Sunday, June 22, 2014
Retailing with Dolls from Someone who Doesn't really Sell !
Really, I don't sell my dolls, and no , I don't want to. To paraphrase "Antique Week", I'm sort of a "collector's collector." You'll have to pry them from my cold, dead hands. I plan on entailing my estate to the point that I've effectively taken them with me. And then, why not? I could build a huge doll house mausoleum with al the dolls surrounding my sarcophagus with an effigy of the pewter headed Huret on top, life-sized, of course! Ok, Just Kidding! But, remember, I am not a dealer and I don't sell dolls per se. I have made them and given them away, and donated to charities like The Sun Valley School and The Salvation Army, but I am not a retailer. I do write articles and books about dolls and am sometimes paid an honorarium for doll talks and exhibits, and I plan to open a museum of dolls when I retire. I've written a business plan for the museum and I have some experience with estate dolls and finding buyers, but it is no where near the fantastic experience of Denise Van Patten, or Theriault's. Still, people have asked, so with hte disclaimer that I am not a dealer or professional appraiser, I will share tips with what I do know. eBay-eBay has step by step instructions for how to list and to sell with them. Almost everyone uses PayPal by now; this is a kind of account securely attached to your credit card or debit card. Note, though; there have been some passwords compromised recently. Everyone was asked to change her eBay password due to the breach. Still there are protections on eBay, and good methods of evaluation and communication. If you need more, try Marcia Collier's book "eBay for Dummies." She also has tapes that you can find in pbs.org archives. Some dealers are not happy with the fees associated with eBay, and many antique doll dealers prefer Ruby Lane. Investigate carefully before you list. I have bought on eBay, never really had a bad transaction, and earned my "star." I have collection boards similar to Pinterest's, and I find their articles and descriptions useful. Etsy: Etsy.com is a market place complete with blogs, followers, descriptions, and newsletters. I first heard of it on Martha Stewart's Sirius channel, and was intrigued because it featured handicrafts. Also, it is not an auction. Online auctions can be disappointing if you lose out on what you want, and don't have time to keep checking the listings. Etsy items are pretty much there all the time. Etsy stores online have real personality. There is always a record of what you have bought and liked, too. You can favorite sellers and stores as you can on eBay. Etsy is fairly easy to follow with clear instructions. Auctions: Theriault's, Frashers, James D. Julia, Noel Barrett, Morphy, Galerie Chartres, and many other auction houses, international, national and local auction dolls. Many of these auctions have newsletters often, and are active social media participants. It takes time to set up a good auction. There is a lot of work involved, and many allow absentee, phone, Internet, and live bidding. They often charge a premium for sales. They will get a percentage for their work, and you will get the rest. They engage in contracts and you should talk to auction houses directly for their terms. It takes time to set up, but it is a good way to sell a large collection. Facebook: For this selling option, review my article on my Facebook sites. Many are there for sellers to advertise their wares. You can request to join one of these groups, or start your own. Face book has a wide range and you can learn a lot about dolls. Big auction houses, About.com Doll Collecting, me, and various antique stores, including those I've reviewed, have Facebook sties. Communication is easy and collegial. I have never bought a doll this way, but I do like to follow the boards and join as many doll and toy boards as I can. Doll Lists: This is an old fashioned method still used. I still see doll list with SASE or self addressed stamped envelope requested in many doll and antique magazines and newspapers. You compile the list and send it out to those who request it. You will get it, of course, in the SASE. Keep a list for your own inventory and tax documents, and make sure they are priced. If price is negotiable, say so, or put "Call for Price" after those items. As you sell dolls, you have to amend the list somehow. Newsletters: These can be Internet or hard copy. Good examples are the old "Doll Talk" mini magazines from Kimport Dolls, formerly Independence, MO. They intersperse doll chat with prices of dolls for sale. Ads in doll magazines: Most advertise rates to place your ad. "Doll Castle News" includes many, just as an example. Ads in antiques and collectors magazines: These include "Western Doll Collector," "Master Collector," "Collector's Showcase," and others. See the website Somethingunderthebed.com for an assortment of vintage and current magazines. Ads in Pennysavers: Try the ads in local FREE papers that advertise bargains and coupons. Also try the free regional and community periodicals like "50+ Lifestyles," "The Radish," "River Cities Reader," etc. Ads in local papers: For that matter, big papers like "The New York Times", "The Washington Post", "The San Francisco Chronicle" and others also have classified ads. Check online versions as well, and ask them about rates to place ads. Word of mouth: Let your friends, colleagues, favorite shops and antique dealers know that you have dolls to sell. I would still have an inventory for what you want to sell in any of these venues, but it is good to be able to produce a list, or even a series of thumbnail photos, of what you have to offer. Estate Sales: Many antique dealers that have Yellow Pages listings also organize estate and moving sales. Call around, discuss rates, fees, organization, and other terms, and talk about what you have to offer. Be flexible, but check reputations and ask them which clients' estates they have handled. You might give it a go by checking them out on Angie's list, or Googling them to see if anyone has complained. Auction houses also handle estate sales or tag sales sometimes. You may want to visit one of the sales the dealer is handling to see if you like the way s/he does business. DIY estate sales: There are lots of books and sites that tell you how to set up your own sales. Do your research, have plenty of change, don't let strangers into your house, and make sure your dolls are in decent shape and organized. Decide if you want to take checks. You can arrange now to use PayPal on your Smartphones, and also take credit cards this way. There are certain fees involved in electronic payment, too, so investigate. Also, be careful of local ordinances regarding sales, what you can sell, parking rules, etc. DIY yard sales or garages sales: Same rules as above, but note that yard sale items are mostly price to sell. This probably is not how you want to sell high end antique dolls, though I've seen plenty of stories on "Antiques Roadshow" where someone made a killing on dolls at a sale. Flea Markets: Initially, these markets to sell everything under the sun at bargain rates were created to sell old clothes. The fleas were sometimes in the clothes, unfortunately! I sometimes see quality antique and collectors dolls at flea markets, and lots of newer dolls, modern porcelains, and Barbies. See, also, the pieces I've done on the Rastro in Spain and the Greek flea market in Athens. You usually pay for a space to the show's organizers, as you would in doll shows and antique shoes. Community yard sales: These usually attract lots of traffic. They are good places to sell modern porcelains, played with Barbies, doll clothes, toys in general, and stuffed animals. Craft supplies do well, too. Some are annual events, some are held in one place indoors like a flea market. Local festivals, e.g., Pumpkin Festival, Spoon River: These festivals often include flea markets and city-wide yard sales. Lots of tourists come to mingle and buy, especially in communities known for antique shops and malls. Antique shows: These are sponsored by show promoters, individuals, women's clubs, antique clubs, and other organizations. Some are held for charity and some for profit. Some are classy and upscale; you really have to "dress" to go. Others are come as you are. During my grade school years, dolls were abundant at our local shows. You could find French bisques, lots of German bisque makers, Frozen Charlottes, accessories, doll buggies, many figurines, and gorgeous china heads. Sometimes there were vey unusual ethnic dolls in national costume from the 20s and 30s. Ralph's Antique dolls was a regular visitor, and I still have a bag from one of this shows. Then, old dolls began to disappear, except for one or two dealers. Now, it is possible to find more older dolls and a few vinyl and vintage hard plastic. To sell, you would have to rent booth space, and honor the hours the show is open. Most shows set up the night before, and the items are guarded overnight. You will pay more to rent space to sell at an antique show than at a flea market or "car boot sale" as you would find in Britain. You might get more money for your dolls at an antique show. You will have to decide if you want to bargain with your customers. Consignment: Consignment stores work a little like antique malls. You consign your goods according to a contract and the store receives a percentage of your sales. At a consignment store like the chain Stuff, etc., your items are discounted up to 80% after they have been there a certain period of time. Dolls seem to be popular items. In some stores, consignors also work as part of their contract. Tax write off: If you don't like selling things or don't have the time to hold sales, consider donating dolls to a charity store like Goodwill or The Salvation Army. Collectors love these stores and dolls are regular commodities. Better items go to their online auctions. You can obtain a document from the store saying you made a donation and create an itemized list, then take a charitable donation. The Discovery shops of The American Cancer Society work in similar ways. You can also contact a museum about donating dolls. Some will buy dolls as well. Call or write to them first, and some have email addresses. Ruby lane: Many antique dolls dealers sell their dolls here, and Denise preferred selling hers there to eBay. Many high quality dolls appear on Ruby Lane. They also engage in social media, like Twitter. Dollpile.com: This is another site where you can list dolls for free. It works something like Pinterest. For that matter, you could set up a Pinterest board with information about the dolls you want to sell. Check the terms and conditions on the site first. Yahoo, Amazon, other online sites: These sites also allow people to sell dolls. Check the sites for terms and conditions. YouTube.com: One day soon I plan a post on my favorite channels with dolls. Some of these are done by stores like Gigi's Dolls and Sherry's Teddies and other businesses that sell dolls. Antique malls: You can rent a booth to sell your dolls. The rate is usually monthly. Sometimes you have to work a day or so a week at the mall if you have a booth there. It is usually up to you to maintain your displays. Sometimes, a percentage of sales may also go to the antique mall. There don't seem to be as many malls as there used to be. Some also feature eBay stores and online sites for buying and selling dolls. Antique shops: Many buy all types of dolls for their inventory. Call and ask for the owner. A dealer will offer about 40-50% of the doll's value because s/he must be able to sell the doll and make a profit to stay in business. Keep them: Not everyone is a collector, and not everyone wants to keep dolls. But, if they are family dolls and you like them, you may want to keep them awhile, and perhaps pass them on to another collector in your family. Denise's articles: Review Denise's earlier articles on doll auctions, selling dolls, and caring for dolls. She has a lot of ideas, and used to run a doll shop. She still sells online and has written a great price guide. Denise's blogs: Denise is writing her own blog about dolls. Inventory: Always keep an inventory of the dolls that you have sold or intend to sell and update it. If you are computer savvy, there are great software programs to help you. Preferably, keep photos as well. Price guides: Consult Denise's pricguides online, or look at Dollreference.com or other sites. Get a good book like Denise's Official Price Guide to doll or other guides by Patsy Moyer, Pat Smith, Linda Edward, or Jan Foulke. Selling to upgrade: Some collectors gather dolls to sell so they can buy better dolls for themselves. Others sell to upgrade. They might buy a damaged German bisque doll and restore it, then, when they find a better example, they will sell that doll and "trade UP' to buy the example in better condition. Selling to change collection focus: Some collectors sell to change the focus of their collection. Maybe they had antiques, and wanted to get into artists dolls. Or, they had vintage Barbies, and then decided they liked china heads. Years ago, Mrs. Lucretia Mott collect large antique dolls. She soon fell in love with miniatures and doll house dolls, sold the big dolls, and Mott's Miniature Museum was born. It stood for years within Knott's Berry Farm in California, and was one of my favorite places on earth.