I have lived in Florida most of my life and have been purchasing and selling antiques as a side hobby for a few years now. I don’t claim to be an expert in antiques, but if there is one thing I do know how to do, it’s find a deal! The first thing to know about antique shops in Florida is that they are not at all like antique shops up north. You will generally not find items that are truly antiques by definition, simply because the state does not have the history and established sophistication that has been present in the northeast for a couple hundred years. Let’s face it; most of the great furniture makers and cabinet makers are historically from the larger, northern cities. However, that is not to say that you can’t find some truly beautiful pieces that fit your style and budget level. There are really three types of antique shops in Florida.
The first type includes the huge warehouse, commercial shops that you commonly find while driving along the major interstates. The proprietors of these establishments tend to be true experts, perhaps retirees from up north, who know exactly what they have, and these are great places to get an idea of what something is worth. You will probably not find great deals, as these stores depend more on tourists who are ready to spend quite a bit of money on their vacation, but, due to the selection, you may find exactly what you are looking for. Your best bet with these is to find one that is combined with a flea market type set up. These vendors will be more willing to make a deal with you.
The second types of shops are boutique shops in downtown areas of large to midsize towns. You will find some exquisite items in these shops, and the price ranges do vary quite a bit. The price tags will nearly always include a description of the item. Usually, there are several consigners in one shop, so make sure you take a thorough tour to make sure you’re not missing the good prices. Don’t let a few high prices near the door scare you away. These consigners pay the highest rent and, therefore, must charge the highest prices. You’ll usually find the best prices in the unusual corners way in the back of the shops.
Last are the shops I like to call “junk shops.” The owner may or may not be an expert in antiques and usually doesn't have the time, skill, or motivation to present their collection of stuff nicely. You’ll recognize these stores by the haphazard way in which all the merchandise is piled together, the dust gathering on everything, and the lack of description on price tags or even any price tags at all. These are my favorite type and your best bet for finding a real gem if you know what you are looking for. Dig around, pick through chests, move furniture to see what’s behind it. Beware, though; if you don’t know what you are looking for, you could end up spending a lot of money on just plain junk.
Well, that’s my quick guide to antique shops in Florida. Good hunting!