Thursday, March 30, 2006

Antiques in Texas - New & Old

You’d think that the Texas shows would feature mostly western antiques, but that isn’t the case. There are plenty of western-related antiques, but you will also find just about any kind of antiques here, with country antiques being quite strong.

So many Texans live on ranches, and country antiques fit their casual lifestyle well. Painted furniture, hooked rugs and vintage garden items do well here. However, many antiques lovers live in metropolitan areas like Dallas/Fort Worth, Austin and Houston, enjoy big city life and are interested in more “big city” upscale antique furnishings. European and decorator furniture from the 20th century are the right styles for them.

Because the shows at Round Top attract buyers from all over the U.S. and Canada, you’ll never know what surprises you might find. Dealers from everywhere come to sell and to buy - and they bring their favorite antiques, meaning that any kind of old and vintage item might show up. There’s glassware, china, pottery, jewelry, country store antiques, toys, architectural items, vintage linens, quilts, just to name a very few categories. Whatever you are you looking for, you probably can find it here during Antiques Week in Texas.

One must shop carefully, though - there’s a huge amount of reproductions from Mexico and China throughout all the shows, and in many categories of antiques. Lately, new Chinese furniture is everywhere, and Mexican wire garden accents have been popular for many years. Some sellers claim their wares are old. The shows are a great place to learn about reproductions - you’ll know after one day of shopping, since you’ll see the same style of items over and over again.

There’s nothing wrong with buying a reproduction antique, especially if it appeals to you and the price is appropriate to the item. Reproductions are getting better and better in quality, and buying a new item might be the answer when you aren’t prepared to pay the price of the antiques version. Cast iron garden urns can be found for less than half the price of the antiques version, and maybe that’s perfect for your budget and decorating needs. Know what you are buying, and buy what speaks to you!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Antiques Shopping - Round Top, Texas !

It’s soooooooooooo warm here!!! Having left Michigan, temps in the 20s and snow for antiques shows and shopping in Texas, I’m so happy with temperatures in the 70s, sunny skies, green grass and blue bonnets everywhere - what a wonderful wildflower treat!

Been shopping nearly every day since last weekend, although the majority of the sellers here at the Texas Antiques shows in Round Top haven’t arrived yet. The first of the shows officially begin today, and even with threatening thunderstorms, dealers are setting up and buyers are shopping. Most of the dealers are under tents, but there are some in buildings and open pavilions, too. Here's more information about Round Top, Texas and it's fabulous antiques shows.

There’s at least a half-dozen shows with at least some dealers set up. Each of these shows are about 1/3 to ½ full, with the balance of the dealers arriving through this weekend. When it's all up and running, there'll be about 2000 sellers! Interior decorators, antiques dealers and early-arriving retail customers are all shopping, with the serious ones ignoring the small amount of rain and mud found in the fields.

The first day I found a nice old weathervane showing a golden retriever, see the photo above. The base and directionals aren’t quite as old as the weathervane, but that’s how it’s been for years and I’m leaving it that way. Certainly it’s not a very common subject matter for a weathervane, so it was a got-to-have country antique for my inventory! Soon it'll show up in Red Moon Antiques, available for a new home.

There’s so much to see, and there’s so many dealers yet to arrive! I'm in antiques shopping heaven. The best shows will begin next week - The Original Round Top Antiques Fair (more about that later). Marburger Farm, Shelby, plus at least two dozen more to shop, shop, shop - my feet hurt just thinking about it - but the good news is that my husband is a Certified Massage Therapist, so I’m a very lucky gal - antiques heaven and my own massage therapist.

Monday, March 20, 2006

The "Cheat Sheet of Phone Numbers" - Get a Real Human instead of Voice Mail!

If you've heard about Paul English's site which lists many corporate phone numbers for direct help, but didn't know how to find his "cheat sheet" list of phone numbers, click here.

This is such a helpful site - here's where you can find phone numbers and special codes for assistance, which should get you to a live human being, too! You'll find automotive, financial, insurance, retail, internet, wireless phone, pharmacies, shipping and many other businesses as well as governmenet agencies too.

This is a free website run by volunteers and used by over one million people who want quality customer support from the companies they use. These "secret" phone numbers and codes will usually get you past all the voice mail and get you real human being to address your problem. If you have the time, please do take a moment and evaluate this site - they'd appreciate the feedback!

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Amazing Art - Wall Murals of Major Size

Like unusual art? Check out these fabulous wall murals.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Cheap/Free Business Cards

A few years ago, I discovered through another antiques dealer how to order business cards on-line at very little cost. Seemed like a great deal, and I've used VistaPrint ever since. They call them "free" business cards, which they actually are, but you do have to pay for shipping, which is around $6 or so for 250 cards.

I've ordered several different styles of business cards over the years, changing them as needed. I've ordered them for me, for my husband, for friends as gifts. Once, during a special Christmas event, I ordered cards with our business name and "VIP - Special 15% Discount for our Favorite Customers " printed on them, and we gave them out to all our customers.

For a professional look at little cost, these cards offer an opportunity to advertise and market your business, or - if you are a collector - to give dealers information on how to contact you if they find something you might be interested in.

VistaPrint has 42 different designs in their free section, and many more designs if you decided to upgrade to their pay-for cards. There are lots of choices in how to place info on your business cards, and the free designs give you several possibilities for special phrases you might wish to include. The best part is that they don't limit you in the number of orders - as long as you are willing to pay for shipping, you can keep ordering.

The quality of the cards is quite nice. The free cards are in full-color and matte finish, but for an up-charge you can make them glossy, add your own art or logo, or do several other options.

They also have many other print products - letterhead, postcards, note cards, address labels and much more. Once you've ordered from them, they will send you email "specials" if you wish, which I have occasionally used also - some of their specials are pretty good deals.

I've even used their cards as upscale price tags for my antiques when exhibiting at shows! Just get creative with their cards and your own wording - there's lots of neat things you can do with them. Take a look at their website and see what you think.

For more information on
VistaPrint, click here.

And no, I don't get anything special out of telling you about VistaPrint. No free cards, no discounts, no anything, except the satisfaction of sharing good information on a freebie (there aren't a whole lot of those around!), just like another dealer did for me several years ago.

>>> Smile of the day:

~ How to Become an Antique Dealer ~

First, buy a bag of marbles.
Then, when you find an antique, leave a marble.
When you've lost all your marbles -
You are an Antique Dealer!

(thanks to Ken Bezanson of Country Barn Antiques, Port Williams, Nova Scotia)

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Happy Birthday, Maine!!!

The Pine Tree State

Devil's Pulpit
Devil's Pulpit, Bald Head Cliff, York, Maine, circa 1900.
Touring Turn-of-the-Century America, 1880-1920

On March 15, 1820, Maine became the twenty-third state in the Union. Originally a province of Massachusetts, Maine is noted for its picturesque coastline and dense woodlands. Even today, ninety percent of Maine remains forested.

I love Maine! Every year I spend five months there during the summer season, actively involved in the antiques trade. I exhibit in a couple different shops, and participate in some of the New England shows.

Used to run my own shop near New Harbor in mid-coast Maine, but last year decided to do something quite different. I closed my shop, moved to smaller quarters (after all, one person doesn't really need a three bedroom home), and rented several spaces in local antiques groups shops.

I also began an antiques tour business for those who are searching for antiques - either collectors or dealers who have limited time to spend in Maine, and need assistance in finding the kinds of antiques and collectibles they desire.

Early in the summer I began working part-time in a very lovely, upscale antiques gallery in Wiscasset, Maine, which I will tell you about another time. The quality of the antiques there was fabulous, and the shop was very successful, especially considering that it was it's first year of operation. It's always tough to start-up a business, but the owner of this shop is a long-time, experienced antiques dealer and shop owner, knows her trade well, and made all the right choices in building her shop up to it's high quality level.

All these changes were eye-openers for me, and - probably because I'm quite flexible in my approach to life - these changes all worked well. Overall, I'm quite pleased with how last summer went, and will fine-tune things a bit this summer season for even more success!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Buying Antiques - "What's Your BEST Price?"

I've been asked this question so many times in the last 26 years as an antiques dealer. It's a question not used in any other retail venue - not in auto sales, not at the grocery, certainly not at Walmart. Only in an antiques shop or at an antiques show does one hear the question, "What's your best price?" (Or, sometimes from a particularly needy customer, "What's your very, very, VERY best price?")

For experienced antiques dealers, it's a tip-off that this customer:
a) is a buyer new to the world of antiques, or
b) isn't comfortable with price negotiation, or
c) has been watching far too many antiques-related shows on tv.

Often, it's all the above.

If one is comfortable with price negotiations on antiques, one is more inclined to know what they're willing to pay, and then suggest a price in that range. Successful antiques buyers know they'll have a higher ratio of buying probability when they make a sincere offer at a true price they are willing to pay. By making a specific offer, they are telling the dealer that they are serious, and that they aren't on a fishing expedition.

Think about this: if you are a dealer, and someone asks you "What's your best price?", wouldn't you be tempted to be a bit of a smartass and answer, "Twice what's on the tag!", just because that would be your best price as a dealer, right? Of course, from a buyer's view, that's exactly opposite of what you - the buyer - had in mind. A buyer wants a cheaper price, which is okay. But by asking "What's your best price?", the customer has put the potential negotiations in jeopardy.

At the last show I did just a couple of weeks ago, a woman asked me this question. It was early in the day, and I wasn't at smartass level yet (but by 5 pm, depending on how long a day it feels like, forgive me but I sometimes can't stop myself). In response, I asked her what price would make her comfortable. (I don't toy with my customers - I respect them. EACH of my antiques are priced clearly, often with descriptive information, so every customer can decide for themselves if it's a price in their range.)

This customer looked at me blankly, and blurted out, "I don't know!!!"

Even though I had opened the door by asking her what she'd like to pay - giving her plenty of opportunity to negotiate a price in her comfort zone - she was terrified at the thought of telling me what price would make her happy. After all, I might somehow take advantage of her by accepting the price that would make her happy . . . ??!!???

So, gently, I started with Antiques Buying 101. I began by sharing with her the background on the piece of furniture she was considering, telling her it's history, age, materials, construction, practical use ideas, and other specifics to that piece. Then, I explained to her that since she knew from the tag how much I wanted, the ball was now in her court. It was up to her to make me a fair offer, hopefully one I just couldn't refuse. We talked for about 45 minutes.

She was completely stalled. Finally, she admitted that she'd been watching a tv show which advised that the way to get cheaper prices on antiques was to ask this infamous question. Explaining that this question really hampers a successful sale, I again asked her if instead she had a price in mind which would make her happy. She wasn't able to formulate an answer, and walked away, muttering something about "thinking about it" and how she'd "be back".

Ten minutes later, another buyer asked about the very same piece of furniture. She and her husband carefully examined the piece front, back and upside down. I was happy to have enthused customers! They asked a few questions about it's construction and age. As I stepped back, they spoke quietly to each other for a few moments, and then approached me with a serious offer that was reasonable. I smiled, accepted their offer immediately, and helped them load it into their van. It was a negotiation that was simple and easy, with all parties happy. Hurray for fair and reasonable buyers, who know what they want and how to buy it!!!

There's an ending to this true story. About an hour later, the first customer returned, having screwed up her courage to attempt the purchase. When she saw the empty spot where "her" antique used to be, she was nearly in tears. She'd gone to lunch to contemplate her possible purchase, and had come back for it, only to discover someone else had bought "her" antique. She was beside herself, unhappy that she hadn't bought it in the first place. Since it was an unusual piece, it wasn't something she was going to find again anytime soon. She soon left the show, disappointed and sad. It was a difficult lesson to learn.

I teach classes on antiques, including Antiques Buying 101. One of the first steps I teach is to carefully examine the item so that a buyer knows exactly what they are paying for.

The second step is to ask as many questions as they wish, because an informed buyer is a smart buyer. A dealer should be happy to answer those questions, and if they aren't, a buyer should take another hard look at their potential purchase before buying.

The third step - price negotiation - isn't difficult. In most cases, the dealer has indicated what price they want by writing it on the price tag. The quickest way to being a happy new owner of that antique is for the customer to offer a specific price he is willing to pay. No fishing around for "best price", no games, no "Let me think about it" stuff. Just "I-like-it-I-want-it-and-would-you-consider-$XXX-for-it" to the dealer (of course, with a pleasant voice and a smile), and most times a buyer will be going home with their new-found treasure. Most buyers can count on purchasing their antique at a reasonable and fair offer around 10% off the dealer's tagged price.

If you are contemplating a much larger discount, you can try it, but remember - insulting a dealer with a 50%-off offer will most likely end all potential for a successful purchase. It will also brand you as someone the dealer won't be willing to spend any energy or time on, since most dealers cannot take 50% off the price of their antiques and have other, more serious buyers to spend their time with.

Remember, antiques dealers are business people who need to make a profit. They certainly don't run shops or exhibit at shows just for the fun of it. Some shows cost a dealer $3000 in expenses before they sell their first antique at that show. Also, at the end of the tax year, the IRS needs to see proof that a dealer was operating as a business (i.e., more profit than expenses), otherwise the IRS relegates them to "hobby status" and can disallow all their business deductions, which is quite painful financially.

So, the point here is to find an antique which "speaks" to you ("please take me home and love me"), and offer a fair and reasonable price to the selling dealer. More than likely, you'll be a proud new owner, with the dealer gladly selling it to you for your price. If it's beyond your pocketbook, that's okay. We all have budgets. You might try thinking outside the box by being a bit creative - ask about a lay-a-away program, or whether the dealer accepts charge cards (thereby allowing you to pay for your treasure over time).

Keep in mind that a dealer pays a commission to the charge company, so you may end up paying the full price of the antique, with the dealer paying the charge company's commission. (Surpisingly, when my charge card company is done with all the little extras they hit me for - swipe fees, actual charge commission, statement fees, off-site fees, etc., - I end up paying about 8-10% commission!) I willingly accommodate my customers by accepting charge cards, knowing that it'll cost me money. It's just a business expense I accept as a professional dealer.

One last suggestion - try really hard not to use the phrase "I'll give you $xxx ...." for your intended purchase. It's an ego-trip phrase that often makes a dealer's blood boil. As a buyer, you can't GIVE the dealer anything for their antique; they already own it. You aren't doing that dealer any favors by GIVING them your lower price for that antique; since you are not the only customer on this planet, they already know they can sell it to someone else. Ouchy - now you've begun your negotiation with a very negative statement that is often offensive to a dealer. I know dealers who - upon hearing this phrase - are so dismayed at the buyer's arrogance that they abruptly end all discussion and walk away. That dealer knows there is another customer somewhere who will buy that antique, and now you've lost out on something that spoke to you!

Be a successful buyer - just offer a reasonable and fair price, and smile a lot. You can easily be a dealer's new best friend and go home with something old and wonderful!

Monday, March 13, 2006

Beer in the Most Unexpected Place!

Over the weekend, I was out shopping for new inventory and found quite a bit of vintage "fun" jewelry - costume jewelry that's not too expensive. Over the next few days I'll be listing it in Red Moon Antiques, so be sure to take a look at my latest finds.

. . . and a just-for-fun story that came out today in Europe -

Woman Gets Beer From Her Kitchen Faucet
Mar 13 11:03 AM US/Eastern

OSLO, Norway

It almost seemed like a miracle to Haldis Gundersen when she turned on her kitchen faucet this weekend and found the water had turned into beer.

Two flights down, employees and customers at the Big Tower Bar were horrified when water poured out of the beer taps.

By an improbable feat of clumsy plumbing, someone at the bar in Kristiandsund, western Norway, had accidentally hooked the beer hoses to the water pipes for Gundersen's apartment.

"We had settled down for a cozy Saturday evening, had a nice dinner, and I was just going to clean up a little," Gundersen, 50, told The Associated Press by telephone Monday. "I turned on the kitchen faucet and beer came out."

However, Gundersen said the beer was flat and not tempting, even in a country where a half-liter (pint) can cost about 25 kroner ($3.75) in grocery stores.

Per Egil Myrvang, of the local beer distributor, said he helped bartenders reconnect the pipes by telephone.

"The water and beer pipes do touch each other, but you have to be really creative to connect them together," he told local newspapers.

Gundersen joked about having the pub send up free beer for her next party.

"But maybe it would be easier if they just invited me down for a beer," she said.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

How to Get a Free Counter Meter

I've just learned how to add a site meter to my blog so I'll know how many visitors I'm getting. It's located at the very bottom of my blog page.

Site Meter is free, and shows a total count of visitors at the bottom of the blog. If you have any need for a counter, click here for Site Meter.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Vintage Hooked Rugs

Old hooked rugs can be used as folk art, and - compared to antiques oil paintings and watercolors - are quite reasonable in price. One can regularly find very colorful and attractive vintage hooked rugs in the $200-450 range, often custom framed and ready to hang.

They can be quite delicate, since so many vintage rugs are 50 - 100 years old. These old textiles need to be cared for so you can enjoy your investment for many years to come.

Rugs can be cleaned and mounted on a frame. If you are well-versed in cleaning antique textiles, you can do it yourself. There are plenty of instructions on the Internet which will guide you through the process. However, because colors bleed easily in an old rug, you don't want to chance ruining it. That's where a professional rug restorer can save the day. If you need help finding a solid, experienced professional in this line of work, please contact me for a good reference.

In the meantime, here are some ideas on how to keep your rug in good shape:
  • Simple cleaning - You can vacuum your rug with a vaccuum which has a hose attachment. Just put an old nylon stocking over the end of the nozzle before vacuuming the rug, so the suction doesn't pull any of the strips or yarns loose. Be sure to vaccuum both sides, since so much dust and dirt get buried in a rug's foundation. You can also use a window screen placed on the rug, then vacuum. Another possibility is to use a very soft brush - some of those old horse hair brushes are wonderful for this use - to brush away surface dirt.
  • Safety on the floor - Never apply any kind of latex or rubber to the back of your vintage rug. This can ruin your rug, and certainly will affect it's value negatively. Instead, buy a rubber rug mat, made especially for stopping rugs from slipping when walked upon. These mats can be found at K-Mart, Walmart, and similar stores, don't cost much, and can easily be cut to size. Just lay this non-slip mat on the floor and place your rug over it - no need to attach it to the rug. This mat also traps dust and dirt particles, keeping your rug healthier by preventing friction against the floor, which might cause damage.
  • Display - Some rugs are meant to be hung and enjoyed as wall art. If it's an unusual unique design, or if it's delicate, consider professionally mounting it. A restorer will know the proper method to mount your rug to prevent sagging and damage.
  • Damaged Rugs - Just because a rug is damaged doesn't mean it can't be salvaged. If the rug "speaks" to you and the price is appropriate to the damage, consider buying it and having it restored. You won't regret it.
  • Storage - If you need to store your rug, roll it up along the short edge with the top facing outwards. Put it in an old, clean pillowcase or sheet. Do not store it in plastic, as moisture can be trapped inside and cause serious damage to an old textile (this applies to other textiles too - like quilts, comforters, tablecloths, bedspreads, etc.).
Vintage textiles on display makes for wonderful, personal design and can really warm up your home's appearance. A one-of-a-kind display of folk art can add considerable value to your antiques collection. Some of the best buys in early rugs can be found in antiques shops and shows - have fun hunting!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Here's Duffy & Sophia, two of my eight rescued cats. Posted by Picasa

AVG - the Free Anti-Virus Program

For several years I'd been using various versions of the Norton and McAfee anti-virus programs. They did the job, and I willingly paid the annual cost because I was terrified of the alternative - some nasty virus taking over my computer. Downloaded, these programs usually cost around $30 annually.

Well, a virus got me anyways. And my McAfee program didn't catch it since I'd forgotten to update it. So then I bought the latest version of Norton, loaded it in, and still had problems, as Norton couldn't remove that latest virus. The virus kept shutting down my computer, so I couldn't even download the latest Norton or McAfee. The version of Norton I'd bought came from one of the local big-box stores, and I had to pay a lot more for it than what it would have cost had I downloaded it. Even worse, it was issued before that particular virus had arrived on the scene, so it didn't fix the problem, and I couldn't download the Norton updates because the virus kept shutting my computer down every 30 seconds.

In the end, I finally took my laptop to a local computer expert, who eliminated the computer-shutting virus, as well as both Norton and McAfee from my laptop. He then did me the nicest thing he could have done - he downloaded and installed AVG, a free anti-virus program.

That was 2 years ago, and I haven't had a single problem with any virus since. It has protected me well, scanning all my in-coming and out-going emails for viruses, checking all executable files for viruses, and performing automatic updates on schedule. I no longer have to remember to check for (or pay for) updates!

Free isn't always good - there are many free programs out there which are intentionally designed to allow spywares to enter your computer, and track where you go. If you use Emoticons (those cute little "harmless" smiley faces) or Gator, you have spyware in your computer.

But in this case, free is GREAT! Using AVG means I no longer worry about viruses, worms or Trojans, and it's good for a lifetime. The auto-scheduler checks for updates so I'm ready for the latest nasties - my AVG is scheduled so it runs in the middle of the night, and I don't even realize I've been updated. If you don't leave your computer on all the time, and you forget to manually update, it even has a reminder system to help you remember.

If you want to try
AVG, click here. It's one of the very best freebies on the Internet!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Some Ideas on How to Identify Scammers

Here's some suggestions on how to identify - and therefore protect yourself - from scammers. These are red flags, something which gives you a clue. Not every one of these means the eBay seller is a scammer; however, if you see several of these showing up simultaneously, think long and hard before you commit any money to this purchase.
  • Look for poorly-taken photos. If they are blurred, or distant, or just are lousy photos, it's a red flag. The scammer who took my identity last August slipped in a very badly-taken photo of a Macintosh computer on my selling site. The photo showed no details of the computer, was taken from quite a distance, was a side-shot, and there was only one photo. I don't sell computers, and still don't know how that scammer managed to list a computer under my name. However, more than 20 people bid on that computer, and the about-to-be winning bidder was willing to pay more than $1200 to be the new owner. Little did he/she know they were going to pay for something they would never receive, since I didn't have any Macs, and couldn't ship one to them.
  • Are the descriptions minimal? The less description, the less possibility the seller actually has the item in his/her possession to sell to you.
  • Is the seller offering to sell you this item outside of eBay? Oops - he already knows there is no eBay protection for a buyer once a deal is made privately. A scammer loves it that eBay really won't get involved should a complaint be made, and often runs the reserve a bit high so that their item doesn't sell, then attempts to make a private sale with the top bidder.
  • Does the seller demand money orders, or even worse, Western Union? Another red flag is when a seller refuses to accept checks or credit cards, because they can be used against him later as evidence.
  • Does the seller refuse to answer email questions you send before the auction ends? That ought to catch your attention.
  • Does the seller state in their eBay listing some unidentifiable location they are selling from? Like, maybe, "Hinterlands in the Midwest" or "My Old Green Farmhouse" or somewhere else that you won't be able to identify?
  • Does the seller have a really low feedback number, or one which is really new (say, within the last month), or has a feedback percentage lower than 98%? All are red flags to consider. Still, scammers are becoming more sophisticated - one of the reasons my identity and user name were stolen was because they wanted to use my 100% perfect, high-number feedback, which gave them instant credibility and trust. They also like to change their User Names frequently, making them a bit harder to track (although eBay can track them, but doesn't really want to get involved).
  • Is it an expensive item you are bidding upon? Scammers aren't very interested in $10 items; they want to "earn" a large amount of money quickly, and then move on. Be cautious when bidding hundreds or thousands of dollars, and take a hard look before you send a seller a large amount of money.
These are just some ideas. Again, remember - not all of them mean that the seller is a scammer . There could easily be a good reason for why the above has occurred (i.e., people who just don't know how to describe an item properly, are brand new to eBay and obviously will have a low fb number until they become established, who are lousy photographers, or who just don't want to bother with persoanl checks or credit cards).

It's when you see several of these indicators - in the same listing - that you should re-think your bidding. Whatever it is that you are bidding on, it will sooner or later be back up for sale again, hopefully under a real seller's listing. Move on to something else, and don't fall for a scammer!

You must protect yourself from the bad guys, because they can do a lot of damage to your finances, not only short-term but also long-term. The only person you can count on to protect you is YOU.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Computers & Antiques & Scammers

Antiques and computers - talk about two opposite ends of the spectrum! The latest technology in computers is now being used to sell antiques regularly through private websites, eBay, and web selling locations like Ruby Lane, yet 20 years ago, who would have dreamed these possibilities would ever exist?

Private websites work well, and give an antiques dealer control over content and design. It can be costly if one hires a website designer for custom work, but there are also many inexpensive do-it-yourself web designer sites that give an antiques dealer plenty of basic templates to configure for their own simple site, and allows them to flexibly add photos and descriptions according to their own needs. One challenge in d-i-y websites is getting the exposure necessary through Google and other browsers so that people learn about and can actually find your website. It's nice to have a website, but if no one knows it's there and they don't visit, all that hard work is for nought.

eBay has worked well for some, horribly for others, yet has opened the door to so many millions of people around the world for antiques and collectible buying and selling. It's changed the entire stature of the antiques trade.

The downside to eBay is the huge amount of scamming which occurs on their site. Even worse, some not-so-nice folks actually take great pride in their scamming accomplishments! A woman in Fort Wayne, Indiana found out the hard way on eBay.

She was scammed by a professional scam artist, and lost quite a bit of money. The scammer was quite proud to "earn" his/her living by stealing from others - no remorse in any way. Then, eBay's response was not sympathetic to the Indiana woman at all. Just because she was hoping to get a good deal on eBay, the eBay folks are now suggesting that her own "greed" caused her to fall for a scammer's trap. She's publicly sharing her story with others so that they don't fall into that same hole.

Note the huge number of tv ads which eBay is currently running, trying to attract fresh buyers. They've lose a lot of customers, as people are afraid to bid on eBay, thinking they might too have their identity or money stolen. They are going elsewhere to spend on the Internet, and eBay is noticing the downturn. As buyers leave eBay, sellers are finding the eBay market very soft, and they too are not selling nearly so much. eBay is paying the price due to their own apathy about bad guys using them for scams.

I occasionally use eBay, but do so cautiously - twice I've had my identity stolen directly through eBay. Each time, I was fortunate enough to recognize the theft within hours, and was able to stop the thieves before they did me any serious harm. It still was a pain in the backside - cancelling credit cards and having them re-issued, closing my eBay account under that User Name and re-starting under another, etc. etc. etc. It was time-consuming and inconvenient, and for more than a year I quit buying and selling on eBay.

A good friend also had her ID stolen through eBay, and is still feeling the financial pain many months later. Her credit has been seriously damaged, and she's still working hard to repair the problem. She's had tens of thousands of dollars charged to accounts in her name which she never opened - the scammers preyed upon her, used her financial information to open new accounts (she's not even sure how many more are out there!), and now she's being forced to deal with collection agencies for very large sums of money she supposedly owes. Those scammers did a whole lot of charging!

Web selling sites like Ruby Lane offer more protection and stability in a selling atmosphere for both buyer and seller, but at a cost. The monthly selling charges are reasonable as long as one is actually selling, but dedication is the key to success. Sales on these sites seem to flow better when a seller is adding new items weekly, or even better, on a daily basis. Ruby Lane has specific rules and requirements which must be met before a seller is accepted into the Ruby Lane community, and - in contrast to eBay - they continually actively battle scammers, doing everything they can to eliminate the bad guys. Scammers still try to take advantage of Ruby Lane sellers, but it's more difficult and they are much less successful.

The bottom line is that anyone who buys and/or sells on the Internet needs to protect themselves from scammers. The responsibility lies with buyers and sellers who use the Internet, since scammers are looking for victims every day. Tomorrow I'll offer some suggestions on how to recognize and avoid the bad guys.

Spring is Here - and that means Antiques Shopping!!

Here I am in Michigan, where we're known for Spring snows, and I'm convinced that this year we're actually going to have a wonderful Spring and no surprise snowstorms!

Yesterday was beautiful, with temps in the 60s. I've been seeing the newly-arrived sand hill cranes flying overhead, searching for the right place to settle, since February 28th. They are a sure sign that Spring is here. My daffodils are starting to show, and so are the crocuses. All this means just one very important thing - it's time to get ready to shop the Round Top, Texas antiques shows!!

If you haven't been to Round Top, you are missing a true treat in antiques. For two full weeks in March-April and September-October of each year, thousands of antiques dealers head for this tiny 91-person town. There are at least 2 dozen individual antiques shows and flea markets, showing a zillion antiques, collectibles and junque. You never know what you'll find. From the highest quality period antiques to a lot of imported reproductions, it can all be found somewhere, somehow at Round Top.

And soon I'll be on my way there! I spend nearly three weeks shopping and exhibiting in Roundtop shows. Most of the shows are outside, under tents. Acres and acres of stuff to search, day after day. For those of us who love antiques, it's heaven.

My favorite show is the Original Round Top Antiques Fair. With more than 300 dealers, it's been the best quality of the shows for more than 30 years. It's also the show I at which I choose to exhibit, mostly because of that wonderful high quality. You can find furniture from the 1700s through the 1900s, as well as spectacular folk art, textiles (hooked rugs, table linens, vintage clothing, more), jewelry, sewing items, glass and china, pottery, and much, much more - and it's all truly old.

The show manager goes to great lengths to vet the show so that reproductions are not allowed, even writes it in her dealer contract that exhibitors aren't allowed to display anything new.

This show has more country antiques than any other show in the area, which is probably why it's one of my favorites. I just love country antiques -they are practical and useful, have withstood the test of time, and show their age and patina so well. This is the show where Mary Emmerling, Creative Director for Country Home magazine, quietly shops.

The photos are from the Spring 2005 show, but will give you an idea of what a superb show this is. All the dealers are either in buildings or in a huge tent. The buildings are air conditioned and comfortable. You can easily spend a couple of days just at this show alone.

If you want to learn more about this show, click here for The Original Round Top Antiques Fair.