The world of vintage shopping and selling can be intimidating, but you shouldn’t let fear get in the way of your next great find. We've rounded up tips from the experts who know second hand ... well, firsthand.
Rise and shop
You’ve heard the saying, “early bird gets the worm," and it couldn’t be more true when it comes to vintage shopping. “For flea markets and estate sales, you'll find the best gems if you arrive early before everything is picked over. Once there, make sure to introduce yourself to the person in charge, get on their email list and inquire about ‘private dealer days’ that happen before the sale is opened to the general public,” advises Katie Echeverry, owner of Unique Vintage in Burbank, California.
Make it a Monday
While Mondays typically get a bad rap, it’s actually a great day in the land of vintage commerce. “Many customers sell to us over the weekend, so Monday might be the closest I'd come to suggesting a single day,” says Justin Goellner, a store manager at Buffalo Exchange.
Echeverry points out that it’s also a good day to sell, at least when it comes to online. “Unfortunately, people are back to work and not necessarily happy about it! They dig through their emails and do some online shopping. Take advantage of their poor work ethic!” she says.
Stick with the current season
As for what you should be selling? Remember there’s no time like the present. “Usually, we can buy in the season we're in. So when it's 95 degrees out and boiling, people are living for their weekend trip to Hamptons and they're more likely to purchase a $5 Brandy Melville nautical tank top from us, which means we're more likely to buy it from you,” says Goellner.
Think outside the box
That said, there’s typically no time limit when it comes to unique pieces that stand out. “[When it comes to] a unique, embroidered vintage wool peacoat or a holographic, oversized Marc by Marc [Jacobs] down puffer, someone would snatch it up in a second even if it was July,” says Goellner.
Selling for your guy? Goellner says these rules need not apply. “Guys buy shorts in December, guys buy vintage leather trench coats in July. If it's cool and great quality, guys will buy it regardless of season,” he says.
Focus on presentation
Regardless of the item or season, Echeverry is a huge believer that a little presentation goes a long way. “If you are selling online, how you style those items will help translate how the customer can incorporate that piece into their wardrobe,” she says.
Vintage pieces have been known (and beloved) for having a little wear, but you should still have standards when it comes to scouting new pieces. “[Shoppers] should always look for stains (especially underarm stains — gross!), odors and any major flaws before purchasing. If it is a designer item, check the tag carefully to make sure it hasn't been sewn onto an inauthentic garment. If you can try the item on, even better! Some items were handmade and may not have been sewn right in the first place,” says Echeverry.
Clean with care
Even if you don’t encounter a foul odor when shopping, Echeverry suggests you should make a habit of cleaning items before wear. “But don't just throw it in the wash or dry clean. Always hand wash and lay flat to dry,” she says.
Seek additional savings
And if you discover a serious snag along the way? It doesn’t hurt to ask if the store has a discount policy. “We wouldn't buy a J. Crew dress with a broken zipper, so if you find one and love it, chances are you'll get a discount because it was broken before it was purchased,” says Goellner.
That said, he and Echeverry both caution you should be prepared to hear an item was priced for the condition it is in. “It's survived 30+ years. It's not going to be perfect,” says Goellner.
Don't be afraid to barter
When it comes to saving a few bucks, an even better bet is to see if stores offer special savings events or a higher trade value for barter. “You can trade items you have and don't want for cash or store credit at Buffalo Exchange. If you're shopping and find something, you can hold it and sell the same day or next day. We assess items and assign a fair selling price, and you get half in store credit,” says Goellner.
Go off the beaten path
If you really want to strike it big through vintage shopping, start by broadening your horizons. “Look up vintage stores when vacationing! I've found awesome pieces in random stores that I never would have stumbled across otherwise,” says Echeverry.
Last, but certainly not least, get to know your local second-hand stores and employees. “When you go to any store frequently and the employees know you, they can look out for you a little more than a one-time shopper. So if you stop by Buffalo Exchange every Monday looking for DVF dresses, and two employees know you and know your tastes, they might see one and put it on hold for you,” says Goellner.
“Definitely ask when they replenish their stock and find out if they'll let you see the stock before putting it out on the floor,” adds Echeverry.