Hunting for Vintage from the Couch & Caveat Emptor

I love going to yard sales, estate sales and thrift stores…but sometimes I’m just not in the mood…not in the mood to put on “real” clothes, head out into traffic and spend time looking through the all flotsam and jetsam for the one or two good things that may be hiding there. It’s rare but it happens.

That’s when I curl up on the couch with my laptop and hunt for vintage stuff online. And, just like in any selling environment, there are deals to be had.  I’ve bought things from other sellers that I’ve been able to resell at two to four times my purchase price. I will admit, I’m not making tons of money at it right now…but enough to make it worth my while. For example a few years ago I bid on this fantastic antique sterling teething ring on eBay and won it for $15. I later sold it in my Etsy store for $45. Likewise I bought this book for $29 from another online seller and sold it in my store for $60. And a big sterling silver and rhinestone pin I bought for $10 I later sold for $40.

And I have a few other things I’ve bought from other sellers that I hope will make a good profit, like this fabulous Art Nouveau sterling silver hat pin.


How do I choose what to buy?

  • No matter what shopping portal I’m using (eBay, Etsy, RubyLane, Craigslist, etc) I limit myself to certain categories where I have some knowledge and/or interest. These include sterling silver, costume jewelry, antique jewelry, vintage photos and vintage textiles.
  • In these categories I look for appealing items with quality workmanship, good materials and a good price.
  • After I find an item, I do the research. What price are similar items listed for online? Are there a lot for sale right now? What have they sold for in the past? (I subscribe to Worthpoint to help me with the historical data.)
  • If I think there’s enough “meat on the bone,” I’ll try to buy it. Sometimes that means spending more to make more. For example I might spend $60 on an item if I think I can sell for $120.

So far it’s worked out well for me. I’ve only bought one thing which I think was a mistake (I paid too much), but I should at least make my money back. 🙂

My two cents–whether you’re a picker or a collector, there are wonderful online deals on vintage goodies if you’re willing to spend a little time looking.

But if you’re a bit nervous about buying from online sellers, keep reading.

Caveat Emptor

Yes, buyer beware, not all online sellers are created equal. I had a wonderful buying experience last week with the little bowl I bought (thank you Melissa!), but it reminded me that I’ve had less-than-stellar experiences from online sellers too.

I think most sellers strive to be honest in their dealings, but some are, quite frankly, LAZY! They see selling stuff online as “easy money” and invest a minimal amount of their time doing it. Their photos are few and inadequate. Flaws are not disclosed. Items are not adequately packaged. Communications are not answered. Returns are not accepted.

Here’s a story: Years ago I bought a secondhand Eileen Fisher jacket from an online seller who described the jacket condition as “MINT” with no flaws mentioned. The price was reasonable and I loved the style of the jacket. Even though this seller didn’t accept returns I wasn’t worried. I knew it would fit and I loved it. When it arrived and I pulled it out of the packaging, I was dumbfounded. The jacket was nowhere close to MINT condition. It had extensive pilling and moth damage. When I contacted the seller about it he said, “Well, it’s MINT to us.” Seriously?? I’m guessing no one took the time to have a really good look at the coat. Thankfully, in the end, he did let me return it, but I was lucky.

These days I won’t consider buying an item from a seller that doesn’t allow returns. (I always check the seller’s policies before committing to buy.) I’m amazed that some sellers are so adamant about no returns. Here’s my favorite: “All items sold AS-IS, NO REFUNDS or EXCHANGES, NO EXCEPTIONS! If this is a problem for you, please DO NOT BUY!” Would you be comfortable buying from this seller?!!

Here are the characteristics you should look for in any online seller if you want the best buying experience. 🙂

The Top Six Characteristics of the BEST Online Sellers

They provide:

  1. Clear, well-lit photos of the item from many angles.
  2. Thorough descriptions, that include maker info, content (cotton, ceramic, oak, leather, etc.), measurements (or dimensions) and weight, if applicable, particularly for sterling silver and gold.
  3. Details about any defects or flaws, ideally with photos showing the flaws.
  4. Reasonable shipping fees and a combined shipping option.
  5. Timely and polite communications.
  6. Clear stated policies, including allowing returns for any or no reason!

Additionally good sellers will have good customer feedback and ratings.  Do read them!

Good luck and happy hunting!!

1 Comment

  1. […] my last post, I adamantly wrote that I don’t buy from online sellers who don’t allow returns…and I encouraged you to follow suit. And then what do I do?  Yup…bought from an […]


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