When I come home with a load from an estate sale, flea market, or a day out thrifting or antiquing, the first thing I do, after unpacking and inventorying my finds, is to start researching. Happily, my ability to recognize generally what things are (what they are made of, where they are from, how old they are, etc) is growing, but a lot of times I really have no real idea! When buying, I’m more driven by curiosity and informed by intuition than consumed by what something's worth, and pretty much only buy things I will be happy to keep for myself if I can’t sell them. I also often will purchase things as impetus to learn about something unfamiliar but intriguing to me…and almost always that research process leads to an increased interest in whatever that thing is, and a desire to hunt for more of its ilk!
A lot of this research just involves googling descriptors of what the thing is and then scanning through loads images, trying to home in on similar things, getting closer and closer. Sometimes this is a long, iterative process of chasing different threads before landing on something relevant, and sometimes I fail to find anything at all that seems related. (Trying to chase marks and signatures on pottery is, for example, a dead end 9 times out of 10! )
Because I am rarely buying things with an available provenance, it all involves a fair amount of speculation, and in my listings words like “presumed” and “I believe” very often appear! My wonderful social media followers are proving terrific sources of information as I share things there. And, as I am learning as I go, I’ve ofter learned exactly what something was after having sold it (usually at a quite a bargain price!)...all part of the learning process.
Fortunately, though, between Ebay, Pinterest, etc., the trove of images out there—and objects for sale—is so vast, that it is pretty easy, once I have generally identified something, to get a sense of what similar things are selling for, though these can range a great deal from high to low depending on the seller and context. In setting prices, typically I aim toward the low end of the scale, and am more inclined to want to sell things fairly quickly (in order to buy more!) than to want to sit on something for a long time at a higher price. Plus, as I am just beginning this endeavor, I recognized that I don’t yet have the audience or clientele—or the deep expertise!—that many dealers do.
At the same time, my prices do generally reflect my values: things that I think are really special or unusual or beautiful; things that embody an extraordinary amount of time, care and labor; things that really have no “comps” in the world—these I think should be priced in a manner that at least to some extent honors that uniqueness. I think about how much skill and how many hours the maker of something invested in it and want the price to signify and affirm that—unfortunately, counterbalanced with what I can actually sell things for, I think this never translates to what would amount to even minimum wage for its original maker!
When I am out hunting for things, there is a huge amount I filter out because the asking price is about equivalent to, or more than, what I think I can sell it for. What I am looking for are things that I love and find interesting but that are also undervalued, either because the seller doesn’t know what they have or, more often, just because I personally find something wonderful and want to share it. At the end of the day, what drives me is the joy that comes with recognition—my own process of digging through loads of stuff to discover a handful of treasures to bring home, then the process of contextualizing and sharing them in the hopes of finding others who will value them as much as I do. It is thrilling to be finding wonderful customers who share my appreciation for these things I find curious and beautiful—THANK YOU! You keep me hunting!!!