Daily Life

Vintage-hunting When Pickings are Slim

A couple of weeks ago, I said in this post  that there isn’t a big “scene” for antique and/or vintage items in and around my hometown.  A couple of you have been in touch to join my lament with tales of a similar situation, and ask me how I then come about the vintage items I own that I haven’t bought in person, so I thought I’d share a little bit about what I do to find vintage goodies, and give you some hints & tips on how to maximise your success.

Often, car boot sales can be a good source for smaller vintage and/or antique items.  Obviously you do need a good eye as it does tend to be smaller items, and you also need to be quite open to what you might find; a good to reasonable network signal also helps, as that means you can do a little bit of research on-the-fly.  I tend to find brooches more than anything else, although many are in quite poor shape, there can be some really nice items.  My recent, finds have included couple of pairs of vintage stockings (which were a bargain at £1 for both pairs!), and some wonderful celluloid cufflinks which cost me the princely sum of £2, along with a couple of vintage makeup compacts for £5.

These cufflinks took a little Googling to see if they were of any interest; it was nice to pick them up so cheaply when they caught my eye

With car boot sales, the trick is to just keep on going – because the ‘vendors’ change from week to week and location to location, there’s not really much more you can do than to go to a car boot sale and have a good look around.  If you do spot something you think is really special, try to keep calm – many sellers don’t have prices written on their items and will make a suggestion – if you show extra interest, they may take that to mean that you’ll spend more than they were looking for and so might start off with a higher price.  Remember to haggle too – I don’t like haggling, but can & will from time to time.  Mr LPU is definitely the haggler in our family though, and I often get him to do my bidding when I really want something but am worried about getting charged too much.

The smaller compact sadly has a little damage and isn’t as ‘complete’ as the larger one; the larger one does have a little patina on the outside surface, but I think it’s a piece of beauty

eBay is, of course, another good option.  Often – as with car boot sales – you can find some little treasure for mere pennies that someone maybe doesn’t realise as something special.  The flip side of this is that often people will pick on specific words or phrases to lure people in, but are actually incorrect.  For instance, recently I bought a bangle that was advertised as ivory (which it plainly wasn’t, even on the photos) or an early plastic.  Upon opening the parcel when the bangle arrived I was greeted with an acrid smell of far too much cheap perfume, which I later discovered had been applied directly to the bangle to cover up the smell of cigarette smoke!  After leaving the entire parcel beside an open window to air out a little, I was able to examine my newest treasure, only to discover that it was painted wood!  Although the seller argued the case that it couldn’t be wood (they also argued that it didn’t smell of anything…) I got a full refund upon returning the item.

Sadly, these were much smaller than I’d anticipated, but I may still find a use for them

On the bright side, some of my more positive eBay wins have been a vintage Pyrex butter dish with an embossed cow on the lid, and some wonderful vintage brooches, along with a cute set of four small coloured dishes (above), which may one day find a home on my dressing table.

My cow butter dish

I find most benefit from using the “my feed” section – primarily on the smartphone app – along with some pertinent saved searches.  This updates whenever you open the app, with a small selection being shown on the ‘home’ screen, and more being shown when you load the feed up.  I have quite a lot of search terms saved, some of which I still get emails about (by preference), but others are quite broad so I prefer to look through the selected items at my leisure.

I love the way the ‘aurora borealis’ gems sparkle on this brooch

Etsy is another great starting point when “real life” vintage is hard to come by, I tend to find that people selling through Etsy either are more knowledgeable about their item and/or are more honest (they’ll say a bangle is bakelite, or they’ll say it’s an early plastic, but they won’t fib and say non-bakelite is bakelite, for instance).  This does tend to mean that you’re looking at higher prices, but then I’ve rarely seen items on Etsy sold in a sorry state, whereas they often are on eBay – and at least Etsy sellers reflect the condition in their prices!

So far, I’ve made a couple of vintage purchases on Etsy, and all are winging their ways to me as you read this, so will be getting shared with you in due time.  Again, with Etsy I think you do best when you have an idea of what you want, and you sometimes need to have time to do a little digging – depending on what you’re looking for there can be a lot of results, which can be a good and a bad thing.

One downside with Etsy is that you can’t get automated emails with “saved searches” like with eBay, but you can ‘favourite’ both items and shops – which is perfect when you find that special little crafter or vintage maven – but you also need to remember that you’ve favourited them, as I find the interface is often a bit “skewed”, at least for me, though it’s not a big enough problem that I’m moved to action.

What about you, when you can’t get to “real vintage” – for whatever reason – where do you like to browse, or shop?


4 thoughts on “Vintage-hunting When Pickings are Slim

  1. Thanks Taylor for answering my question. It was a bit of a shock to see you’d written a blog post to reply to me, but I really appreciate it. Can I ask what words you’ve got in your saved searches though?


    1. You’re welcome Jackie, I enjoyed writing it. Most of my saved searches are for brands that I’m currently lusting over – Pin up girl Clothing is one for instance – but some of my more generic terms include words like “atomic”, and I must admit to saving a search or two for commonly mis-spelled words (“rockerbilly” as opposed to “rockabilly”) and brands – did you know there’s often a fair number of people selling “Vivienne of Holloway” items?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ooooh! Such beautiful finds you have! The brooch and those four small dishes are to die for! Once I ordered a vintage piggy on eBay. He was a ceramic pincushion with a retractable tape measure tail. As much as I love him as I adore vintage piggies, I was a bit disappointed that the tape measure was broken. It’s always a bit of a gamble when you buy sight unseen. Especially when they come all the way from America to Australia. Though I find the overseas vintage items so very exotic and unique. I am a little too addicted to vintage shopping though, or hoarding vintage things in general. It is both a blessing and a curse that there are so many vintage and antique stores in my area because I enjoy visiting them, but have no self-control upon my budget. I enjoy car-boot sales, like you. We call them “trash and treasure’ here and boy can you get some bargains! Also, when tipped off that there is a vintage camera or suitcase in a bin or dumpster, I will not hesitate to save it and clean it up and love it! hehe I’m a bit obsessed and crazy… Thanks for the tips gorgeous lady! I must check Etsy out! xo


    1. Oooh, I much prefer “trash and treasure” to “car boot” – it sounds so much more mysterious and alluring! I’m going to start calling them that instead.

      But you’re right, buying online can be a gamble, but thankfully my experience so far has mostly been positive.

      Liked by 1 person

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