Your Guide To Becoming An Antiquing Pro

There's a certain magic that sweeps over the seasoned picker upon entering an antique shop. The mystery of what you might stumble upon, the hunt for highly-prized treasures, the sea of one-of-a-kind pieces –- it can be quite the rush. Antiquing can also be a bit overwhelming. Where to begin? Are the prices fair? Where are you going to store your haul?


While you navigate questions like these, you can get excited about one of the great benefits of antiquing: your shopping choice is helping the environment. You are actively supporting the "reduce, reuse, and recycle" movement and that's a pretty wonderful thing. Buying secondhand furniture and home decor has a low carbon footprint, doesn't add to deforestation, and you're saving something old and beautiful from ending up in a landfill (via Terra Movement). According to Homes & Gardens, interest in antiquing has gone up 50%, which may not be the best news in terms of antiquing competition, but it's certainly a win for mother earth.

Whether you're redecorating your living room, looking to pick up a new hobby, or have hopes of reselling vintage pieces yourself, here are a few tips to keep in mind when you go antiquing.


Keep an open mind

When you swing open that thrift store door, you may know just what you're after. You need a new (old) nightstand and a small oval mirror to complete your gallery wall. The thrifting gods might be with you, and you may find just that. But, if you've got tunnel vision, you could miss out on the little vintage bookshelf that could become your next bedside table or the antique oval oil painting that would fill that spot on your wall beautifully. Part of the picking experience is discovering gems you never imagined were out there. It's perfectly okay to have a shopping list, but this is the time to let rigidity go and welcome possibility, per Inspired By Charm.


Plan your route

There are a lot of options when it comes to antiquing –- thrift stores, antique malls, estate sales, yard sales, and flea markets. Check out what your area has to offer and which spots tend to have the most of what you're hunting for –- clothing, furniture, art, or jewelry. After you've been at it for a while, you might even take note of which days of the week your favorite thrift shop puts out new goods. As for estate sales, in order to become an antiquing pro, you'll want to mark those in your calendar ahead of time, and remember, the early bird gets the worm. 


"What I always tell people is to really just start looking everywhere and anywhere," says Sean Scherer of Kabinett and Kammer in Franklin, N.Y. (via Martha Stewart). "If you're just starting, the best way to educate yourself is by just looking in as many places as possible." EstateSales is another awesome resource for mapping out upcoming estate sales nearby.

Ask questions

If you're an antiquing novice, you'll want to get comfortable with chit-chat and letting your extroverted side take the wheel. Asking about a piece's age, history, use, and worth are all important questions. Not only will you want to know whether or not you should put your dollars down for a piece, but you'll also gradually build your knowledge base by asking these questions (via Pine & Prospect Home). 


Understanding the story behind an antique gives it that added charm. You can tell houseguests about your dining set that was originally owned by a family down the road 100 years ago or how you found an old locket with an old picture of a loved one safe inside. The things we use in our daily lives hold memories, and when well-kept and preserved, they can live on and bring a sense of wonder into your living room. Or, at the very least, they'll bring character and style. 

Negotiate the price

It might feel totally out of your comfort zone, but asking for a lower price is a skill that'll save you money and add a bit of fun to your hunt. There's nothing quite like a good sale. Many antique shops are more than familiar with negotiating prices and might even expect it from customers (via Inspired By Charm). You'll get the hang of it the more you do it.  


However, if a price tag is labeled "firm" or "non-negotiable," then it's best to respect the shop owner's wishes and pay full price or leave the item behind. Negotiating will also begin to help you understand the true value of an antique. Putting down hundreds of dollars for an antique chair might seems daunting at first, but once you're really immersed in the thrifting world, it may flip your perspective, and you'll understand what a deal you secured.

Bring cash

While most spots can certainly take cards or Apple pay, offering cash won't only save the seller processing fees, it could even get you a better deal (via Inspired By Charm). If you have cash in hand and offer it with your lower asking price, the seller may be more apt to accept. If you're antiquing on a budget, carrying only as much cash as you're going to spend that day will help too. 


It'll also usher you to make the wisest choice. Do you use your allotted cash towards the vintage necklace that's in perfect condition, or do you buy the stunning antique bed frame that is quite the find but needs a lot of work? If you're sticking to cash, buying both won't be possible, so you'll become a pro at weighing the options. Yard sales and garage sales may take only cash, so it's smart to have some cash on hand (or even stored in your glovebox) in case you drive by a promising-looking sale. 

Go Slow

This may be a tough one. The urge to scramble through the antique mall and grab what your heart desires before anyone else has a chance to is a feeling all antiquers are well familiar with. But, if you take your time and trust you're going to find exactly what you're meant to, you'll likely score treasures you would've rushed by before. 


Grab a coffee beforehand, maybe listen to a podcast through your earbuds, and let yourself really get in the zone. Try not to get distracted by the shopper with great style across the way, thumbing through some great-looking vintage books. Go at your own pace and trust your instinct. Try taking a second lap around the antique store or flea market. Most thrifters can attest to finding a holy grail in an aisle they already perused. You'll likely be amazed at what you find hiding in plain sight (per Inspired By Charm).

Do your research

If you begin to collect something, like vintage aprons, salt and pepper shakers, or retro toys, it pays to take a deep dive online and absorb all the info pertaining to the item you're collecting. You'll want to know what's a fair price if there are any rare pieces that are worth more, how to recognize them, and how to look out for potential knock-offs. You may even find online forums or Facebook groups where you can share your thrifting scores with like-minded folks who'll be just as excited as you (via Pine & Prospect Home). 


Checking out vintage shops on Etsy can give you a great feel for what's out there in terms of specialized collections. And while finding a piece on your own at an unsuspecting rummage sale is a lot more thrilling than ordering it online, sometimes that's the route to go for hard-to-find pieces. 

Have fun!

The joy of hunting for something unique with soul and a story is truly the romantic's dream. And while there definitely is a time and place for Home Goods and Target, antiquing can become a lifelong thrill that'll give you a home full of treasures you won't find at most places around the block. Antiquing is a great way to spend the weekend. You could even make a road trip out of the treasure hunt, complete with fun dining spots and sightseeing. 


Whether it's books, paintings, dishware, or tapestries, having your hard-earned collection on display in your house can bring a lot of joy and some pride too. "There's this feeling when you're a new collector — passion is too simplistic," says Bena Raia, an auctioneer and appraiser outside of Boston (via Martha Stewart). "There's an adrenaline rush, a drive. You're so motivated, because it's something within you that you're looking for."