My Biggest Mistakes Buying Vintage Things

I’m coming up on my 4-year anniversary of opening my first Etsy store (which turned out to be rather life changing!) and it got me thinking…I’ve had a lot of fun, scored some great finds and made new friends along the way, but it’s also been a lot of work and I’ve made a host of mistakes. These I share with you now for your edification and amusement!

Mistake #1: Buying things because they were a “deal”

I’ll admit I have bought some things merely because they were a “deal,” like this vintage set of made-in-Japan sheep salt and pepper shakers. They were marked down to $2.50 at the antique mall, and well, that barely buys a cup of coffee these days, so I couldn’t resist. They are in good condition, but really just a bit of kitsch. Maybe I can sell them for $10. Not worth the effort to list them right now.


Mistake #2: Becoming enamored with objects that have little value

I have no idea why I was so enamored with the little Peruvian wood flute, but I was. I HAD to buy it even though I knew it had little value…and on top of that, I compounded this purchase with mistake #4, paying too much!!!


Mistake #3: Neglecting to thoroughly examine items

No one wants clothes with holes, crazed china, chipped crystal or musty books. They don’t!!! There have been a few too many times I’ve gotten home with an item and found flaws that made it unsellable or greatly reduced it’s value.

textile-bookHere was one of my book buys that was a bit of a heartbreak. I paid $5 at a yard sale for this 1992 textile design book. It was a fabulous book and I didn’t even try to negotiate because I knew it had value. I got home, did the research and figured I could list it for $45+. Sweet! Then I noticed that one page had been hacked into and partly removed. %#&*^!  Why would you do that to this book and how did I miss it?

In one fell swoop my potential profit on this book dropped by over half. In the end I carefully razored out the remaining bit of page, mentioned its loss in the listing and sold the book for $22. Still a profit, but I wish I would have noticed before I bought it.

Mistake #4: Paying too much

Sometimes overpaying is due to ignorance on my part and other times because of mistake #2 (I have become enamored with the item). In the case below, it was a bit of both!!

A year ago, whilst thrifting in New York City, I found a huge, green agate stone necklace. The stones were quite stunning, but the piece was just strung with simple green cord and showed little artistry. It was priced at $45 and I asked if there was any wiggle room and the woman sadly shook her head. I felt knew that $45 was too much, but I still bought it! (Who does this?!!)

Later I discovered that what I had was actually a string of stones someone bought from a jewelry supply store. These stones are sold this way as the raw materials for making jewelry. They aren’t intended to be left on the green string. Similar strands sell for $18-35 on Etsy. So trying to sell this as a necklace wasn’t going to fly!

I stewed for a while about this purchase. One option–I could sell it as jewelry supply and take a loss. Then I had an idea. I took all the stones off the green string, bought some nice leather cord and have started listing the stones separately as simple necklaces for $12 each. I sold my first one recently. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll recoup my money and even make a little profit.


Mistake #5: Buying things that are out of style

Sometimes I buy things that are hopelessly out of style. I know this. My husband looked at me the other day and said of a recent purchase, “another piece of brown ’70s pottery?!” Why do I buy them? Usually it’s because I am attracted to their craftsmanship and/or uniqueness and I think, naively, that someone else will be attracted to them too. Maybe this brown pig covered cheese plate is just a bit too “unique” and too brown!!


Generic crystal dishes are also out of style. This little crystal dish (which I believe is a nappy or berry dish) was one of my early flubs and rather encapsulates many of my mistakes: I become enamored with it, didn’t check it thoroughly (it has chips), paid too much ($12) and it’s out of style. Estate sales usually have tons of this stuff and you don’t see many people clamoring for it.


I keep it around as a reminder of what not to do!


Truth be told, every person who buys stuff to resell, makes blunders. They do. But I am getting better at minimizing my mistakes…which is all I can hope for.

How about you? Any buying mistakes you’re willing to share??


  1. I know who cut the page out of that book, a Textile designer. Most textile designs are based on historic traditions, and the first step of designing a traditionally inspired new textile is to select some motifs: flowers or paisleys, and arrange them on a tissue. Although it is possible to trace out of a book, if you wanted to change sizes on a copier (or overhead projector, remember those?) it would much easier to cut the page out. I graduated in 1985, but had that same book. I never cut it, but understand why someone might, it was a tool for them. Past life for me, but still love my textile books.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the insight!! As a booklover, this was a tough discovery, but this helps me understand it the “why” of it. Many thanks!! – Karen


  2. I’m subscribing to your posts and I’m thoroughly enjoying them!


  3. I think I have probably made all of these mistakes at one time or another. Most of them more than once. Another that I make is not buying something that is a deal, but has no appeal to me personally. I know I have done that way too often and have left money on the table because of it. Many times I have my eye on something and spend more for it than I should cutting into my profit and in turn miss several deals that had potential to be good scores.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jeff. Ooooh…the mistake you mention is one I am guilty of doing too! It’s hard for me to buy something that has no appeal to me, even when I know there’s money to be made with it! – Karen

      Liked by 1 person

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