Recently I was in a local antique mall and was taken aback by a lady who came in and asked if they buy items. The shop was full of customers and she didn't have an appointment.

When I tell my readers and those who attend my workshops to go to see antique dealers about selling their items, that doesn't mean pack it up and head on out without calling ahead. These shops businesses, and they are different than the local thrift shop where you can just drop it off.

Some shops will tell when they are taking items or looking at items such as Catch My Thrift in Stewartville, which posts on Facebook. Kismet, in Rochester, lists on its website “How to Consign.” Refashion, also in Rochester, has information on its website and Facebook page, as do most antique malls and other shops, to make appointment and to see if they are buying.

Not all antique dealers or shop owners are going to talk to you about your items without an appointment or even buy from you. That's not going to happen! Time is money and they are not going to give out free information. Some shops have done this and people have taken advantage of the owners, taking the items to other places to sell. I recently saw a couple get information, then state they are now able to sell their items on Craigslist and eBay. That was a real letdown to the owner, who'd wasted precious time and got nothing for it.

Folks watch “Antique Roadshow,” “American Pickers” and similar shows, then run to dig out what they think of theirs has value and run to the antique malls. First, do your research. Then make an appointment.

Before the appointment

The first step is to do your research so you know what you have. Such is the case with the lady from the beginning of the column, who believed she had orange dishes but they were actually amber in color. I asked if they had a maker's mark, and she looked at me like I was crazy. I ask: Is anything written on the bottom of a plate or bowl? Response: I never looked.

Or there was the gal who said in an email to me that she has silverware she wants to sell. What kind of silverware? Oneida or what? These are things you should know before you head out to try and sell.

If you are computer literate you can sometimes find the items on the internet, but if you have no maker's mark this can be a problem. Don't run to the local antique mall asking questions. Run to the library or a bookstore and look at books that are similar to your item. Do your homework! Why? More dollars for you when you know what you have and the condition along with rarity.

When you get information write it down, and if you have photos or documentation about the item, all the better. Armed with this information, go to the computer, and if you find some websites that have information about that item, get a price range. Some folks use eBay or Etsy. You can always go to www.postbulletin.com, where some of my past columns can be found, as I always have a price range.

Also, check out your local antique, consignment shops or art galleries, as some pieces may be the same as yours and could be for sale with price tags on to give you an idea of how to price your items or a ballpark figure of the value. But, don't run to the owner and say, “Guess what I have for sale! Or I found it on eBay for this amount of dollars.” Run home, call to make an appointment to sell, and state that you have some similar items that you would like to show and sell at a reasonable price.

Don't be surprised when you are told you are only going to get 25 to 50 percent of the current market value, or if there's no interest. You have other options: Sell on the internet, hold a garage sale or check out buyers' business cards on display at some shops. I recently spoke to a few vendors and they would love it if folks would shop their booths and give them a call to sell.

Sandy Erdman is a Winona-based freelance writer concentrating on vintage, antique and collectible items. Send comments and story suggestions to Sandy at life@postbulletin.com.

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