When you think of antiques, what makes your heart soar? Jewels? Books and prints? Furniture? Carpets? Paintings? There's no doubt that antiques possess qualities that makes modern merchandise pale in comparison - qualities like exquisite craftsmanship, character, attention to detail, and timelessness. Similarly, American items that are considered to be antiques - the older items you might find at estate sales and auctions - are youngsters when compared with European antiques.
If you collect antiques or are an antiques dealer, you really haven't lived until you've gone on a European antiquing trip. If you're taken aback by thoughts of the expenses associated with such a trip, it may be time to think again. By connecting with others who have experience in European antiquing and by employing the right strategies, you can find the treasures of a lifetime at bargain prices. Here are five tips to ensure success:
1. Rely on the experience of others. If you're new to the European antiquing scene, hook up with others who have practical knowledge about finding the best European antiques. There are European antiquing trip tours specifically designed for those who are looking for a great selection at great prices, so take advantage of their expertise. Even if you have been antique shopping in Europe before, it's refreshing and enjoyable to travel with others who share your interests.
2. Forget the frills. If you're truly looking to come home with treasures at bargain prices, it makes no sense to overspend on accommodations and meals. You don't really need that mint on your pillow, and you don't want fancy retail antique shops. You do need convenient accommodations and transportation that will allow you to arrive at the best venues early in the morning.
3. It's all about timing. If you go on a European antiquing trip during the peak season, you can forget about finding bargains. When's the best time to travel? As is the case in the United States, the European antiquing business is slow from the latter part of November through Christmas. If you time your trip correctly, you'll be finding bargains in Italy while everyone else is at the mall.
4. Find the best wholesale antique sources. When you're in Europe, forget the antique shops. Instead, go to places like the Arezzo fair in Italy, the Paris flea markets, the Newark England antiques show, and the incredible antique fair at Swinderby Air Base in Nottingham.
5. Plan ahead for shipping. You don't want to have to drag your purchases around from country to country, and you probably don't want to deal with the hassle of declaring everything when you come through customs on your way home to the United States. It's best to use a trusted shipper in each of the countries you visit and complete all of the customs paperwork at that time. Better yet, it you use a tour company that specializes in European antiquing trips, they will arrange to have all of your items (and those of others in the group) shipped to their warehouse, where you can pick them up stateside.
When you make the decision to go with a specialized tour group, make sure that their fee includes all airfares from, for example, Boston to Italy, Italy to England, and Paris back to Boston. The fee should also include all hotel charges, ground transportation to antique fairs, English-speaking guides in each country, breakfast each day, and early entry tickets to antiques venues that require admission. Beyond that, be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes and have a blast finding bargains on your antiquing trip!