How to become an Antique Dealer. Read through our comprehensive job guide to learn more about this career.
What does an Antique Dealer do?
Antique dealers buy and sell antique objects and collectors’ items.
As an antique dealer, you could deal in a wide range of objects or specialise in a particular area, such as jewellery, glass, furniture or china. Your work could include:
- buying items from salesrooms, auctions, markets, trade fairs and private owners
- selling items to the general public from shops or from stalls in antique centres
- negotiating purchases and sales
- buying and selling items online
- carrying out minor restoration work
- researching the identity and value of objects
- advising owners on the value of their antiques for insurance or sales purposes.
You could work from home, buying and selling to order.
You would be unlikely to have set working times, and may have to work long and unsocial hours, including weekends and evenings.
You would usually do a lot of travelling, visiting clients and attending auctions and antique fairs. This could involve spending nights away from home.
How much does an antique dealer earn?
As most antique dealers are self-employed, income can vary enormously depending on level of expertise and location.
You do not need any particular qualifications to be an antique dealer. Your sales skills, ability to spot saleable items, and having enough financial capital to cover your start-up costs are more important than qualifications.
You could get started in any of the following ways:
- working in an antiques shop, or a small or medium-sized antiques centre or auction house as an assistant or general worker
- working in a salesroom or an auction house as a porter, clerk, cataloguer, valuer or auctioneer
- collecting and researching antiques as a hobby and taking a stall at antique markets or fairs, trading on the internet, or opening a shop.
You could choose to combine any of these with part-time study in arts subjects such as history of art, fine art or decorative arts.
Another alternative would be to study full-time for a degree or diploma in a related area such as fine arts, applied arts or history of art to develop your knowledge, although this is not essential. Entry requirements for degree courses vary, so you should check with colleges or universities. To search for courses, visit the UCAS website.
Some of the larger city-based salesrooms such as Sotheby’s or Christie’s sometimes recruit small numbers of people with relevant degrees (like history of art) as trainees.
If you want to study further, several institutions run relevant postgraduate courses. Examples include postgraduate education programmes at Sotheby’s and Christie’s and the MA in Arts Market Appraisal (Professional Practice) at Kingston University.
- Kingston University
Visit the British Antique Dealers’ Association website for more details of routes into this career.
Training and Development
You can add to your skills and knowledge through any of the following:
- practical experience
- extensive self-study and research
- a degree or postgraduate course
- training schemes provided by major auction houses
- privately run courses.
If you begin by working in an auction house or antiques shop, you would learn on the job from experienced colleagues.
Skills and Knowledge
- a passionate interest in the items you deal in
- willingness to research, study and learn from others
- knowledge of antiques – either generally or in one specialised area
- negotiating skills
- good judgement and the ability to make quick decisions
- business sense and a good sales technique.
Most dealers are self-employed, working in shops, at antiques markets and fairs, or from home. Some are part-time and a few combine antique dealing with restoration work. Many antique dealerships are small independent businesses, either family-run or only employing one or two staff.
As few vacancies are advertised, it may be best to contact shops, sales rooms and other relevant organisations direct.
Your success will depend on expanding your business by increasing sales and profits. You could progress to specialist dealer, valuer or auctioneer.
You may find the following links useful for further reading (links open new window):
Antiques Trade Gazette
London and Provincial Antique Dealers Association
We do not accept responsibility for the content of external sites.