Saturday, June 21, 2008

Maximizing Opportunities and Staying in Control in the Antiques and Fine Art Business

Most of you know by now that I have many stories about my experiences in the antique and fine art business. I share these stories with you to not only share my knowledge about the antiques themselves, but also as a way to share the ways I’ve handled business relationships and negotiating for items.

If you’re to ascend the 31 Steps and be dealing in the higher end of the markets, you not only have to be knowledgeable about the items, but about people, too. As I’ve said before, this is a people business.

An experience that continues to inspire me on my hunt for antiques and fine art was the time I was heading out to visit my family in Owensboro, Kentucky and was wrestling with the idea of visiting a gentleman who I had spoken to on the phone before I left. He had asked me to stop in and see him while I was in the area, but in my mind, I was thinking it would be a waste of time. After all, he didn’t have anything at the time I’d be interested in, and I was on a time crunch with this trip. But, it weighed on my mind. I reminded myself that this business is built on personal contacts, and if I didn’t have time for meeting with others, I should find another source of income. So, I called him back and confirmed a meeting, knowing that I’d be forming a relationship that might lead somewhere at sometime.

When I arrived at his gallery, he was busy with customers, so I just browsed the gallery. I saw several paintings that caught my eye, and I began to look a little more closely at his offerings. I was very surprised when I discovered several paintings with the gallery owner’s signature on them. I had no idea he was an artist.

He meandered over to me when he finished with his customers, and said, “You must be Daryle.” We spoke for a while when, out of the blue, he asked me if I’d accompany him downtown to see some paintings. I wanted to continue talking with him, so off we went. I’ve learned to always expect the unexpected, and I was game.

We arrived at an office building and went up several floors before we entered a jewelry store. We were greeted by a pleasant man and invited to examine the paintings on the walls. I was so sure I’d have little interest in them and was in no hurry, but that soon changed when I spied a painting that looked to me like one by Harvey Joiner. Sure enough, it was! And next to it – why – I couldn’t believe my eyes! It was a very large Carl Brenner painting. And it didn’t stop there. The next painting was a favorite artist of mine: Patty Thum. If you’re not following me, these are all Kentucky artists that I specialize in! My hands began to tremble. I felt like a kid in a candy shop, but I didn’t want to show my excitement.

The gallery owner who had brought me to see these paintings asked if I had any interest in any of them. I said, “Maybe.” About that time, the owner of this particular shop asked if I thought there was anything here that might have my interest. This broke me out of my trance, and in a feeble voice I said, “You have some nice paintings.”

“Is there any special one you are interested in,” he asked? This is where I knew I had to keep my cool.

“Well," I said, "I'm really looking to buy a collection.” This was the first thing that came out of my mouth. “Really,” he responded. “Well you can buy these.” I now knew I was leading this trade in the right direction and maintaining a poker face was absolutely essential.

I ask if he had a pen and paper and he soon produced them. I tried to make it appear as if these paintings weren’t really anything that special to me, but at the right price, I could be interested in buying them all. I went to each painting and asked the price, then figured what I could pay, then added it to the preceding price on my paper.

I could see his interest peaking, because he knew the figure I was going to offer would be considerable. By the time I finished marking down the inventory on paper, there were about a dozen paintings, and my figure totaled between thirty and forty thousand dollars.

For awhile he insisted there was no way he would sell them for that amount. But, I could see in his eyes, there was no way he was going to let me and my money leave his shop. At this time, all I had to do was make it appear that I was moving his way a little. There was one painting that he was especially attached to, so I offered to drop this one from the deal. But, he apparently wanted to prolong the game, by saying he’d need to go in the back office to see what his cost on it was. I knew the game was over and we already had a deal. He soon emerged from the back office and said, “I never thought I’d do this, but I guess we have a deal.”

There were smiles all around because I’m certain the seller made a handsome profit, the gentleman who brought me in made about $4,000 and I had just pocketed $30,000 or more. This ended a very happy story.

I’m sure that I don’t have to tell you all the lessons that can be learned in this story, but one very important one is to maximize every opportunity that presents itself to you and always be in control of that opportunity.

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