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Is Google Lens The Death of The Antique Dealer?

June 4, 2024
Google Lens antique dealer
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I’ll admit it. I’ve used the Google Lens a few times. It has helped me to identify a couple of really obscure items that have come in to my store. But I do not use it on the daily. I won’t. And I don’t have to. I’ve got a lot of stuff stored upstairs in the old brain when it comes to antiques. That knowledge, and a huge store database developed over nearly 20 years, helps me to identify and value what I’m looking at for myself and my customers. Most of the old-school dealers whom I know use that same built-in resource, and their own databases, developed over a lifetime. But for so many buyers and sellers the Google Lens has become their go-to resource. No brain or database is needed. This disparity makes me wonder: Is the Google Lens the death of the antique dealer?

Will Google Lens Be The Death of The Antique Dealer?

For those of you who don’t know what this is all about, let me explain. The Google Lens, according to Google itself, is an app on your phone that “compares objects in your picture to other images, and ranks those images based on their similarity and relevance to the objects in the original picture.” You snap a picture with Google Lens and up come other, similar images so you can figure out what you’re looking at.

Here’s an example. When Bruce and I were in Hawaii we drove up this windy road to a natural blow hole. We stopped to look at the view. On the side of the road, covering a rock, was the skin of some animal. It was pretty creepy, but we were also relatively intrigued. What was it? Enter Google Lens. We snapped a pic and found out: A wild boar. I kid you not. They apparently run wild in Maui. Who knew? Dealers use Google Lens in a similar way. They snap a picture of something they find at a consignment or thrift store. They don’t know what this something is, but Google Lens often does. The app tells them what they are looking at and who’s out there selling it and for how much. Good? Well I guess that’s the question.

Google lens antique dealer
Photo by withatices ‏‏‏‏‏‏‏‏on Pexels

Why Do Some Dealers Use The Google Lens?

Dealers who use Google Lens on the daily, in my opinion, either don’t know a lot about antiques or don’t want to put in the work to learn the trade. Google Lens lets them snap and go. Buy or don’t buy. They grab the items the Lens tells them bring good money on eBay or Posh Mark or wherever they re-sell. They leave the other items by the wayside, even when they are aesthetically pleasing, practical or just worth preserving. In a word, I think reliance on Google Lens is lazy. Yup. I’ve gone there and I’ve said it. I hope for a future where the antique profession goes on and on. And it’s a profession, with a bank of knowledge and practioner who care about it. A world where AI doesn’t take over common sense. And where an eye for beauty and preservation is as much a part of the business as profit.

Google lens antique dealer
Photo by cottonbro studio on Pexels

What I Think The Google Lens Will Do To The Antiques Business

Unfortunately, I see more and more people in my store, Consignments Ltd., using the Google Lens to make decisions about what to buy. Google Lens might not be the death of the antique dealer, but as AI gets better and better, Google Lens will do a better job identifying what we are looking at. So a lot of folks won’t need to retain information about old stuff. And a lot of good things, that are worth re-using and preserving might just get left for naught because they can’t be sold for a profit. I’d say tread with caution where Google Lens is concerned. And take some time to learn the craft.

For more on antiques, check out my previous blogs: Is This An Antique? and How To Identify 5 Common Types of Vintage Glassware.

Hope you’ll keep learning, my friends. Marianne

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