Thursday, August 23, 2012

It Can't Hurt to Ask! (Secrets of the Hunt, Pt. 3)

Lately I've been doing a little thinking about the difference between being a "thrifter" and a being a "picker". I think with the popularity of shows like "American Pickers", those of us that buy vintage to resell want to glamorize it a little bit and call ourselves "pickers". After all, who doesn't want to travel the country and dig through piles of "rusty gold" for hidden treasures and then make some serious $$$ with a TV show, right? Yeah, me too.  :)

But for the most part, we stick to yard sales, flea markets and thrift stores. And buying stuff cheap that we can resell is still the name of the game and we do alright with it. (See my previous "Secrets of the Hunt" posts on how to do this, if you don't know already...)

But that's not really "picking"; that is, buying things that aren't actually for sale with a price tag already on it. To me, to be a picker, means that you have to find the vintage that's not already for sale and get the seller to part with it. You have to get to know people, knock on doors and just ask around to buy stuff.

More and more, I think this is going to be the way to go for those of us in this business. We all know that it's getting harder to find good stuff in thrift stores and yard sales. Stuff from before 1960 is just no longer that abundant in the second-hand marketplace.

With that in mind, try to think a little bit outside the box when it comes to buying vintage.

1) Make conversation with people. Oftentimes, even close friends and relatives don't realize how into this stuff you are. Even acquiantances and friendly people you see at thrift stores or yard sales. Remember my Giant Lamp? Well, it turns out the lady I bought that from invited me to go through her house and pick out some of the furniture that wasn't for sale yet. I've got an incredible late 1950s hi-fi coming my way from there.

2) Have a business card made. Even in this tech-crazy age, the act of giving someone your card strikes them with a permanence that they remember. They put it aside and when they have something to sell, they can pick it up and give you a call. I had 200 business cards made online for less than $20, and I think they've paid for themselves many times over.

3) Ask, Ask, Ask! The other day I stopped at a yard sale. It was two ladies in their 70s selling a bunch of kid stuff. Now, the last thing I need is more kid stuff. But more than anything, it was the incongruity of the situation that made me stop. I walked through all the tables of toys and racks of clothing and realized this was two ladies who had a children's consignment store they were liquidating. Not really seeing anything I needed, I did notice in the back of the garage was some items covered in old bedspreads. Obviously, they had covered the tools/snowblowers/etc. that were not for sale to keep people from trying to buy them.

However, it wasn't the tools, but the bedspread itself that I wanted:

I think the ladies were dumbfounded when I asked to buy the bedspread they covered the snowblower with!  I offered them a few bucks and they happily took it- they had no idea anyone would want something like that. To them, it had no value at all, so to get $3 for it was a bonus- and a win for me! It's a large full/queen  art deco pattern chenille, and in a tan/burgundy color scheme- perfect for my bedroom! (Sure beats covering up a snowblower!)


  1. That bedspread is waaaaaaay too awesome to act as a snowblower tarp!

  2. Good for you! What a lovely bedspread! I often think, "why not just ask." Sometimes I actually do and sometimes shyness overcomes me.

  3. They couldn't have thought of something besides a gorgeous chenille bedspread, shame on them, but good for you.

  4. The business cards are especially good idea because I would imagine most of the people who own the things you would like are older, from a generation that would rather deal with you by phone. Plus older folks will keep that card forever, lol.
    BTW I found some good stuff today ang blogged it. Some retail, and some lucky thrift finds. :-)

  5. yup I also do the bussiness cards! from my own personal collection and for my "set dressing/ props" racket! Most times people just caul me to haul away their junk.

  6. What a great bedspread! I always carry my own card, as well as my SIL's, and I hand them out at every opportunity. My SIL never leaves a buy without asking if they have anything else to sell...or if they will call him first if they decide to sell anything else. You can't imagine how many steady sources of furniture he's established this way.

    Just yesterday I bought some a vintage item on eBay, but the seller was local, so I picked it up. I asked her if she had anything else to sell, and she told me she had an antique store at one time and has tons of things in storage. She said she would email me pictures first from now on, before she lists anything on eBay. A win for her, because she saves the fees, and a win for us, because we get first dibs.

    Like you said, it never hurts to ask.