Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tips for Any Kick-Butt, Vintage-Shopping Rock Star

So you're a fan of old, dirty, dusty, grimy and positively fabulous vintage goodies, eh? I gladly welcome you to the club of "all-things-aged." It's a mighty fine club, and one that'll ensure you -- and your house -- are primed for a photo op any day of the week.

As a die-hard vintage enthusiast, I've spent more time searching high and low for items with true flair than most of my mid-20s peers. It probably began with all the estate sales, flea markets and garage sales touting antiques my mother and grandmother brought me to throughout my youth hood. I obviously grew addicted to such shopping, as I now go at least several times a week to get my flea market fix.

Over the years, I've learned a few tips and tricks when it comes to antiquing/thrifting/picking. Below you'll find some of my best.

1. Make a Solo Trip
Okay, so sometimes it's fun to bring a friend when you're thrifting. That, I won't deny! However, if you're serious about finding some good stuff, go alone. You'll be able to leisurely examine every item you pass, and multiple times if necessary, without worrying about boring someone else. It'll also help you focus on the items in front of you which equals (you guessed it) mega scores!

2. It's All About the Macro View
Let's face it, estate/garage sales, flea markets and large antique stories aren't always organized very well. To make sure you see everything, step back from a table or section of the market and just look. Scan the contents of the entire table for at least 30 seconds, from top to bottom, side to side and then once again. Doing this will allow you to zoom in on the items that truly speak to you.

3. Patience Really is a Virtue

It's so important to go vintage shopping with a patient mindset and at least several hours of your day set aside for the mission. Slowly walking through the aisles or tables is key to scoring good finds. If you zoom by hastily, you'll be less likely to locate good stuff. I've been known to spend 6 hours in one store! Note: Notify your significant other/family/roommate before making such a trip so they don't put out a mission persons report (hehe).

4. Go with Nothing in Mind
I'll make this one short n' sweet. Don't go looking for a particular item, 'cause honey, you probably won't find it. Instead, go with an open mind.

If you're afraid of spending too much because you aren't sticking to a list, then set a budget, go with a "theme" in mind (e.g. shabby chic, industrial, nursery) and only buy if you know exactly where the item will rest once it's at home.

5. Ask for a Discount
One of the joys of flea markets, garage sales and similar venues is the fact that things have the potential to be very cheap. If you feel an item is marked too high or you simply want to get a better price, ask for a discount. Vendors often expect people to do this and won't be offended if you do. To increase your odds of a better price, bundle items together (ex. "I'll give you $XX for these three items) or respectfully point out flaws in the item.

Note that in higher scale shops like antique stores -- where the vendors have spent a loads of time researching, cleaning and pricing their items -- most prices are considered "firm." Unless there's a sign posted somewhere saying the shop or vendor will discount, expect to pay the listed price.

Wendy Rose Gould is a vintage enthusiast, cat lover and avid latte consumer. Traveling and exploring the world is also imperative to her survival on this great big Earth. In addition to selling vintage at her Etsy store Zebras And Bubblegum, Wendy writes full time as a freelance journalist for media outlets like AOL Shopping, Real Beauty, Tyra.com and Glamour Magazine.

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