Business Overview

The vintage maps businesses is a niche market of collectibles, including old, historic, rare, unusual and one-of-a-kind maps. Some vintage maps business owners start out as hobbyists and then go on to establish galleries that house large collections of vintage maps.
Common types of vintage maps include star maps, antique railway and road strip maps, military battle maps and celestial maps. Geographical vintage maps cover all categories, such as archipelagos, world oceans and groups of islands.

Who is this business right for?

One of the keys to any successful business is to choose one that you’re passionate about. You should really have a love of history and heritage of old maps when considering opening a vintage maps store. There’s an awful lot to learn about antique maps, and it’s a business that is well suited for amateur collectors of maps. An amateur collector will have a base knowledge of different types of antiques maps, such as celestial maps and geological maps. An amateur collector will also have knowledge of how to price vintage maps, considering rarity, age, size, condition, historical importance and decorative value. It’s also important for a vintage maps store owner to know special requirements for framing and storing vintage maps.

What happens during a typical day at a vintage maps store?

Many vintage maps store owners spend their day buying and selling a variety of vintage maps. Most have connections with other map dealers and purchase their vintage maps or purchase vintage maps from individual sellers. Vintage maps store owners also inquire about other map businesses selling collections of maps of antiquity. Day-to-day activities usually include making phone calls to these resources, researching marketing opportunities, pricing inventory, and preparing orders for shipment. Some vintage maps store owners also provide map repair, map conservation and map restoration.

What is the target market?

The preferred client/customer types for vintage maps include collectors, decorators, and homeowners. Collectors are always on the hunt for that diamond in the rough. Decorators are always looking for interesting items to decorate homes and offices. Individual homeowners may feel a special connection to a part of the world—whether it is somewhere they have travelled, or the former home of their ancestors—and wish to have a map of that area in their home.

How does a vintage maps store make money?

Vintage maps store owners make money in a variety of ways. Some operate online stores, offering individual collectors the opportunity to sell their vintage maps on consignment on the website, and then splitting the profit according to a predetermined ratio.

Other store owners may purchase large collections from collectors and sell each vintage map individually to garner a greater profit.

What is the growth potential for a vintage maps store?

The growth potential for a vintage maps business is positive, as accessibility is shrinking. In addition, vintage maps store owners can add adjunct services, such as framing, cleaning and restoration.

Getting Started

What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful vintage maps store?

Like any other business, there are some essential skills to build a successful vintage maps business. Organization, sales ability and problem resolution are the key three. You need to take time to look at business locations, keep track of vendors, put together an advertising plan and make sure financing is in place. Being able to be a good salesperson is also essential. Make sure you have a well-prepared sales pitch that is persuasive. Most of all, know accurate and specific information about the maps that you’re trying to sell, and tailor it in a manner that makes sense to your potential buyer.

What are the costs involved in opening a vintage maps store?

If you’re considering storefront for your vintage maps business, you’ll have the cost of monthly rent. If you go with a website, the cost is much lower. You can have a nice website created for under $200 or even make one on your own. The cost of inventory varies depending on how big you want to go. You can start with a collection that costs less than $2,000 to get started.

What are the steps to start a vintage maps store?

Once you're ready to start your vintage maps store, follow these steps to ensure that your business is legally compliant and avoid wasting time and money as your business grows:

  1. Plan your business. A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. A few important topics to consider are your initial costs, your target market, and how long it will take you to break even.
  2. Form a legal entity. Establishing a legal business entity prevents you from being personally liable if your vintage maps store is sued.
  3. Register for taxes. You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
  4. Open a business bank account. A dedicated checking account for your vintage maps store keeps your finances organized and makes your business appear more professional to your customers.
  5. Set up business accounting. Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
  6. Obtain necessary permits and licenses. Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
  7. Get business insurance. Insurance is highly recommended for all business owners. If you hire employees, workers compensation insurance may be a legal requirement in your state.
  8. Define your brand. Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
  9. Establish a web presence. A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers.

Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.

Where can I find a business mentor?

One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.

Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.

Recommended: offers video courses and a supportive online community of like-minded entrepreneurs. Try one month membership for for free.

What are some insider tips for jump starting a vintage maps store?

If you’re opening a storefront, research the ancestry of your local community. Many people take an interest in genealogy in their later years, and you could bring in a lot of customers by selling antique maps specific to the regions of their ancestral homeland.

Growing Your Business

How to promote & market a vintage maps store

Get the word out about your vintage maps business by attending business fairs, flea markets and joining your local chamber of commerce. Developing strong relationships with trade buyers, collectors and museums is another way to promote your business and bring in new customers.

Recommended: Get started with local advertising for your business with a $300 credit from Yelp.

How to keep customers coming back

Establish yourself as an expert in the niche of vintage maps and develop credibility. Keep customers engaged through emails, promotions and articles on hot topics within your niche. Be the go-to person when it comes to vintage maps.

How and when to build a team

It’s time to build a team when you start to grow. Hire salespeople to manage business and sales. Just be sure to both educate and train them. You can also build a team of appraisers and framers if need be.

Legal Considerations

State & Local Business Licensing Requirements

Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a vintage maps store. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.

Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, check out our informative guide, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.

Certificate of Occupancy

A vintage maps store can be run out of a storefront. Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO).  A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.

  • If you plan to lease a storefront:
    • It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
    • Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to a vintage maps store.
    • After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
  • If you plan to purchase or build a storefront:
    • You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
    • Review all building codes and zoning requirements for you business’ location to ensure your vintage maps store will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.

Reduce Personal Liability

Structuring your business as a limited liability company (LLC) ensures your personal assets are protected in the event your business is sued.

What is an LLC?

Form an LLC in 5 easy steps

Earning Potential

How much can you charge customers?

The answer to this question is as much as the market will bear. Of course, it has to be fair. But you’ll want your markup to be at least 50 percent of the cost.

What are the ongoing expenses for a vintage maps store?

Ongoing costs for a vintage maps business include inventory, employee wages, rent, website maintenance, bookkeeping expenses and advertising. These are really costs that never go away. If you're renting a storefront, monthly rental costs can range from $650 to $1,200 per month. To have a website created will range anywhere from $200+.

How much profit can a vintage maps store make?

Profit really depends on business acumen. If you know how to price your goods and run your business efficiently, the sky is really the limit. Some vintage maps business owners make a minimum of around $20,000 per year, while others who operate full time earn $75,000+.

How can you make your business more profitable?

Cutting ongoing expenses is one way to make your business more profitable. You may find that your business would work better as an online store, instead of operating out of a physical storefront. It’s also wise to sharpen your negotiation skills when it comes to buying inventory.

Next Steps

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