I buy a fair number of items to populate my online vintage stores and over the years I’ve heard a lot of lines to entice me to buy at flea markets, estate sales and yard sales. Mostly I think of them as a load of horse pucky…but maybe I’ve gotten too jaded!
Here are a few of my “favorites”…
“That’s worth a lot more!”
I always chuckle when I pick up an item and the seller tells me it’s worth a lot more than he/she is selling it for. Of course the question is, if it’s worth so much more, why are you selling it for less? (To be fair, some folks do sell valuable things inexpensively to make a quick sale, but in general I have learned to be wary when someone tells me something is worth a lot more.)
Case in point: About five years ago I was at an upscale yard sale and the woman had a table full of vintage McCoy pottery. I picked up what I thought was the most intriguing piece which was priced at $60. Now McCoy pottery is totally out of my wheelhouse and I was looking at the price with a little dismay when the owner popped over to tell me that it was worth double that. I still wasn’t sure but hung onto the piece as I continued to look around. Well I found an MCM Bernard Buffet Paris lithograph also for $60 and in the end I bought the lithograph but not the McCoy vase (which was snatched out of my hands by another buyer once I decided against it). Back at home, I did some research on the vase and it was no longer a $120 piece. Prices had gone south since the seller had amassed her collection and it was now selling in the $60-$90 range. (I later sold the Buffet print for $260 on Chairish. When all the fees and the COGs were deducted I made $123 profit. Not outstanding but better than I would have done on the McCoy piece.)
Recently I was looking at a bracelet at the flea market from my favorite jewelry lady. It was a lovely silver and enamel piece from “Istanbul House of Silver” priced at $110. She was quick to tell me that was a great price and it was worth a lot more as her sister had googled it and found one listed for $750! Well, the seller worked hard tried to convince me to buy it, but my gut was telling me to walk away. (We all know listing prices and sold prices are two different animals.) Turns out the $750 listing was on 1stDibs.com–a site known for extravagant pricing. I found a similar bracelet listed elsewhere for $200 but most of the solds on Worthpoint were well under $100. At $110, it would have been tough to make any profit. Glad I passed it up!
Now my cousin-in-law (who sadly died recently) had a collectibles store back in my hometown in New York state. Every time I visited I was sure to stop into his store once or twice and he gave me some great deals. Typically when he said “this is worth a lot more” I knew he was referring to the price I could get for it online as opposed to what he could get for it in his small store in a small town. But one time it didn’t work out so well. I had bought an Italian 800 silver lipstick holder for $50 with his assurances that it was worth at least $100 and I trusted his valuation. A few days later I discovered the solds were well under $100 and essentially I would be lucky to make a profit. (In the end I sold it for $67 with free shipping and I made $8 profit. Most of these lipstick holders nowadays are selling for significantly less!)
In these cases I don’t think the McCoy seller or the jewelry lady or my cousin-in-law were trying to be misleading or deceptive. It’s just they didn’t have the best or latest intel!
“These are really good quality!”
You know when you see something touted as being “good quality” that there’s a good chance it isn’t!
Case in point: A guy at the flea market had a display of chunky sterling silver rings set with stones priced from $20 to $30 each. Another woman and I were looking them over. I wasn’t keen on them as they were obviously new. But the seller was working his pitch and insisted they were “really good quality” and “worth a lot more.” Truth is the casting and workmanship were crude and sloppy–not good quality in my books. I’m guessing these were mass-produced in China and possibly not even real 925 silver.
“This is rare!”
We’ve all seen things described as rare that aren’t rare. Some online sellers use this adjective with abandon as way to get more eyeballs on their listings, but it’s deceptive. And wrong.
For example as someone who has collected vintage silver charms for decades it’s not unusual for me to see very common charms described as rare, like the listing for these two dutch clog charms. If you were to google “silver Dutch shoe charms” you’d find hundreds similar to these…so why are these listed as rare??
In my books “rare” should be rarely used!
I shouldn’t ever rely on another seller’s knowledge when I am buying from them. These folks are trying to sell me something. It’s easy to embellish the truth and make it sound like I’d be getting a great deal or something super special. At the end of the day it’s my money on the line. I need to be responsible for knowing about an item and if it has meat on the bone or not.
So here’s my new motto: When in doubt, walk away. Just walk away. There will always be more things to buy and treasures around the corner.
Would love to hear your stories.
As always, happy hunting,
Good advice! Another thing I see in thrift stores is labeling “antique” and “vintage” and books that are overpriced because they are old. People seem to think old books = rare and valuable. Usually they are just old! One of my favorite thrift stores does online research and then tags things showing how much they are on eBay. Not the sold prices, just the listed, which is meaningless.
Have a nice holiday!
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Hi Lisa. I know what you mean about “antique” and “vintage” descriptors. I see so many things listed as antique that aren’t even close to being 100+ years old.
Happy your Thanksgiving is lovely.