The Nemeses of Vintage Sellers

Actually anyone who sells things, whether online, in an antique mall or at a flea market, can face these nemeses. They are not unique, but they surprised me.


When I opened my Etsy vintage store seven years ago there were a lot of things that I never dreamed would become part of my future, things that would become my nemesis in one way or another. Here are a few in no particular order…

Death Piles

I never imagined that I would buy so much that I couldn’t keep up with listing everything. It just didn’t occur to me. But here I am. With too much unlisted stuff. Collecting dust. Aaargh!

This photo was taken over a year ago. It’s better now but still haunts me with a few teetering piles.

Recently I took another stab at diminishing my piles. I plunged into bin of purses under the desk. Wonderful leather purses I’ve been buying for months and rarely listing. Were these worth listing? I looked them over (and over) and the answer was yes. None were huge scores, but all were made with quality materials and workmanship and in great condition. Ready for a new owner. One of my favorites is this cute, rust color Italian leather roll bag by Lavorazione Artigianale.

To switch it up I moved on to jewelry. I have pieces I got in lots that were not good enough to list on their own, but too good to toss. So I decided to start putting some in small lots with appealing prices. Barely worth the effort, but still I thought I’d try.

This lot sold in 30 minutes, but it was a steal at $20 with free shipping.

I put together this lot of three antique pins that include a sterling silver sash pin, a mourning photo pin and a quirky enamel cross pin patented in 1895.

I have this priced at $40 with free shipping.

And I finally listed the large Towle sterling silver pitcher that I had bought over 18 months ago at a rummage sale. (It had been mistakenly lumped with the silverplate items at the sale so I got the deal of my career!)

Priced at $550 with free shipping.

I have some fabric piles too and decided it was time to list this pretty woven dragon brocade. This is likely a rayon/silk blend and would be fabulous for pillows or a fall jacket.

4 yards long by 29″ wide, priced at $45 with free shipping.

A couple of years ago I bought a box of vintage baby clothes at a chi-chi thrift store. I listed a few things and then stopped. So when I reopened this box, I remembered why I had stopped…everything needed to be ironed or washed! I did press and list these two sweet vintage newborn jackets.

Priced at $25 for the pair with free shipping.

Some of the other beautiful pieces have a stain or two and I think I’ll see if I can soak them out. Any success getting out old stains?

Stale Inventory

Okay, I know I’ve been naive, but I never imagined that some things wouldn’t sell. I mean most things do sell with time, but I’ve realized there comes a point when it’s best to let the “lesser” stuff go. Like this vintage, new in package, men’s flannel shirt listed for over two years. I decided that was enough. I took it from the package, washed it and now my youngest daughter has claimed it for her own!

Bought for $2 at an estate sale.

And this handmade vintage cotton baby dress has lingered too long…and embarrassingly I used really bad photos for this listing. What was I thinking??!! No wonder no one wanted this. Still, I’m done with it.

I bought this 1970s ceramic jug at an estate sale three years ago for $4. I always thought it was darn cool. No one else thought so! Time to let it go.

Sadly, I’m amassing quite a pile.

Competition

I love getting to know the different folks I meet at estates sales and thrift stores. In fact I have a wonderful posse of people I talk with almost every Sunday morning at my neighborhood thrift store before I head to church.

Here’s my friend Patty. She has exquisite taste.

But the truth is, whether they are buying for themselves or to resell, we are competitors. Thankfully we are all considerate people, but I know in other venues buying competition can be cutthroat and I’ve experienced some pretty crappy/devious behavior at estate, yard and rummage sales. Maybe you have too.

And, of course, we have lots of selling competition–people with similar items who have priced them cheaper, people with popular YouTube channels/social media accounts who drive traffic to their items, people with bigger online stores who get in the top search results, people who pay for promoted listings/ads, etc., etc. Sometimes it’s a wonder I sell as much as I do.

Customers–the Bane of Our Existence

Actually most of my customers have been wonderful. Absolutely fabulous. It’s some of the potential customers that get me down! I knew I’d receive communications from time to time but never thought they’d run the gamut from general item questions, to low-ball offers, to sob stories, to a recent gal who doubted my item was what it purported to be. Which given that I knew the item’s provenance and that it was hallmarked I was 100% sure it was the real thing. Later she wanted to buy it, along with other items, and was hoping for “a deal.” I declined. (Sometimes you just sense there are people you don’t want to do business with.)

Damaged Goods

Oh geez. It drives me crazy when I buy some wonderful vintage/antique thing and later discover the “truth” about it–that it has a hairline crack, a hole, a stain or is a repro. I was so sad when I discovered that this antique carved coquilla nut beauty had more damage than I noticed in the store.

And earlier this year I sold a fabulous French designer 1980s wool jacket for $60. It was so cute and I had it listed with no defects. As I was packaging it up I discovered a tiny hole on the sleeve and alerted the buyer, who decided to cancel the order, which I can’t blame her at all. In the end I donated this jacket. Can’t believe I never noticed that hole!

Market Forces – Shifting Trends

Let’s face it, things can go in and out of fashion pretty quickly. While mid century modern stuff has been going strong for over a decade, other things have cooled and some are dead in the water. I have a few pretty china bits that are kaput. Like this 1910s Royal Bayreuth porcelain shell creamer. I’ve had this in my store for ions, but I’m not giving up on it. It’s too good.

But I keep reminding myself not to buy any more china or crystal items. Stop!

Me

Yes, sometimes I am my own worst enemy! I buy things that I know are priced too high for me to make a profit because I like the item or am “in the mood” to buy. Or I get lazy and don’t document where an item is stored and then drive myself crazy trying to find it when it sells.

Moving Forward

Despite all the nemeses of this business, it’s been a fun seven years. Will I continue for another seven years? Hard to say. I have no plans to stop, but there may come a time when I want a change.

Happy hunting (and selling!),

Karen

P.S. I have lots of great stuff 10-25% off in my Etsy store through Labor Day, including some great sterling silver items.

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