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Can I buy antiques by mail?

Hey. I don’t know if you cover this on your site but i have a question that has been nagging at me for sometime now. HOW do I advertise and buy Antiques from people through the mail? what if i wanted to buy from people out of state? Not through ebay or auctions but straight from the people. like say if i saw something on craigslist or advertised that I buy antiques and they got in touch me? How would that work? Xause that would open many opportunities for me.


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This can work, but it’s difficult. We used to run classified ads in the model train magazines to buy specific types of trains.

Here’s some samples:

Wanted: Old Lionel, American Flyer, and Ives Standard gauge trains to restore. Send list along with photos and your price to:

Wanted: Old American made 00 trains by Lionel, ScaleCraft, Nason, Famoco and others. Send list and photos along with price if known to address here.

These ads cost $10-15 a month to run, and we’d make 2-3 purchases a year from each of them.

The top ad worked really well because people offered us trains they thought needed restoring, but they only needed cleaning. We got some really good deals along with the junk.

The second ad worked well because the few people who responded had a lot of stuff. There aren’t many people who collect 00 trains, and people researching them would see our ads.

I know being scammed is a fear, but it’s not as common as you’d think. Over the years we only got ripped off once. That was in 1990 for $450 by a man in Utah.

These ads stopped working in the late 1990s as eBay gave people the ability to find collectors directly.

I used to ship all the European HO trains to a guy in Pennsylvania who advertised in magazines. He would fill shipping containers with trains and then send them to auction houses in Germany and England. Once eBay came along I started selling the stuff I sold to him online.

If you want to try this, your best option is to advertise in focused publications or for specific items.

I used to be approached by people who found my toy train website about buying trains. Over 5 years – 1998 -2003, I answered hundreds of questions, but bought no trains. The last straw for me was when I offered a seller a good amount for a set I wanted for my collection only to see it on eBay a few weeks later.

From my point of view there is enough stuff available locally that I don’t need to advertise elsewhere. If the ads above still worked, I’d still be running them, but to try new ads now isn’t a good use of my time or advertising dollars.


PS. I did an interview with Gary Hendrickson about shopping in antique malls and stores. Gary lived in a small town, and went on buying trips to cities around him. You can get the interview at:

Buying Antiques and Collectibles In Stores And Malls

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