique textiles to decorate their own period houses and sometimes those same customers might also be looking for advice on caring for them or reassurance about bee friendly gardening, or hints and tips about living in an old house on a shoestring or just what it's like to live in an old house in an even older village in Scotland.

Follow this blog if you think any of that sounds useful or interesting.