I am an active shopper when it comes to vintage/antique finds. I find myself ALWAYS scrolling on Facebook Marketplace and whenever I travel I’m always so excited to explore the local thrift stores. Over the past few months I have been compiling a list of antique and vintage shopping tips and hacks. I genuinely feel like you can gain a tip or two from this post to keep in mind on your next antiquing adventure.
1. Go in with an open mind
This might seem obvious but it’s so important to go thrifting/antiquing with an open mind! If you go in looking for say a very specific vase, it may be hard to come across. Sometimes with an overwhelming amount of things around, it’s hard to find VERY specific/exact items you want. Always go in with an open mind and maybe overall vibe/style of things you are on the hunt for. You’ll end up finding quite a bit more because it can be hard to find a specific one off item.
2. Show up early or show up late
When it comes to flea markets specifically, there are pros to arriving early but also pros to showing up later. The Rose Bowl Flea Market happens in Pasadena the 2nd Sunday of every month. They open at as early as 5 am, so if you arrive that early you will get first dibs on basically everything before the crowds show up around 11/12 pm. It’s usually not as crowded and the weather…especially in the Summer is more bearable in the early morning.
However, showing up later in the day 1-2 hours before closing has its pros as well. Many vendors don’t want to lug things back to their car/trailer, so you tend to get better deals. I’ve noticed vendors are more willing to negotiate on the pricing just for the sake of not having to pack it back up. So if you are really trying to score some good deals, try going later in the day!
3. Dolly + Lugg
There have been so many times I’ve been out and fell in love with a furniture piece that is too big to fit in my car. There are actually apps called Dolly or Lugg where you can have a person with a big van or moving truck deliver a piece for a low cost. Think Uber but for oversized furniture delivery! I use them all the time and they are great!
4. Look for studio pottery
I love love love signed pottery pieces. There is something so special about finding a piece of pottery that is signed. A lot of times this is called studio pottery, it’s a one off piece from a ceramic artist. There’s something so special about one of a kind elements in a home and adding some unique studio pottery pieces help to achieve that homemade touch.
5. You can bargain
I am personally not good at haggling haha but haggling works best at antique stores or flea markets! Never be afraid to bargain because most times they are willing to work with you on price. Usually if you have cash, that can even be a bargaining tool so the vendor doesn’t have to pay credit card fees. Thrift stores generally have set prices but sometimes on certain days, they will discount certain “colored labels” or different sections of the store will be marked down.
6. Estate sales
Estate sales are sometimes overlooked but they can have some amazing treasures!! While you can’t really bargain the first few days, usually on the last day everything is marked very low and you can haggle on the price. If you find something you truly love then get it when you see it! There are also tons of websites that you can use to find estate sales near/around you. A lot of them have photos, so you can get an idea before going and not waste your time.
7. Don’t forget a tape measure
This one is simple but never leave home without your tape measure! Make sure to measure the space you may be specifically shopping for beforehand and even draw it out so you can refer to it throughout your shopping day. You never know when you need to measure, make a quick decision, and grab a piece before someone else does.
8. Look at silver stamping
I see so much silver everywhere! From cups to bowls to vases and everything in between. There actually are markings on silver that can give you a bit of an indication on if it’s real, authentic, or silver plated. You want to look for a .925 stamp. It actually means that the makeup is 92.5% silver and the other 7% is another base metal like copper. 100% silver is too soft and you actually can’t create anything with it, so you need to add a base metal. So if you see a .925 on the back of anything, it means it is sterling silver.
9. Walk around twice
I always suggest walking around an antique/thrift or flea market twice because you will see new things you didn’t see the first time! Usually there are sooo many things scattered around, so always do a second walk through because 9 times out of 10 you will come across something you didn’t see and may end up buying!
10. Look for craquelure
This is something to look for within artwork, it is very soft micro cracks on a painting. I personally love how it looks and it’s a sign that a piece is old/antique. Basically the top varnish of the painting gets cracks but I think it adds to the piece. A lot of the artwork I have in my own home has craquelure.