Tips for Vintage Shopping

I often hear the questions, “What are your favorite spots for vintage shopping?” or ” Where did you find that…(old thing)?” I’ve never really considered antiquing one of my passions, but a quick look around my home proves otherwise. I’ve got old stuff in every room of my house. I think it keeps a room from feeling to precious; it helps add some history and depth to a space, and I love the character and conversation opportunities an old piece can add to a room. I recently read this Guide to Summer Antiquing over at Invaluable, and now I’m in the mood for a flea market road trip!

vintageBefore I dive into shopping tips and tricks, let’s have a quick vocab lesson.  Today’s words are vintage and antique. “Antique” is usually a term reserved for pieces of great value that are a minimum of 100 years old. According to eBay, “vintage” items should be more than 50 and less than 100 years old. On the other hand, I’ve been to flea markets where the criteria for vintage merchandise is 20 years old…so pretty much all the stuff from my childhood is now deemed vintage. So whichever the accurate definition of vintage is, I’m actually more of a vintage shopper. Antiques kind of scare me–they seem too and valuable to be in my home. Vintage items are less intimidating to me. My advice focuses mainly on vintage shopping, but you can also apply it to antiquing. 

boxesBest places to shop
  • Yard Sale / Garage Sale / Estate Sale: Yard sales are great, local resources for vintage treasures. Pros: Great prices, opportunities for bargaining, and close to home. Cons: hit-and-miss – you never know what you’re going to get; and you have to sort through a bunch of crap to find the good stuff.
  • Flea Market: Flea markets are popping up in most large cities. Flea markets are usually held once a month; and you’ll enjoy a fun festival-like atmosphere as well as a GREAT selection of merchandise. Flea market finds are more curated than yard sales, so everywhere you turn, you’ll see things you can’t live without. Pros: Food trucks, great selection, fun atmosphere. Cons: crowded, sometimes you have to buy a ticket to get in, and the weather can prove tricky at outdoor events.  
  • Vintage Shops + Second-Hand Stores: I love driving around unfamiliar neighborhoods and discovering great vintage shopping gems! Pros: Retail stores offer a curated and styled selection. That means it’s easier to shop, cleaner, and less crowded than trolling the flea market. Cons: The shop owners are very aware of the value of the products, so prices tend to be higher. 
globesTips for successful shopping trips
  • Explore new neighborhoods. You’ll never know what’s out there if you don’t go look! 
  • I’m not into grappling over price. It makes me uncomfortable. But toward the end of flea markets and yard sales, vendors are willing to give you a better price if it means they don’t have to pack it up and put it away again. 
  • Have a shopping list. Don’t become distracted by all the vintage goodies around you! Have a list of what you NEED to find. For example,  I recently went looking for a storage piece for my kids backpacks/shoes/coats). During this trip, I was able to stay on task knowing what I was looking for. I glanced at the license plates and card catalogs, but remained focused on my shopping list. But after my moment of distraction I found exactly what I was looking for! 
  • Keep an open mind! Even though you’re looking for something specific, you might find something that meets another need. On a recent shopping trip, I was looking for some small accessories for a photo shoot, but ran across the perfect display piece for my notepads…so stay on target, but don’t. 😉
  • Makeovers are always a possibility. It’s very rare to find the perfect piece that doesn’t need a little fixing up. A little paint and some new hardware can go a long way. Don’t walk away from the perfect piece because it’s the wrong color! 
  • Buy with POTENTIAL and PURPOSE in mind. Does it have the potential to fit your space/style? Will it serve a purpose? 
  • Start a collection (or two, or three!) When you shop to add to a specific collection, you’re not as easily overwhelmed by vintage shopping. When I don’t need a specific piece (furniture, etc.) it’s still fun to go to the markets looking for milk glass vases, globes or tins to add to my collections. 

milk-glassNow I’m in the mood for a treasure hunt/shopping trip. Who wants to join me?!? 

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