When to Walk Away…

Last year I met with a lady who wanted to sell me some of her belongings. I had bought from her previously so it was a comfortable situation. In the end on this visit she decided there were only two items she really wanted to sell after all (sigh!)–one I was interested in and one not so much. But I made her an offer for the two. It was a fair offer. Generous even. She furrowed her eyebrows and finally said, “I think the platter alone is worth a lot more than that.” In her mind because that item was a mid-century piece it had to be worth a lot. It was nice, but I knew from research that these did not sell for much. Additionally both were larger, breakable items that would take a lot of time and effort to package properly for shipping. Though she was disappointed, I just couldn’t make another offer. It was time to walk away.

As I was remembering this visit I realized that I have learned a few things over the years… including when to walk away from buying something! Here’s my “walk away” list.

My “Walk Away” List

  • Walk away from things that are priced too high to resell with any decent profit. Okay, I know this is an obvious one, but sometimes it’s difficult for me because I become ever-so-slightly enamored with the things I find! I still remember this fabulous antique brass letter opener I found last year at an antique mall. Oh boy, I really wanted to buy that for my store, but it was just too pricy, even with a 20% discount and I knew I had to leave it behind.
  • Walk away from low-value smalls, particularly breakable ones that require fussier packaging. With the exception of jewelry and books which are easy to store and ship, I’m trying to steer clear of bits that are nice, but have little resale value. Lately I’ve walked away from little vintage china creamers, vases and ashtrays.
  • Walk away from things with “deal-breaker” condition issues. For example, for me a vintage quilt that has minor damage is okay, but super musty books should be left behind. (Regrettably I bought some of those in my early days.)
  • Walk away from things that don’t resonate with me. I know for some of you this is pure foolishness, but for me it’s important. I want my store to be a fun, curated [I know you love that word Fonda!] collection of eclectic vintage items that I personally like or think are special in some way. It keeps my joy and passion for this alive.
  • Walk away from things that are “too big” for me to handle, physically and/or monetarily! A friend sent me a link to an ad that fit both categories! The guy is trying to sell 86 boxes (!!!) of antiques and collectibles that belonged to his parents. There’s china, collectible plates, ceramic figurines, 45 records, comics, books, linens, mugs, etc. (Here’s the tumbler link.) He will only sell this as a whole lot and is asking $5000 or best offer. Now this could be a great opportunity for someone…maybe…but a lot of work too. And a lot of money upfront. And where the heck do you store 86 boxes of stuff? I’m guessing you’d have to rent a storage unit or two. Too much for me! Plus I like to cherry pick my items throughout the year. That’s the fun part. 🙂

So walking away can be a good thing!

Of course I’m not always walking away! I did buy a few things this week.

I bought two 1950s brass trivets from Virginia Metal Crafters in Williamsburg. These were in a big bin just wheeled out from the back room at my neighborhood thrift store which is still continuing to be a picking desert!


I’ll give these a good clean and polish and bring them back to life and they’ll be pretty again for hot pots or potted plants. The big trivet is in the “Queen Ann Cipher” style and a smaller version is still being produced today for $49. Larger ones sell for $79. The smaller trivet is the “Jefferson Cipher” and brand new sells for $59. I’ll sell these as a lot for $40 or so.

And online I bought two lots of antique sterling silver souvenir spoons. Though not widely popular today, these spoons have amazing details and quality and were at a price that left room for profit.


They do sell, but not quickly. I’ve got this Shepard Sterling Co, 1908 spoon listed in my store already. I love all the details on this–the little people in the boats, seagulls wheeling through the sky and the baby in a papoose. Sweet!

Anyway it’s time to get busy packaging a few orders and back to listing on this deliciously rainy day in Silicon Valley.

Would love to hear what’s on your “walk away” list or what you wished you had walked away from!!

As always, happy hunting,



  1. Congratulations for getting good at walking away!!

    That is quite an art – one that I have not yet mastered myself… I think I’m still learning!
    What has helped (a bit) with it, is that I don’t have much space where I live and it’s not my place, so I’m really trying hard to leave more behind 😉

    I’m still not very good at leaving china, especially a nice set, where it is. A china set is rather large and difficult to sell and ship and I can’t keep them all for my own use…
    The problem is that I usually really like it and so find it hard not to buy.
    I also love vintage jewellery, but that’s smaller and not fragile.

    Your list is very sensible and I should really print it out and hang it or carry with me all the time 🙂

    Thanks for sharing your troves and advice, I love reading your posts!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So appreciate your comment Gabriella! I do find it a tad painful to leave fabulous things behind. I still remember that brass letter opener a year later!! But I also try to remember that there are always more wonderful things to be discovered. 🙂 – Karen


  3. Debbie H.

    Karen, do you try to think about a certain markup %? For example, I want to make at least 6 times my investment? Your list is spot on for what I look for, and yes, there is always something else to buy! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Debbie. I don’t think in terms of markup %, but ask myself–is the item worth my time/effort (which includes cleaning, researching, photographing, listing, packing and shipping) and the expense based on the profit I think I can make from it?

      These days I’m trying to steer away from listings that make less than $20 profit. Sometimes I create lots of lower-cost items, say a grouping of costume jewelry brooches, instead of selling them all individually.

      Lately, I’ve been spending more on items if I think they have a strong profit potential. For example, I’ll spend $40 on something if I think I can sell for $100.

      All the best,


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