For some people, the idea of buying vintage has a negative connotation.
Maybe it brings to mind thoughts of shopping at thrift stores in college, when it was the only affordable way to decorate their dorm or apartment. Perhaps they feel that it’s an indication of a lower status or lack of success; that it is beneath them to buy secondhand when they can afford the shiny and new.
To those on the other end of the spectrum, those who enjoy shopping for pre-loved goods and artifacts, it’s like being in on a wonderful secret. Flipping through channels today, you’ll see no shortage of antique/vintage/picker/storage auction shows.
Why is it great to shop vintage? Let me count the ways…
The price – The most obvious starting point. For most items, it’s cheaper to buy them used than new, unless you’re getting into the realm of antiques and collectibles. Especially in recessionary times of tight budgets, vintage answers the call of decorating yourself and your home on a dime. There has been no shortage of before-and-after pics of what people are able to do to transform their home goods and their wardrobes.
The eco-factor – Buying secondhand is wonderful for the environment. It saves on the construction of a new piece, which requires energy and raw materials, uses chemicals, and produces waste. Think of all the people there are in the developed world and how many beds, couches, tables, clothes, etc. they might purchase in a lifetime… and then throw away. It adds up exponentially. Secondhand is just smarter for Mama Earth.
The unique factor – Picture in your mind’s eye the rooms that you have seen that have really caught your eye. A truly great room reflects the owner, not the store it came from. You shouldn’t be able to walk into someone’s house and immediately know that they buy everything from Rack & Canister. The speedbump people hit when decorating a room or filling up their wardrobe is that they often feel that it needs to be complete NOW. Many of the best rooms I’ve seen are ones that have been curated over time, travel, and experience. Those rooms tell a story. They tell me a little more about who lives in them. They are one of a kind.
The better design – Just as with furniture, the accessories, antiques, and collectibles from years gone by often are just better designed. In part, they’re simply cooler to look at. The other kicker is that in some cases, a lot of vintage items are better made than they are today. You’ll find more handcrafted, artisan pieces that are sturdier and pass the test of time. Why else do you still see them around, fetching some high-dollah prices?
The nostalgia – I mentioned earlier that these pieces, and the rooms they inhabit or the person they adorn, tell a story. In one way, that story is yours, as they define who you are and what you are interested in. They also tell the story of their past life or the person who owned them before: A vintage counter that sat in a soda fountain shop run by one family for over 100 years. The gown designed by that woman who was a pioneer in her industry. The advertisement for a time when life was simpler.
The thrill of the hunt – Probably one of the least-mentioned aspects of shopping for vintage is the rush. Because many of the things you see for sale in vintage shops and at yard or estate sales are more rare, there is definitely a good buzz to be had when you find something you KNOW no one else will have. AND you got it for a steal? It’s a total natural high. No two are alike so it’s always like scoring a lost treasure when you get the goods. Yes, it can be addictive.
Here are some outlets that can help you make the most of your thrifting:
- Yard Sale Queen – The website from a woman who takes her curbside shopping very seriously. Learn from her tips!
- Estate sale mailing lists – If you’d like to get into estate sale shopping, the best thing to do is get on multiple mailing lists of estate sale companies. You’ll get advanced shopping times, as well as previews of merchandise before anyone else.
- Smart phone apps – For my thrifting, I rely heavily on apps like CraigsPro+, a speedy way to sift through Craigslist ads, Yard Sale Mapper, Garage Sale Rover, and Antique Week to help me find potential treasures.
- Kovel’s – Kovel’s is a fantastic resource to research and learn more about antiques and collectibles. Sign up for their weekly newsletter to get some great tips and insights into the world of vintage.
- Antiques Roadshow – Sure, we all know it as the long-running PBS series, but did you know they have lots of tips and information on their site to educate you? Check out the Resources section.