Spring is here and summer is coming, which means vintage markets, antique fairs, flea markets, and yard sales are abundant – at least where I live in the Northeast. As someone who works full-time, one of the key things that helps me to de-stress is, well, shopping. But not just any shopping will do for me. Antique and vintage shopping for treasures brings me so much joy and there is nothing like the thrill of the hunt!
Tips That Will Have You Antique and Vintage Shopping Like a Pro
As an avid collector and treasure hunter, I want to share my best tips for making all of your shopping adventures fun and successful.
10. Research and prepare ahead of time.
Learn what you can about the area you are visiting and try to see what different types of antique shops/malls, vintage or flea markets, and even estate, barn, or yard sales are around. If you are on a serious buying trip, you don’t want to waste your time going to a very high-end antique shop selling George Washington’s kitchen table if you aren’t planning to spend that type of cash. Research can help you make a roadmap, of sorts so that you don’t miss the places you really want to hit. Try these websites and search terms in Google and you will find all sorts of valuable information:
- Type “antiques near me” into the Google search bar. Swap out thrift stores, vintage markets, flea markets, yard, garage, barn, or estate sales and you will find recommendations from bloggers along with limitless websites to search through to find your style of market
- Don’t forget Pinterest and Facebook!
9. All that being said, take the road less traveled!
Unless you are hoping to get someplace before they close, take the side roads too. Don’t always have a plan. Take rides to simply explore the area and enjoy the scenery. I found some of my greatest treasures and favorite places by going off the beaten path. On a trip years ago to Lancaster, PA we were trying to avoid the heavy traffic in the touristy part of town and took a different route. Cutting through Amish farmland we came across Mary’s, which was a building on Mary’s farm and it was incredible!! Prices were fantastic and she had great antiques and hand-crafted goods. Even better, Mary wasn’t home and her husband was making up prices and practically giving things away. We picked up a secretary from the 1800s for $65 and we were laughing that he was going to be in trouble when Mary got home. Taking the road less traveled has helped me to find places I revisit whenever possible.
8. Pay cash.
Not only does this help you to stick to a planned spending amount but it makes it easier to negotiate with the seller.
7. Dress comfortably.
You will be on your feet throughout your adventure. Wear clothes with pockets and carry a bag that allows your hands to be free. You want to be able to pick up, touch, inspect, and carry things. It also helps to have a husband like mine who not only enjoys these adventures but is always willing to carry things for me.
6. Bring along a small measuring tape.
I keep one in my car and always have one in my bag. If you know you will be looking for furniture or art, measure your space at home and make note of those dimensions in your phone.
5. Don’t be afraid to get dirty!
I find the best stuff when I get down on the floor and dig for buried treasure. Open cabinets and drawers because you never know what you will find. Keep wet wipes in your car for cleaning your hands after a dig.
4. Pick up business cards and keep a list of the places you visit.
Make notes on what you picked up at those spots. Go back to places. Remember Mary in my #9 tip? The next time we went it was Memorial Day and Mary was having a multi-vendor sale. We hit the mother lode!
3. Take your time, don’t rush.
When you see something that you love for yourself or for resale, hold or touch the piece, take a breath, close your eyes, and try to imagine the history of this piece. Who did it belong to? What stories does it have to tell? Your gut will tell you if this is the right purchase for you. Inspect for damages or repairs. Sometimes you can live with the damage and sometimes it is a deal breaker, especially if you are a reseller.
See something you cannot describe or identify in words? Use your phone’s camera to search for what you see! Google Lens is a great tool for zooming in on an item, a stamp, or marking and learning the value and history of what you are looking at. It will also pull comparable items from all over the internet so you can identify them before you buy.
2. Take an interest in the seller whenever possible.
Strike up a conversation and ask questions. They often want to share their story with you and if they know it, the history of the piece that interests you. Sellers who are local, like Mary’s husband, can provide valuable information about places to shop in the area. He told my husband about another antique dealer and this barn was incredible! No one was there, except for the owner’s Golden Retriever who guided us through. There was a sign welcoming us with instructions and a money box where you paid after writing down each item that you purchased. That trust and honor system alone made it a great experience. Creating even the smallest connection with the seller, not only makes the interaction more fun for both of you, but it often gets you a better price. Share their business on your social media pages. Not only will they appreciate the shout-out, but you will also likely gain some new followers too.
1. Have fun and appreciate the history and beauty of the items you’re browsing.
Antiques and vintage goods are often one-of-a-kind pieces that have stood the test of time so take those moments to enjoy their beauty and unique stories. Take photos. Do the same thing for thrifted or other items you pick up for DIYs and upcycling. Take a moment to feel the thrill of the hunt, feel pride in supporting sustainability and small business and enjoy it!
There is something truly special about antique and thrift shops, vintage and flea markets, yard, garage, barn, and estate sales. They offer more than just an opportunity to buy items from the past that speak to your heart, they provide a space for people to come together and celebrate the beauty and nostalgia of history. For me, they evoke a sense of emotion and sentimentality that is hard to replicate in any other setting. In many cases, the sellers are often passionate collectors who have spent years scouring estate sales, flea markets, and thrift shops to find the perfect items to sell and we can all benefit from swapping stories about favorite vintage finds and bond over a shared appreciation for the beauty of things from another time.
To shop my antique and vintage hauls visit https://www.oohilovethat.com/
Join our email list to receive updates when new online exclusives are added!
Subscribe to receive quarterly printed volumes of inspiration in your mailbox!
Other artists tell Patty Levine, artist and owner of Ooh! I LoveThat, that she brings a calming presence to any space she enters, but as someone who tests cars while constantly traveling for her full-time job and runs Ooh! I Love That on the side, her life is anything but calm! View Patty’s Full Bio