Antiques and Art Dealers


Education and Training Requirements

High School

You can become an antiques or art dealer with a high school diploma, though many successful dealers have become specialists in their field partly through further education. While in high school, concentrate on history and art classes to familiarize yourself with the particular significance and details of different periods in time and the corresponding art of the period. Consider studying home economics if you plan to specialize in household items. This knowledge can come in handy when distinguishing a wooden rolling pin from a wooden butter paddle, for example.

English and speech classes to improve communication skills are also helpful. Antiques and art dealing is a people-oriented business. For this reason, it's crucial to be able to deal efficiently with different types of people and situations. Operating your own small business will also require skills such as accounting, simple bookkeeping, and marketing, so business classes are recommended.

Postsecondary Training

While a college education is not required, a degree in fine arts, art history, or history will give you a working knowledge of the antiques you sell and the historical periods from which they originated. Another option is obtaining a degree in business or entrepreneurship. Such knowledge will help you to run a successful business.

Other Education or Training

The Art Dealers Association of America hosts collectors' forums in New York City that provide an excellent way for art dealers to stay up to date on industry trends and expand their knowledge. Recent topics included "Social Media and the Arts: The Value of Tweets, Tumbles, and 'Likes'," "Catalogues Raisonnés: An Exploration of the Model," "Artists and Dealers: Creative Partnerships," and "Young at Art: Emerging Art and How to Collect It."

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

Presently, there are no certification programs available for antique dealers. However, if you plan to open your own antique store, you will need a local business license or permit.

In addition, if you wish to conduct appraisals, it will be necessary to take appraisal courses that are appropriate for your interest or antique specialty. Certification is not required of those interested in working as an appraiser, but it is highly recommended, according to the International Society of Appraisers (ISA)—which administers an accreditation and certification program to its members. Obtaining accreditation or certification will demonstrate your knowledge and expertise in appraisal and attract customers. To obtain accreditation, candidates must have three years of experience in appraising, complete the ISA Core Course in Appraisal Studies, and pass an examination. In order to become certified, individuals must complete additional training in their specialty area, submit two appraisals for peer review, complete professional development study, and pass a comprehensive examination.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

No experience is needed to become a dealer, but those with prior work experience at an art or antique gallery or comprehensive knowledge of art and antiques, as well as business management, will have the best chances of operating a successful business. 

To be an antiques or art dealer, you'll need patience—and lots of it. Keeping your store well stocked with antiques, art, or other collectibles takes numerous buying trips to auctions, estate sales, flea markets, rummage sales, and even to foreign countries. Many times you'll have to sort through boxes of ordinary "stuff" before coming across a treasure. Unless you're lucky enough to have a large staff, you will have to make these outings by yourself. However, most dealers go into the profession because they enjoy the challenge of hunting for valuable pieces.

In addition to being patient in the hunt for treasure, art dealers also have to be patient when dealing with clients. Works of art can cost thousands, even millions of dollars; as a result, purchases are typically not quick decisions. The ability to work with a client over some time and gradually persuade them to invest in a piece takes time, skill, and patience.

Tact is another must-have quality for success in this industry. Remember the old adage—one person's trash is another person's treasure.

Finally, with the growth of online retail and auction sites such as eBay, computer skills have become an essential part of the antiques or collectibles dealer's toolkit.