Thursday, August 19, 2010

Think Vintage: The Treasure Hunt

Okay, now that you've had some time to do your research on the items you're interested in selling let's move on to the fun part - treasure hunting. Whenever you go out looking for merchandise to resell be sure to carry atleast one of your general reference/price guide books in the car. When you find something and you're not sure whether to buy it or not, get out your notebook, write down the needed info, go out to your car and look it up first.   When you are buying, try not to buy anything that is chipped, cracked or needs to be repaired.  It will save you a lot of work in the long run.  Also, flaws lower the value of an item when you try to resell it even if the item has been repaired. 

Something else to carry in your car is a box with wraps for the merchandise you find. Please don't use newspaper to wrap up your items as it can seep into the merchandise, for starters. More on that subject in the Selling section I'll be writing at a later date. I buy the underpads that people usually use on their beds for incontinence. They are soft and reuseable.

If you're NEW to buying vintage, then you might want to follow the 10% Rule I used to use when I first started buying. It's hard to make a mistake when you follow this rule.

10% Rule: If you see an item you want to buy for resale and it is priced at $2.00, do you think its full retail value is $20? If yes, then buy it for $2. If not, then pass up the item. See where I'm going with this idea? Even if you price the item at $10 when you resell it you'd be making 5 times what you paid for it. Using this method of buying, I've never lost a penny. In a worst case scenario, you can always sell it for what you paid for it. It happens very rarely, if at all, that you can't sell an item for atleast double what you paid for it. That falls into my darn fool theory: If I'm darn fool enough to buy it, then so is somebody else. :)

During the week, start going to thrift shops. I like to make a circle of the shops within a 25 mile radius, twice a week. I've pulled some nice treasures out of thrift shops. On weekends, go to the yard sales and be there as early as you can. Many times I'll get at the sale early enough to help the seller unpack their items. It's true that some yard sales say "No early birds", but it's rare that it's set in stone. I've been to those sales early too and many times they'll let me buy before their set opening time.   Fleamarkets are another good place to buy.  Depending on where you live, some fleamarkets are open during the week as well as on weekends.

If I go to a yard sale and I think their prices are too high, I'll jot down the location of the sale in my notebook and go back to the sale later on in the day. If they've sat on the item all day and it didn't sell, then they are more willing to negotiate. Many times, they'd rather take less money for the item than to have to pack it back up again and save it for another yard sale.

Another good place to buy is at church sales or holiday sales. Holiday sales are mostly arts and crafts sales, but they usually have a table or two of "white elephants" too. That's where you'll find their vintage items.

There are other places to buy, but I'm sticking to the basics right now. An experienced "picker" can buy out of some antique shops too.

Once you get your treasures home, research them so you'll know everything about the items. My next posting will be about how and where to sell what you find.


  1. I love this post-there is a wealth of information here.

    I have a rule similar to your 10% rule, I won't buy anything unless it is 50cents or less. That is part of what makes books so appealing.
    I have several thrift stores that sell books for 10-25cents a piece, a heck of a bargain!

    I do my rounds at the thrifts and if we aren't doing a show I am at the yard sales on saturday morning. I also like to go to the estate sales on the last day because everything is usually 50% off-I have found a few things at them.

    I HATE going to the antique malls-they are a little cluttered here, but didn't think about going and just looking at the items there-what a good idea. Thank you!

  2. By the way-I think you should post part/all of this entry into the business section of Etsy. There are a lot of vintage sellers that would love to read this, but they may not come over to your blog. Just a thought. I can't wait to read more!

  3. Thanks, Nomad. I post on a thread on Etsy :) that a lot of people are reading too. I try to share what info I give here on that thread too.

    And thanks for sharing the way of doing business that works for you on my blog. The more info we can all share, the better.

  4. My criteria is 30% to value. If something costs $3, it needs to sell for at least $9. ($3 for purchase price, $3 for gas to the post office, the cost of selling on Etsy or Ebay and $3 for me). The cost of selling online and gas/etc. is usually lower. I try to find things that do better than 30% but thats my minimum.