How to Quiz an Antique Dealer

February 9, 2010 § 11 Comments

At the last Hillsborough Antiques Show In November of 2009, Show promoter Nancy Johnson distributed bookmarks titled “Antiques, How to Shop Wisely; when shopping for antiques and collectibles, ask the dealer.”

 I was really tickled by the document, because to me, it read like a laundry list of information that we at Vintage European Posters volunteer to everyone who spends time at our table! We really enjoy sharing our knowledge of posters and of antique paper with our clients.  If you’ve seen us at a show then you know we love to learn from you too.  Over the years, our clients have shared all kinds of detailed information about the evolution of the aircraft, military history, the bicycle, the radio and many other topics of interest to poster collectors and history buffs alike.  

 Here is the list of questions from the FTC which you should ask antiques dealers when you are considering a purchase.  Read on to see our detailed answers. Enjoy!

 When Shopping for antiques and collectibles, ask the dealer:

*How long have you been a dealer?

*Do you belong to any professional organizations, like dealer associations, appraiser associations, or organizations related to specific types of merchandise?

*Do you specialize in certain items? Dealers who specialize can teach you a lot about telling the difference between real antiques, reproductions, & fakes.

*Do you carry reproductions? If dealers have reproductions mixed in with antiques, the reproductions should be labeled clearly. If they’re not, be careful: Some reproductions are so well done that even experts can have trouble recognizing them for what they are.

*How do you know the item is genuine and not a fake or reproduction?

* How did you determine the price for the item?

*What criteria did you use to identify the item?

*Will you guarantee the authenticity of the item in writing? If the dealer isn’t willing to give you a guarantee, don’t disqualify the purchase. Many dealers buy items without absolute certainty about their authenticity, but the price should reflect that.

*What is your return policy? A reputable dealer should agree, in writing, to take back anything that was misrepresented.

(Reprinted from the Federal Trade Commission & Professional Show Manager’s Association Bookmark, 2008)

Here are the answers from Vintage European Posters Owner, Elizabeth Norris:

* How long have you been a dealer?  Vintage European Posters was established in 1997. I have worked with posters first as an assistant, beginning in 1997 as well.  I bought the business Vintage European Posters California outright in 2003. Vintage European Posters in Maui is still in business, and is owned by VEP founder Alan Dickar

*Do you belong to any professional organizations, like dealer associations, appraiser associations, or organizations related to specific types of merchandise? We belong to the International Vintage Poster Dealer’s Association, the IVPDA.  I am the Vice President and Secretary of the Organization.  We also belong to the Ephemera Society of America and the Oakland Heritage Alliance.

*Do you specialize in certain items? Dealers who specialize can teach you a lot about telling the difference between real antiques, reproductions, and fakes.  We specialize in Vintage Advertising Posters from France and the US.  We also carry some Swiss,Italian, and Danish Posters.  Within those categories, we have a special area of interest in Military Posters. We DO NOT specialize in movie posters, rock posters, Russian or Polish Posters.

 *Do you carry reproductions? If dealers have reproductions mixed in with antiques, the reproductions should be labeled clearly. If they’re not, be careful: Some reproductions are so well done that even experts can have trouble recognizing them for what they are.  We do not carry any reproductions

*How do you know the item is genuine and not a fake or reproduction?We buy our posters on paper.  We look closely at the quality of the paper (reproductions are often printed on heavier stock than originals) We evaluate printing, and in the event something is questionable we use a black light to check for flouresecence in paper.  Papers manufactured post 1950 will flouresce. I am also scrupulous about where I buy. 

*How did you determine the price for this item?  The price for a Vintage Poster is determined by 1) Rarity- how many are in circulation 2) Artist 3) Condition 4) Demand 5)  Topic.  We also use auction records to track market value and try to price with the market value in mind.

 *What criteria did you use to identify the item?  I evaluate the paper, the printing, and the source.  We also use books, auction catalogues, our own database of 14,000 posters we have bought and sold over the years and the web to check the size, condition and other criteria of the posters we buy.

 *Will you guarantee the authenticity of the item in writing?  We guarentee the authenticity of everything we sell.  We issue a printed receipt with every purchase which includes a photograph of the poster purchased, the artist, the title, the year, printing method, price and the fact that the piece is original.  This written receipt is your guarantee of authenticity.  Additionally, we will happily issue a Certificate of Authenticity (COFA) upon request if you want something to put on the back of your frame which doesn’t list  the price of the artwork. 

 *What is your return policy? A reputable dealer should agree, in writing, to take back anything that was misrepresented.  We want you to be happy with your poster forever.  We never want you to feel ‘stuck’ with something.  We have a 7 day no questions asked return policy.  If you decide to return your purchase within 7 days, we will refund your purchase price in full, less any fees for shipping and payment processing.  After 7 days, you may return merchandise for store credit. 

Learn more about Oakland Based dealer Vintage European Posters at our website www.vepca.com where you can view our entire collection. 

Learn more about the Hillsborough Antique Show at www.hillsboroughantiqueshow.com where you can print a coupon for discounted admission to the show. 

 Learn more about the FTC information for consumers at www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/alerts/alt039.shtm

Buy Vintage Posters from a knowledgeable dealer and you will be delighted.

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