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Where Do Vintage Stores Get Their Merchandise?

Have you ever walked into an antique/vintage mall, shop or flea market and wondered just where do vintage stores get their merchandise? If you’re a seasoned vintage reseller this post is probably nothing new for you, but maybe you can add to the list? If you’re looking to get into vintage reselling this information should get you well on your way to your newest addiction.

Note: This is written from a United States perspective. It will differ slightly in every country.

Let’s get this party started!

  1. Estate sales and yard sales

    What’s the difference? Well, it’s a big one. One that I explained in >this post<. How do you know where to find them? The want ads in the paper, a community trade publication, local Facebook pages…. Prices are all over the place with these. If you’re just starting out, go to antique malls to get a feel for what things are selling for before plopping down your hard earned cash. But remember, it’s hard to go wrong with a quarter or less. Take that chance if you think it might be something that would sell. If it ends up a dud then you’ve spent a quarter – or less – on your education.
  2. Thrift stores

    Thrift stores are in every major city and town across the US and many smaller ones. A charity thrift store is dependent on donations with the proceeds, or at least some of the proceeds, going to help the charity it sponsors. These stores are Goodwill, Salvation Army, Hannah Home, King’s Ranch, etc. as well as more locally specific charities.

    In recent years, many of these stores have gone crazy with pricing. It’s getting harder and harder to find things you can make any money with. I guess they got tired of all the eBay sellers making all the money. Of course, the item they price so high just sits there and gets broken, if it wasn’t already, and never sells, because the shoppers who will pay those prices are shopping in the antique shops and malls and eBay and Etsy…..

    Many individually owned businesses call themselves “thrift shops” even though they are totally for profit. Perhaps they believe their prices are really low or they hope we’ll think their prices are low because they called themselves a thrift shop. Meh. Still, never rule them out. Good deals can be found there.
  3. Flea Markets

    I believe in the UK these are called boot sales. It’s kinda like where two or three are gathered…. Flea markets are a bunch of people taking their things and setting up a table or two or three, in a particular spot, like maybe a field next to the highway, and are usually, but not necessarily, regularly scheduled “events” that are always in the same spot. I mean like once a month or every weekend, people show up, pay for a table or two and throw out their stuff for the world to see.

    There can be regular dealers trying to get top dollar to Grandpa cleaning out his barn. I’m gonna say right here that the grandpas cleaning out their barns or the Aunt Lucilles getting rid of their kitchen and household junk are getting harder to find.

    A lot of people absolutely love flea markets. They’re not my favorites for bargains but I suppose it depends on your location.
  4. Friends and family and strangers

    Sometimes friends and family will give you stuff they’re tired of. Sometimes they want to sell it to you. Sometimes they know someone who needs to clean out a house quickly and they tell them to call you.

    I was at an estate sale recently and was a small part of a conversation. The man said they’d been in the business so long that people call them with stuff. They had to go clean out a house that day. I mentioned how much work that was but secretly, I was thinking, “I wish somebody would call me with a house full of stuff!” Forgetting that that has actually happened a few times and lawdy! It’s work! Still, I’d jump on it again if anyone called.
  5. Which brings me to —

    advertising that you buy

    this thing or that thing or whole estates.

    I don’t guess there’s much to say about that. It’s pretty self-explanatory. Another version is to advertise that you’ll clean out the barn or house for free just to get the stuff.
  6. Buying from want ads

    such as in the paper, Facebook buy and sell groups, Craig’s List, etc.

    Personally, I don’t have any luck with these. I never see good deals, plus I’m kinda shy. Sure I write boldly, but I get really shy in those situations. However, I know people who watch these religiously and always get great deals. I’ll see or hear that they got this wonderful thing for $xx or $xxx but if I had seen it first it would have been $xxxx! More than I would be able to sell it for. But give it a try yourself. You may be one of the lucky ones.
  7. Off the side of the road!

    Oh, yeah. One of my favorite and yet least favorite places to find things to sell. I’ve made some serious cash on things I found put out for trash on the side of the road. But it can be dangerous if it’s in a high traffic area, or embarrassing if you know people in town but not well enough that they know you’re not above trash picking. It can also be nasty. Visualize a landlord throwing out their nasty renter’s things left in the house or apartment. Ewwww! Or used hypodermic needles. Yes, I have heard of that happening. At the mess on the side of the road pictured above, as a matter of fact.
  8. At antique malls and shops – or in other words, from other dealers.

    A lot of people swear by this method. They comb booths in antique malls and leave no stone unturned in shops looking for something that is underpriced. What you’re looking for in this scenario is something the dealer didn’t realize the value of or maybe something that they can’t sell to their customers that would go well with yours.

    I had a “happy-stance” once. I thought I recognized a piece of pottery on the front desk of an antique mall holding their pens. I casually asked if it was for sell? They thought about it and said, “How about $5?” Yeppers! Research told me I was correct and it sold for…. um…. a substantial bit more than that.

    Let me say that you have to really know your market and hunt harrrrddddd! Sometimes you’ll luck up and find a booth or shop going out of business that hasn’t been picked clean yet. Sometimes you’ll find a dealer who simply prices according to what they paid. Sometimes you’ll just find something that you’re more familiar with than the dealer.
  9. Real-Life Auctions

    eBay isn’t the only auction place around. Perhaps there are real-life auctions near you. Each auction house has its specialty. It might be new things like tube socks or household junk or antiques or livestock or a mix of any or all of the above. You find out about auctions usually in the local want ads, but there’s also

    Remember, if you try out auctions, to set your limit on a certain item and don’t get caught up in the bidding frenzy. Also remember that there might be a “buyer’s premium” added to the total. Yeah. They’ll tack on an extra 5-10% or more of the selling price. So don’t forget to think about that when setting your limit.

This list covers the basics. Can you add to the list? Have a favorite? Just starting out and had no idea? As for me, I prefer to stick to estate sales, yard sales and sometimes thrift stores. But I never rule out any of the others. Those seem to be the best use of my time. Others’ mileage may vary.

You might also like to see 21 Places To Sell Your Antiques and Collectibles.

3 thoughts on “Where Do Vintage Stores Get Their Merchandise?

  1. I figured I already knew everything, but this was an interesting and exhaustive list Wanda! I figure I’ve tried all those venues once. Love the one about the side of the road. I’ve found lots of great “buys” there. Ha.

  2. These places look like they’re a lot of fun! Haven’t been to an auction yet. But I have to say, thrift stores are my favorite. The clothes there are just too good to pass up. Anyway, thanks!

  3. There are some really great ideas here! Estate sales are probably the best for finding old stuff. People have all kinds of old stuff in their homes!

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