Lessons learned from antique mall clock buying

While touring through the United States we had an opportunity to explore the “magic” of antique malls. Antique malls are typically located in former department stores such as Macys or JC Penny found in commercial areas of a town or city. Antique malls are an American cultural experience. They are not a unique experience for me as I have been in much smaller antique malls in Canada but this one was very BIG!

Dozens of vendor stalls
Dozens of vendor stalls

A particular example I will use is the Maumee Antique Mall located north of Toledo, Ohio. For the antique shopper the first impression is of a giant smorgasbord of antiques. Could I find a bargain given the huge selection of antique items? The Maumee Mall would have about 200 vendors or more. Each vendor would occupy a small 12X12 stall though some might have more than one stall.

It was a weekday and we did not expect to see a lot of shoppers; that was certainly the case on that particular Thursday. The mall is organized into aisles with plenty of antiques with no particular organization. If one were looking for crystal, for example, some stalls would have crystal and others a slightly better selection but there is no specific area of the mall that would have a concentration of any particular item. Front end staff in a check out area handle all the transactions. The mall is filled with security cameras so you are being watched at all times. There are also security staff disguised as shoppers who are present throughout the complex. A small snack bar invites the shopper to have a bite while finding that special item.

Always and I mean always ask for a discount

There are no discounts on items below a certain fixed value ($20 for instance). Some malls are authorized to offer a %10 discount without contacting the seller. Any further negotiation on price requires the mall staff to contact the vendor who may or may not be immediately available. If contacted, the sellers normally do not offer much more than the standard 10% discount. A bit of advice; in malls such as Maumee or any antique store for that matter, always and I mean always ask for a discount.

On this particular Thursday I was shopping for antique clocks. I found nothing that I would consider a “deal” that day. A typical gingerbread clock was in the US$175 to US$200 range, a mantel clock US$100 or more.

Gingerbread needs work
Appears to be a deal  but this Gingerbread needs a lot of work
Interesting clocks
Interesting clocks but pricey

A Mauthe German box clock that was not in the best of shape was selling for US$299. In general, most clocks had serious issues such as missing hands, no pendulum, scuffed up or cracked cases and unreadable dials. Clock prices were 30% to 50% higher than you would find on eBay, any other auction site or your local mom and pop antique store. My wife was shopping for glassware & crystal and also found higher than average prices but managed to find a couple of nice items.

$299 Mauthe wall clock
US$299 Mauthe time and strike wall clock

Why? High overhead is most certainly a factor. Staffing, security, and steep rental rates force the vendor to charge higher than normal prices. Malls such as this most certainly attract a customer base though I suspect not many are highly educated antique shoppers.

For the bargain shopper there are much better options in my opinion. The best bargains for clocks can be found on local community online for-sale sites where you can negotiate directly with the seller electronically or in person.

Call it a cultural experience but in my view you will not find great bargains at an antique mall. Your mileage may differ!