I grew up perusing estate sales. In my pre-teen years, getting dragged through dingy old basements was tantamount to poking my eyes out, but by the time high school hit I was hooked. Now, the older I get, the dingier the basement, the harder the blood gets pumped through my veins. I’m what you might call a junk addict.
But, as they say, “one woman’s junk is another woman’s treasure.” As a vintage shop owner, I spend a great deal of my time sifting through other people’s “junk.” But how can you tell if it’s worth bringing home?
That’s easy: do you like it? I’ll admit, after twenty years of sifting through this stuff, I have a pretty good idea of what’s worth something and what isn’t. I also have a BA and a MA in Art History, and have spent time working in galleries and auction houses, so that has helped. But when it comes to my own home, I could care less about what price tag is getting slapped on it. I have many items in my home that I spent $1 on that are absolutely priceless to me, and would never consider listing on my shop.
So now that we have that settled, let’s get to the real topic at hand: how DO you score that $1 vintage item that you will cherish more than your left kidney? My first piece of advice: www.estatesales.net – this site is an absolutely indispensable resource for my work, and for making my house, well, a home. Most estate sales are on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, but mid-week sales can be a great time to find a score when there is less competition around for those prized pieces. To score the best vintage, be first in line. Many estate sale companies take numbered lists, and dealers get there at the crack of dawn to get their names on it. But to score the best prices, pop into that sale on the last day within the last two hours, and many estate sale companies will practically give the stuff away. And be sure to barter. A price tag at an estate sale is never the price they are willing to get rid of it for.
This next piece of advice may seem obvious, but find your favorite thrift store and visit frequently. Some of my best scores have been from my favorite shop – and I make a point of visiting every Monday or Tuesday, when the crowds are much thinner. Sites such as Craigslist, OfferUp, Facebook Marketplace and Apartment Therapy also have endless supplies of wonderful vintage.
But, really, the easiest way to find vintage is not always the cheapest way to find it. Sites like Chairish, Etsy, Ebay, OneKingsLane, FirstDibs and EBTH (Everything But the House) are almost always marked up, but if it’s something specific you’re looking for and time is of the essence, be sure to hit these sites up for some super cool and unique scores.
Lastly: why vintage? For me, personally, there are two main reasons why I shop second-hand for my home. The first reason being that it is truly the only way to make your home unique and interesting. Pieces with history always have a story behind them, and the tales of how you scored them make for endless conversation starters. Just open any renowned decor magazine (ArchDigest, House Beautiful, etc.) and you’re bound to find the pages loaded with vintage and antiques.
But the most important reason to shop vintage is this: Planet Earth. With trash filling our oceans and factories polluting our air, it’s more important now than ever to take charge and do your part to keep our beautiful planet clean. Buying vintage saves these pieces from cluttering land fills, and lessens demand for the mass supplied goods produced in greenhouse gas-emitting factories.
So, what now? Go get in line for that sale!
Get your vintage on.