Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Hunting Tips for Steiff Gatherers

Most Steiff fans enjoy the thrill of the hunt when it comes to adding new finds to their growing collections. But what are the "tricks of the trade" to make these quests as productive as possible? Steiffgal spills the beans - or at least some of them - here in an article that she originally wrote for the wonderful magazine Teddy Bear and Friends earlier this year. (If you don't know this publication, check it out and subscribe... it's great!) Just for fun, she included photos of some interesting items that she "scored" using these tips throughout this blog entry.

Hunting Tips for Steiff Gatherers

As a vintage Steiff collector, there is practically nothing I enjoy more than a visit to an antiques store, mall, or market. Over the years, I have been fortunate to discover many wonderful collectibles at these destinations. Yes, much of that is luck and timing – but not all of it. Here are seven “lucky” tips to make your Steiff antiquing experience as educated, rewarding, and exciting as possible.

Tip #1: Do your homework.
This is as t
rue for shopping for antique treasures as it is for prepping for an interview or exam. It is important to know the marketplace so you have some context for your finds. Before hitting the road, I recommend checking out eBay and searchingcompleted listings” for the Steiff or other items you hope to find while out antiquing. This will give you an idea of what articles were recently on the market and the prices paid for them. In this way, you have a general point of reference for your finds, and can determine whether the asking price is reasonable relative to the item’s condition and scarcity.

Tip #2: Set your expectations.
Decide in advance the general c
riteria a piece must have to “qualify” it for purchase. Steiff items generally leave the factory with three forms of ID: a chest tag, ear tag, and ear button. In the back of my mind, a find must have at least one of these items to be a candidate for purchase. I also all but rule out pieces that have a smoky or off-putting smell, that are ripped or “leaking” their stuffing, and those with replaced (or non-existent) eyes. Sometimes antiquing gets very emotional. By pre-determining your collecting priorities you may save yourself from that awful “what was I thinking at the time?” situation we have all found ourselves in at one time or another.

Tip #3: Set your budget.
This can either be done by piece or per antiquing adventure. Base
d on your own personal finances, decide before you leave your house what is the maximum amount of money you are willing to part with that day and stick to it. For me, this helps puts solid parameters around what is a realistic purchase or not. For example, in general I will not spend more than $100 per item or $250 per day when antiquing. While out with friends recently, I came across a vintage Steiff rabbit in great condition with all of his IDs for $169. Of course he caught my eye, but having done my homework (tip #1), I quickly realized he was not all that unusual and a little overpriced. No go.

Tip #4: Prepare for the “money stuff.”
Two big
take homes here. No matter what the ticket says, always ask for a discount or suggest a lower price. It’s all but expected. If they won’t budge, ask if that is the best they can do. If that doesn’t work…. and here is the second big take home… ask if they could do better if you paid in cash. But don’t reveal you have cash until the very end of the negotiation. Yes, if you can, bring cash and pay in cash. It gives you a lot more flexibility and adds profit margin to the sale for the vendor, as they don’t need to pay the credit card fee on the sale. A win-win all around.

Tip #5: Bring companions.
It’s cert
ainly more fun to antique with friends, and I suggest bringing along “two sets” of them. The first are clearly human companions, who are great for “reality testing” possible purchases that have made it past tips #1-3. Nothing like a buddy to say “But don’t you already own 25 of those identical Steiff Jocko chimps already? Let’s keep looking!” Frustrating in the moment, but they are probably right. It’s true, the next great find is probably just around the corner.

The second set of “friends” is any Steiff or antique reference books that you might have. My Steiff Sortiment books deserve their own passports and frequent flyer accounts based on the number of miles they have traveled with me. Keep your reference materials in the car and don’t be embarrassed to use them if you need a little more information on an unusual find.

Tip #6: Let vendors know you are a collector.
Always introduce yourself to the pe
rson at the cash register, with the booth keys, or other employees that you come across while antiquing at a store, mall, or market. Tell them that you are searching for vintage Steiff, and do they know of any particular items you should see? This gives you a little advantage in your search. Also ask how often Steiff items come in, and if it would be possible for them to give you a call when a Steiff or two comes into their inventory? An easy sale for them, an easy score for you. I have done this with success on numerous occasions and am now known as Steiffgal at my local favorite antique mall; I walk in and the staff points me right to the newest Steiff!

Tip #7: Document your finds.
Almost everyone has a camera feature in their cell
phone or blackberry; use it for antiquing! If you find something that you really like but can’t identify, take a picture of it! I have taken snapshots of items I have found and emailed them to other Steiff collectors for identification while on the road. Or if you see something that you think a friend would really like, take a picture of it and send it to them. You might just make their day. Or if you are on the fence about an item, take a picture of it, sleep on it, and then email the picture back to the vendor asking for the sale. It shows great interest and the vendor will be able to identify your selection easily. Finally, we all find thing we love but can’t buy due to price, space, or logistical realities. Take a picture of things you love (of course, with the permission of the vendor!) and start a virtual collection! After all, the best things in life are free, right?

Have a question about one of your Steiff treasures? Or something you saw on an antiquing adventure? Let's talk! Click here to learn more.

1 comment:

  1. Hello,in this moment i find your blog i live in Germany and i like it so much.I am collector from steiff too.I like the items from the 30ties to the 50ties.I will follow your blog they are very intresting regards Jürgen


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