Baby It’s Hot Outside
Leah’s tips for how to score vintage finds from the comfort of your air conditioned home
by Leah Ashley
It’s July and it’s HOT. As much as I love a flea market or a garage sale pull over, the only outdoor activity that I feel like doing nowadays is finding the nearest body of water and plunging in. Luckily, for everyone living in the 21st century, access to the internet has opened up a plethora of new avenues for online treasure hunting. So whether you live somewhere without any good second hand shopping options, or you are trying to beat the heat, I’ve got tips for how to score big on vintage finds from the comfort of your air conditioned home.
Know Your Platform
Just like you know what your favorite stores sell in real life, get to know which platforms specialize in what. Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace have more of a “yard sale” feel since you can find an array of items at affordable prices. Chairish and Etsy are a nice middle ground, with something for every style and every budget. When perusing Ebay and EBTH you can find just about anything and they let the consumer drive the price. On the upper end of the spectrum, 1stDibs and One Kings Lane have wonderful and quality antiques, with prices to match.
Keywords Are Key
When I’m looking for a specific piece, I make sure to hone in on my search with keywords. For example, if I’m looking for a pair of vintage art deco mirrors, I would search using “pair of vintage art deco mirrors.” If I’m in the mood to just browse, I might type in “vintage mirror” and see what comes up. Another insider tip is to spell your keywords incorrectly. Many sellers don’t really know what they have and you will be one of the lucky few to stumble upon a misrepresented listing!
Do Your Research
Have a certain piece, designer or style in mind? Let your fingers do the walking and educate yourself as much a possible. The more you know, the more you, the consumer, are protected. Educating yourself on a piece, a designer or even a particular style can save you from over paying or unknowingly buying a knock off.
It is very rare to find a vintage piece in “like new condition.” Typically you can count on your new find having some dings, scrapes or even some serious wear and tear. Make sure that you really examine the available photos in the listing. If there is some questionable damage, don’t be afraid to ask the seller for a more detailed photo. The more information you have about a piece, the easier it is to decide if the asking price if worth the cost of repairs.
Once you have come across an item you are interested in, make sure to browse for that same item on different platforms. Often sellers have to pay a commission depending on the site the seller is using. Since the commission can be as high as 20 percent of the listing price, often you’ll find one seller listing the same item, on multiple platforms, at different price points, to make up for what they have to pay, or don’t have to pay, in commissions. In the past I’ve found a dining room table listed on 1stDibs at one price and then the same seller listing the same table at a reduced price on a site that doesn’t require them to pay a commission. Keep browsing.
Measure. And Then Measure Again
Most of the time, buying online is a commitment. A lot of these second hand sites don’t offer returns. For that reason, it is incredibly important to measure your space accurately so you know the piece will fit when it arrives. And while you’re at it just go ahead and measure a second, and maybe third, time.
Just because a listing has a set price doesn’t mean you can’t make an offer. Take into consideration the research you have done, the condition of the piece and then email the seller with a different offer. My motto is “If you don’t ask, it’s always a NO.”
Consider The Shipping
Shipping can make or break a deal, sometimes putting that once reasonable find now completely out of budget. Before I fall in love with something online, I always enter my zip code to see if shipping is worth the extra cash. One option to try is a third party shipper, like UShip. A lot of the time an outside company can and will offer more competitive rates. But despite all that, my favorite way to buy online is still local pickup, when items are a short(ish) drive away and you can pick them at your convenience.
Have a good experience? Stay in touch with that dealer. There are seller’s out there with storage units full of items that may not be listed yet. If I love a merchant’s style, I often ask what else they have that isn’t online. Looking for something specific? Let them know that as well. They might not have it currently, but they may come across what you are looking for on their next treasure hunt.
Patience Is Part of The Process
Just like second hand shopping in real life, online vintage shopping takes time and patience. Some days you score big. Some days you walk away with nothing. But it pays to visit sites often and to spend a few minutes a day browsing your favorite platforms.