Where Yesterday Meets Tomorrow
One local auctioneer likes to say "it's worth what you pay for it." That's true in a very limited sense but the tense is wrong. It should not be present tense, it should be past tense. It as worth what you paid for it at that one instant when the hammer fell. But it was only true for that one transaction at that one moment in time among that one specific cast of characters. You may be the only person in the world that thinks it's worth what you paid for it. The other bidder may have been the consignor or a member of the family trying to recover an heirloom. (Or he may have been drunk.) An item is not worth what you paid for it; it is worth what you can sell it for.
It's not price guides that determine price; it's not other dealers and shops; it's not last year's experience. It is customers that set prices. If there is a customer willing to pay the price, then that's what it's worth. And if there isn't... then it's not worth what your price tag is asking. To have a sale you need a willing buyer, a willing seller, and an agreed upon price. It doesn't matter what the price guides say; it matters what the customer says
So how do we price? Basically, you price based on intuition. That sounds like some mystical force. In fact, it's just common sense tempered by experience. You gather as many facts as you can - price guides, asking price at local shops, previous experience, the images in the current decorating magazines, the condition, usefulness, color, design, decorative appeal of the item, etc., etc., etc. Then you guess. And then you wait.
If it sells quickly, it does not mean you guessed too low. It means you guessed right! Selling it quickly is just what you are supposed to be doing! You've made your profit! Now go do it again.
If it does not sell, give it a little time. Don't get too impatient. First, look at the item. Is it clean? Does it have damage you didn't notice initially? Does it have a clear price tag? Does the tag tell a story about the item? Then look at presentation. Maybe the customers aren't seeing it. Try moving the item to a different location in your booth. Then give it a little more time.
If it still doesn't sell, there's only one explanation. It's priced too high. At this point it is important to remember that what you paid for it is irrelevant! This is not an ego issue; it is a business issue. You need to sell it so you can put something else in its place. If you paid too much for it, call it a cheap lesson and move on. Do not get trapped by the price you paid. Every day you own the item it costs you more money. Cut the price! Put a sale tag on it - 25% off - or write out a new tag that isn't faded to near invisibility. Don't cut the price 5% and expect it to make any difference. Then, if the item is still there in another month, cut the price again... and again.... and again - until it goes away. If you can't bear to sell it so cheap, take it home and put it on a shelf where you can enjoy it until the rest of the world finally understands.
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