Customers, clients and regular readers of this blog know that I am building a business that has a foundation of more than just selling vintage silver. Transferring general knowledge and specific information along with each individual piece is an equally important part of the transaction. I’m constantly on the lookout for ways to improve my ability to capture and convey relevant information. When I learned about QR code applications, it struck me that this was a perfect marriage between new technology and vintage silver.
What is a QR code?
These black and white squares have been popping up in magazine ads, on labels, or business cards. They look like chess boards that one might find in Alice in Wonderland. Much like a bar code, they encode information. When read by a QR code reader on your phone (and there are many different apps to choose from), the reader decodes it and then displays the results to you. It might be contact information, take you to a web page, or an email contact. The possibilities are limitless. QR codes have been around for about 10 years, first developed by a subsidiary of Toyota cars.
Vintage silver and my passion for information
There are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people out here in cyberspace, and in the real world, who have a piece of silver they would like to sell you. When formulating business plans for Silver Magpies it was clear to me that information was one of the valuable ways I could differentiate my business from other silver sellers out there.
Have you ever walked into an antiques shop (or an eBay auction) and a pretty piece has caught your eye? Then you take a closer look and there is no information about it. So you find someone to help you and it becomes clear quite quickly that they know nothing more than the obvious about the piece.
This drives me absolutely round the twist! Customers parting with their money (or window shoppers, it doesn’t matter) are entitled to all the details. I ask for details in antiques shops when I see a piece of silver, and far too often I’m appalled by the answers I get. On many occasions I’ve been told things that are just plain wrong.
Enter the curator card
Combine a general dearth of information with my mania for finding out the who, what, why, where and when and the solution becomes a curator card.
From the very beginning every piece of silver that I sold went to it’s new owner with a small card detailing its history. Typically they are literally a card with essential information although a few memorable ones have been several pages long.
What these cards were unable to capture were photos. They are simply too small to print even an individual image in, what I consider, sufficient clarity.
Why are the photos so important?
You don’t need photos until and unless something happens to the piece! But if you damage, lose it or it is stolen, wouldn’t it be handy to have an automatic reference with 5 or 6 photos that show the piece, it’s relative size, and the all-important maker’s mark?
Very useful when you want the silversmith to see exactly what he or she is repairing, the insurance company what they are covering, and your children are inheriting.
Silver Magpies QR code applications
As soon as I understood what QR codes were, then how to create and apply them, my first thought was that I could now provide a photo archive for my clients!
In the last couple of months each piece has had it’s photos uploaded to Silver Magpies Flikr page and each set of photos has been assigned its won web page.
Now every curator card has a unique QR code printed on the reverse side which takes the owner of that piece to the precise page where the photos of their piece live.
QR codes have had a tremendous impact on my business. Particularly with clients who see me in the real world, I’ve found that the curator cards combined with a demonstration of the QR code application has convinced people to make a purchase from Silver Magpies. After such a positive reaction, it occurred to me that I ought to introduce it to my online audience as well.
Knowledge is power
As I’ve written about before, buying an antique or vintage piece is for most people a transaction that relies on trust. For virtually all of my customers and clients, they have to take my word for it when I say that the spoon they are looking at is the Tiffany kidney-shaped berry spoon in the Blackberry pattern dating from c. 1872.
This website with it’s silver library, or a series of blog posts about spotting fakes and forgeries, the monogram challenge which hones your eye for reading monograms or Friday Eye Candythat shows silver being used in everyday settings, all of it provides knowledge for you.
Transparency is key
On a related note, obviously it’s important to always consider the source of information. I’m in the business of selling silver and silver research and appraisal services.
Equally important, but less obvious, is the knowledge that I am *not* in the business of selling books, silver polish, advertising space or anything else. If I recommend a book or silver polish, or mention a business or product it is because I personally use and pay the regular price for that product or service.
I am not an affiliate marketer nor will I accept payment to endorse any product. I won’t take ads on Silver Magpies, nor do I accept gifts. My ability to communicate freely without financial or ethical entanglements is too important.
This full disclosure is stated in my about section, but it seemed worth repeating given the topic of this post.
I’m constantly looking for ways to improve Silver Magpies for my customers, clients, and readers. It would be incredibly helpful if you would take a moment to complete this quick (I swear!) survey.
Have you entered the Name-A-Cocktail contest? The winner receives this sterling silver decanter label.