How to Start an Antique Business Setting Up Shop in an Antique Mall

How to start an antique business in an antique mall. Steps, tips and information on buying and selling antiques.

Antique hunting is one of those hobbies that is perfect for turning into a lucrative business. Often those who are dedicated “antique-ers” will already have enough inventory to get started.

Register your business name with the Secretary of State and apply for a retail sales tax license. This can all be done on-line and all the instructions and rules should be available on how to fill out the forms. Once this is done you will receive forms for reporting and paying your sales tax to the state. Every state and city is different so you will need to go to the website for the Secretary of State for your state.

Finding Your Location

It is best to locate in an area where there are already a lot of antique shops. Antique districts are a favorite destination for collectors to go and spend an entire day. Find your local antique district and do some exploring and see what different configurations are available. A common layout for an antique mall is individual booths or floor space that can be rented. The space can be 8x8 or 10x10 or there might be a spot as small as a shelving unit that you can rent. The prime spots near the door or on the end or corner are going to cost a little more but could be worth the extra money.


Ask what services the store offers to dealers:

Do they ship?

Will they bargain with buyers on your behalf?

Will they unlock your cases to show merchandise?

How many sales people or cashiers do they have on staff?

Do they have an in-store café or food service?


Rent - depending on the size of space

Fixtures - shelves, glass cases, tables

Commission - in addition to your rent you will pay a percentage of sales to the owner of the mall

Merchandise - do your research buy low sell high

Association fees - there are professional associations that can be helpful to join

Reference books - you must educate yourself on your specialty to avoid making mistakes when purchasing new merchandise


Chances are you already have a strong interest in one area of collectables or antiques. It might be glassware or Fiestaware or military memorabilia. These are the sort of specialties that might fit nicely in a small space. Whatever your specialty be sure that you are well educated on it. You might even have reference books available for your customers.

Purchase Your Merchandise - buy low, sell high

Estate Sales

Arrive early and come back late. If it is a big estate sale you will see dealers lined up hours before it opens. The number of people allowed in at one time is often regulated. It can be quite chaotic and crowded the first hour or so. You can grab any must-haves if you get to the estate sale early but be sure you are not paying too much. Remember you have to mark it up. Most estate sales are conducted by professional companies and they will rarely bargain on things until the last day of the sale. You can pick up some excellent treasures the last day.

Garage Sales

Occasionally you can find an antique at a garage sale but it is not all that common.

Thrift Stores

I have actually had quite a bit of success finding collectable or antique pieces at thrift stores. Keep your eyes open for vintage clothes, stemware, dishes, costume jewelry, vintage lamps and small furniture pieces. Old records and magazines can be excellent resalable items.


If you know what you are looking for you might be able to get merchandise on eBay however, look out for dealers because they won’t be selling things at wholesale prices.

Prepare Your Merchandise.

Clean it, polish it, wash it, fold it. Just make sure you are not doing any damage to it. Some items are more valuable if you don’t remove the patina or re-finish it. Again, I can’t stress it enough, educate yourself.

Price it with some nice small hanging price tags. You will put your booth number or identification on each tag. If you use sticky price tags be sure that it won’t damage the merchandise. A general rule of thumb is to double the cost but if you got a particularly good deal you could more than double it. Conversely you may not be able to double it if you over paid.

Create an inventory. Write down every piece and the retail price as well as the price you paid.

Display it as if it were the most precious thing in the world. Cluttered, overcrowded, dusty displays tells customers that your merchandise isn’t very valuable.

Reconcile Your Books

Each month you should receive a printout of your sales from the owner on what was sold. Check this against your list and check your inventory again. (This is a good time to clean) Sometimes things are missing and they don’t show up on the printout. It is possible that they were picked up and placed back down in someone else’s booth. Or it could be stolen. At any rate the owner or manager needs to be notified of any missing merchandise.

Need to frame some of your merchandise?  Check out this factoid on framing basics -


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