Ask the Experts: The Antiques Finder

Photo: Bobby Doherty/New York Magazine

What’s the first thing an antiquing novice should know?
Don’t just browse. Focus your search. Then really research those items. If you don’t, there’s a good chance you’ll get ripped off. Study the history of the item you’re seeking, then look online for market prices so you can compare when you go out looking. If you can, bring a friend who’s in the industry.

At local flea markets, do the early birds really get the best stuff?
If you’re looking for specific things, go early. But for the best deals, go late, around closing time. None of the vendors is from the city—they drive in from hours away and are antsy to unload everything so they don’t have to haul it back.

What’s your bargaining strategy?
I ignore the tag and tell them the price I want straight up. Antique pieces typically don’t have set prices, which is why it’s so important to do your homework and know what you’re talking about. If vendors sense ignorance, they’ll take advantage.

What sort of tricks do vendors have up their sleeves?
You often see pieces that look antique but are actually replicas. Vendors get away with this because they’re privy to the fact that some people don’t really want antiques—they want the look, but not the layers of dirt and costs of refurbishment that come with it.

Forget flea markets for a minute. What shops have a well-edited selection of vintage goods?
For furniture, I love DARR on Atlantic Avenue and the Quality Mending Co. in Soho, though they’re very pricey. For more affordable finds, Junk in Williamsburg is great, but you have to dig for the good stuff. I go to the Williamsburg Flea, the West 25th Street Market, and the Hell’s Kitchen Flea Market every weekend.

What if you’re flea-market-averse?
Build a relationship with the dealers you like the most. They can do the legwork on your behalf and e-mail you pictures when they find things.

Got more shortcuts?
If you’re spending more than $5,000, utilize industry buyers like us. Otherwise, you could be wasting money. You wouldn’t believe how many antiques dealers have fake stuff. At the very minimum, we can authenticate pieces for you.

Where do you turn for quality repairs?
Upholstery stores. They usually know how to fix chairs, couches, and other home goods. I like Estilo Upholstery on the Lower East Side.

Anything else we should keep in mind when treasure hunting?
Use things for different purposes than they were intended for. We found a rare bronze sculpture in the shape of a woman with her legs spread open. It was originally a shoehorn, but we use it as a paperweight.

Trick of the Trade
“They don’t advertise this, but Moon River Chattel in Williamsburg does great custom work out of its workshop in Greenpoint and will help clients alter antique pieces found at the store.”

Ask the Experts: The Antiques Finder