Practicing Proper Show Etiquette

by Bruce Johnson

For many of us our first experience as a collector may have been at a local yard sale, craft fair or elbow-punching flea market, but attending a major show requires an awareness of the value of the pieces on display, as well as a sensitivity to the risk every exhibitor endures.

Long before the show doors open, every exhibitor, from antiques dealer to contemporary artisan, has spent weeks planning, preparing, packing, transporting and displaying their merchandise, and it is only polite for us to recognize that.

Here, then, are some guidelines for every collector to follow:

Do not open any showcase, even if unlocked. Instead, ask the exhibitor to hand you any piece you would like to examine more closely.

Don’t sit on the furniture without permission. Even then, it should only be if you are serious about buying it, not just looking for a place to rest.

Never bring any food or drinks, even water, into a booth. Ever.

Never set your purse, briefcase, computer, books, camera or shopping bag on a piece of furniture or display case.

Do not take photographs, even with your cell phone, without asking permission.

Exhibitors are not there to give out free appraisals. An antiques show is not the Antiques Roadshow.

Each booth is a place of business, so don’t use it to hang out and chat with your friends.

Similarly, an exhibitor may be also be a friend of yours, but they are there to do business, not hear about your children, your pets, your job, your trip or your antiques. Say hello, make arrangements to meet later, and let them do business with their customers.

Don’t price an item in one booth and then tell another exhibitor with the same item that you can get it for less over there.

Asking an exhibitor to “forget” the sales tax is asking them to break the law for you, and to risk losing their license to do business in that state.

Negotiating a price begins with being polite. “Please” and “thank you” go a long ways toward a smooth transaction.

Treat an exhibitor as you would a friend, and they will become one.


Hope to see you at the 30th National Arts and Crafts Conference and Shows on February 17-19.