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Sunday, April 21

Gapers Block

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Ever since I started the Old Style column here, I've gotten quite a few emails with questions about antiques and the antique business.


I just moved to Chicago and am thinking about outfitting my house with modern mid-century style furniture. Where's a good place in the city to find items like this.

Steve M.
East Village

Chicago has some excellent sources for the type of furniture you're looking for. Modern Times (one of my favorite stores) is right in your neighborhood. They always have something new and the owners have an eye for quality.

Modern Times
1538 N. Milwaukee

Wright auction house is another excellent source. Wright has auctions featuring some of the most amazing 20th century design you've ever seen. I buy the auction catalogs just to use them as reference books.

Wright auction house
1140 W. Fulton

The Broadway Antique mall has quite a few mid century modern dealers. The merchandise is always changing. Every week there's a new treasure to be found there.

Broadway Antique Mall
6130 N. Broadway

Hi Ron:

Our mother recently passed away. She was 90 years old and her house is full of antiques. We are going to have an estate sale for the household items but we were thinking about selling the better antiques to an antiques show like the Kane County antiques show. We've never done something like this and would appreciate any advice you can give us.

Kathy S.
Park Ridge

Selling at an antique show is a ton of work. It can be a challenge for even the most seasoned antique dealer. Here's some info I got from an old time Kane county dealer.

  • It can be very expensive. An outdoor space at Kane County is $120. You'll need tables. They are available for rent at $8.00 apiece. A typical booth needs four. You'll need a large truck to haul all your goodies there. That should end up costing you (with mileage) another 75.00 per day (it's a two day show). Without selling a single item, you're already out $300. That's the bad part. The good part is for that $300.00 investment you'll get thousands and thousands of buyers looking at and (hopefully) buying your treasures.

  • Call and reserve a space in advance. At Kane, if you don't have a reserved space you wait in a long line with other dealers. You also get to go in and set up before the unreserved dealers.

  • You'll need someone who knows what they're doing to price your antiques. A wrongly priced item could lose you hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars.

  • Put prices on your items for sale. There's a big part of the buying public that refuses to ask a dealer for a price.

  • Be flexible with your prices. Haggling is a time honored tradition at these markets. You'll hear things like "What's the best?" and "What's the dealer price?" Be prepared to knock off a few dollars here and there to make the sale.

  • Set your booth up like a small store, which is exactly what it is. Try to make your items look as attractive as possible. It's always good to stand outside your space and look at it like you're a potential customer. You'll get a better idea of how it looks to other people.

  • Have bags and plenty of newspaper for wrapping up your customers' purchases.

  • Have someone in the booth at all times to answer customers questions and handle sales. This one seems obvious but I can't tell you how many times I've tried buying something and had to hunt to find the seller. ("Oh, he'll be back in a few minutes.")

  • Smile and be friendly. No matter how tired you are from spending the morning emptying out the truck and setting everything up, you've go to appear friendly and approachable.

As you can see, there's a lot involved. You can make a lot of money at an antique show, but you're definitely going to have to work hard for it. You do have some other options. Personally Kathy, I'd find a good auctioneer to sell your antiques. It's much less hassle and the auction house will send over a truck to pick everything up at no cost to you. Plus you'll never have to hear, "What's the best?"

If you have an antiques related question you'd like answered, it attention Ron at

This week's auction pick:

Saturday, September 24

The Estate of Edna Dzikowski
Auction Consultants Inc.
555 S. York Road
Elmhurst, Illinois

Judging from the website photos, this looks like it's going to be a quality estate auction. Some of the items for sale are a Story & Clark pump organ; beer steins; violins; quilts, needlepoint and linens; antique dolls; a wicker buggy; framed prints and etchings; crocks and wood planes and vintage fishing tackle. For you rockabilly fans, there's a killer Regal steel guitar. There is a 10 percent buyer's premium added on to everything you buy at this auction. See you there.

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About the Author(s)

Ron Slattery is a collector of interesting junk and other wonderment, and is one of the experts behind the Chicago Antiques Guide. You can visit him at and

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