For over 10 years I’ve sold a wide range of vintage and antique goods at a variety of price points in my online stores. When I’m out sourcing I’m open to buying almost anything for my biz–pottery, jewelry, books, tools, purses, silver, crystal, brass, lace, artwork, etc. And it’s great fun. But lately it’s gotten more physically and mentally tiring: juggling and storing all the inventory, dealing with the mishmosh of recycled shipping supplies that have taken over our garage, the tedious packing and shipping process and the never-ending runs to the post office.
It made me realize moving forward into 2023 I need to rethink my vintage business. I don’t want to close it, but I don’t want to burn out either. I don’t want it to ever feel like a milestone around my neck. This is supposed to be my fun job!
Changes I’m Thinking About Making
Putting my online stores on “vacation mode” from time to time. This means no one can order from my store and any messages will be handled by an auto answer. While I will miss the ka-chings on my phone that signal sales, having time away from dealing with the biz is so freeing. It will help me rejuvenate and keep things in perspective.
Reducing my inventory. I’ve been talking about this for over a year and haven’t made any progress. But I know I’ll be happy having less to deal with. A lot less. I need to come up with a reduction plan in 2023!
Focusing on buying fewer, but better, higher-profit items. First let me say I love buying “bread and butter items”–those things with a resale value of $30 or less. For me these items include books, creamers, brass vases, handmade pottery bits and the like. These are easy to find in thrift stores and yard sales and help keep my biz ticking over. BUT. But the $ made is small and I have to sell a darn lot of this type of thing before it adds up. For example, take the little ceramic flower frog below. I bought it for $2 and sold it for $18 with a resulting profit of $13+. Now contrast it with the Swarovski crystal ashtray on the right. I also paid $2 for it (a flea market find) and later sold it for $125 with a resulting profit of $100+. Same cost of goods, same effort in listing and packing, but what a difference in profit.
So I am giving myself a stern talk to stop spending so much time and money on lower-value items. And I’m already working on it. A few days ago I put this sweet porcelain bust of Mary and Jesus in my basket and then reluctantly put it back on the shelf. It was in good condition (just a bit of gold loss) but unsigned and likely just a $14 to $20 item. The vintage brass jockey letter holder was fabulous, but priced at $11.79 and it only resells between $14 and $28. Not good enough!
What Will I Look For?
Quality antiques. I’ve sold some wonderful antiques in my stores. Things that were over 100 years old and fabulous…and frankly hard to part with!! This mini Gorham sterling silver candlestick dated to the late 1800s (paid $50, sold for $148) and the Russian lacquer snuff box (paid $20, sold for $180) had an Imperial Russian seal, so pre-revolution. (Both were bought at antique stores in my hometown in Western New York.) The Austrian majolica bulldog pipe stand was a local thrift store find (paid less than $10, sold for $200).
These are the kind of things I want to focus on but they are harder for me to spot because my antique knowledge is limited. I’m sure I’ve passed up fabulous things because I just didn’t know what they were! Still I am learning all the time. And hopeful!
Great brands. In decor/home goods I’ll be looking for items made by Tiffany, Waterford, Royal Copenhagen, Swarovski, Wedgwood, Mottahedeh, Beswick, Kosta Boda, Villeroy & Boch, Murano, Mackenzie-Childs and the like. People love these brands and buy them. Just the other day I spotted this small porcelain figurine on a new merch cart at my neighborhood thrift store. Flipped it over and discovered it’s a Royal Copenhagen piece. BINGO! This is what I’m talking about. (This resells for over $100. Paid $3.79.)
(I do not buy Lenox china pieces. They are always overpriced in thrift stores and typically don’t resell for much. And Belleek is a dud for me–an absolute dud–so I avoid it now.)
Quirky things. I will always keep buying quirky things. Unusual items are riskier and may take longer to sell, but there is a market for them. For every person who loves a bit of Waterford crystal, there’s someone else who appreciates the unusual, primitive, macabre or zany. I know I do! This odd watercolor didn’t take long to sell.
All this to say in 2023 I want to work smarter, not harder. I want to have less inventory, but more WOW pieces. Maybe I’ll even work on prettier listing photos staged with props!
Yes, it’s time to make a few changes to the status quo!
Wishing you all happy holidays,
I think about the low profit items a lot when I read posts on Instagram. People making a living reselling, and I think of how much trouble it is (at least I think it is) to list, and package (and getting the supplies to mail), and going to the post office, for things only gaining them $20. They will brag about getting an item in the Goodwill bins for .40, and selling it for $12. Yes, percentage wise that’s a huge profit, but worth the effort? I’m not a reseller, but it wouldn’t be worth my time. I picked up some free 60’s binders at a garage sale once, and got $22 for them, but the pain of finding a box, and bubble wrap to protect them…
I love that flower frog you sold!
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Hi Lisa. Exactly! Percentage-wise the profit margin can be good, but still not really worth the effort money-wise to list, pack and ship…in my opinion! Ta, Karen
Hi Karen, I understand how you feel. I don’t usually sell online because of all the hassle involved and I find it more fun to meet other dealers and sometimes my customers. You always have awesome stuff and I wish you the best for your business in the new year.
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Hi Patricia. I’m definitely getting tired of the hassle!! Hope you Christmas was lovely. Karen
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