I made a good score a few weeks ago and an acquaintance quipped “You’re so lucky.”
I thought about that…again. Because this has been said to me more than once when I have found really good things for my online stores. “You’re so lucky.”
The problem is that “luck” discounts and discredits that I had any role in finding that item…as though it magically dropped into my lap. And yes, I suppose there is a certain amount of luck that comes into being at the right place at the right time to spot fabulous items, but that is the tiniest bit of equation.
Over the years I have found some amazing vintage and antique items at my neighborhood thrift store (a tiny Goodwill) but there have been plenty of times I have walked out empty handed. Finding these good items required many, many, many repeated visits to say nothing of the many trips I take to flea markets, yard sales, antique stores and estate sales. Sometimes I don’t really want to go, but I do. I am always looking! You have to be.
Over time my sourcing has gotten better because I’ve learned more, lots more, and I’m making better decisions. Lord knows I’ve made plunders in the past. Paid too much. Sold too cheaply. Passed up really good things. And while I’ll never be an expert, I keep pressing in trying to learn more. Which is what we all do.
Experience counts. Looking at things. Handling them. Knowing what sells. I have a bit of experience in a number of areas, but sterling silver is probably my strongest. I was a collector long before I ever started selling buying English trophies, cigarette cases, souvenir spoons, charms. And this experience helps me now when I’m sourcing.
Here’s an example. I spotted this belt buckle in the online store of a Youtuber I follow. It was on sale and she admitted in the listing that she wasn’t sure if it was sterling silver (it was unmarked) or if the stone was real turquoise, hence the price. But I had looked at enough pieces like this over the years and was 95% sure from her photos that it was the real deal. Worth the gamble. Turns out it was sterling silver and turquoise. (Paid $48, sold for $250.)
And yes even intuition plays a part. I think a lot of folks downplay intuition in their life but I try to listen to my gut when I spot an unusual item and it’s saying “buy it!!” No matter how ridiculous it may seem!
Like when I spotted this Swiss Miss puppet. Her body was so damaged/dirty that no one at the estate sale was giving her a second glance till me, person #36 in the door. I thought to myself, “Girl, grab that.” Back at home I removed the paper mache head and hands and listed them in my Etsy store and tossed the rest out. This was an illogical purchase, but I’m glad I listened to my intuition. I paid $1, she sold for $45 plus shipping to a very happy customer.
Perhaps the biggest disservice I could give anyone contemplating starting an online reselling business is to say “It’s an easy way to make money.” While it’s not hard to do and no specialist training is needed, it is a lot of hard work. Even being part time and small scale like me. There are many facets to it and time-consuming parts, including a few which are more physically demanding.
Bottom line: it isn’t a passive income stream. Honestly if I didn’t love vintage and antique things I wouldn’t be doing this! It was easier (and more lucrative) being a free-lance writer.
A Smidge of Luck
Okay now after saying all that, I will give you one of my lucky finds. Years ago I was at a hospital rummage sale. I had already looked through their curated section of vintage/valuable items and had moved on to a different section. I was exploring a neglected table of silver plate items and picked up a water pitcher. I turned it over and it was not silver plate but solid sterling silver! Solid. My heart nearly stopped. It was marked $5. I sold for $550.
That was a rare, lucky score.
You don’t go into business based on “being lucky.” You don’t succeed by “being lucky.” It takes a whole lot of other things. You and I both know this.
Phew, thanks for letting me get that off my chest!
Happy and prosperous hunting,