5 Tips for Collecting Vintage

Collecting antiques can be the one thing that makes your space scream ‘personal style’. I’m pretty sure, if you have eyeballs, you have probably noticed how collecting antiques has been having its trend moment in home decor. Here are 5 tips for collecting vintage and creating a home filled with personal style.

How do I start Collecting Antiques?

I have always been an antique picker and have been selling antiques for almost two decades. I believe it to be a wonderful option in making your rooms feel cozy and lived in! However, it does make it a bit more competitive to find the good stuff at decent prices today. But I’m here to share my 5 tips for collecting and curating items you’ll use and love.

Collecting Antiques or Whatever You Call It

Before we get started heading down the antique collection rabbit hole, let’s establish the specific types of this hobby. Is it an antique collection or a vintage one? Here’s the difference. An antique is something that is over 100 years old, where vintage is anywhere from 20-99 years old. Does that mean that every old thing is a great investment and valuable? Not necessarily. 

In most cases, high end antique furniture isn’t something really hanging around a flea market these days. Most sellers or collectors know what they have. But you will see items from the victorian period, which are over 100 years old. And you can find amazing collectibles that may not be valuable but have amazing decorative appeal.

The main thing is, if it is something you are interested in, then it’s worth a look. Let’s take a look at how you can put together your perfect antique collection.

Tip 1: Buy what you love.

I realize this may seem obvious, but I see many people buying what they see that is trendy or what the magazine experts are saying is the ‘hot item’ of the moment. How about buying what you are truly drawn to? For me, the right collectible is very personal and I know that many of us have reactions to certain items based on precious memories from our past.

If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it 47 million times…”my grandmother had those glasses and I always drank juice out of them when I would spend the night”. Or this one, “we grew up in the country with our cousins and played with this or that item as kids”. And one of my faves, “my mom had that and I always loved it, but my sister inherited it”. Now you can have it too.

When I started

I began collecting milk glass back in the late 70s when I was a teenager. where my first piece came from my maternal grandmother. Officially, I was hooked. I scavenged every local thrift store, and became quickly obsessed with my new hobby. I didn’t really set out to collect antiques, it just sort of happened. But this has been a major factor in my design philosophy and business over the years.

My collection is quite extensive and consists of items we use on a daily basis as everyday dishes. I enjoy entertaining and use many for display. I have many patterns that I like, but I tend to stay pretty specific so they blend well when creating a tablescape.

There are emotions that are tied to these wares because they are, well, old. Some may not hold value, and aren’t anywhere close to mint condition. But I don’t mind. And frankly, they just don’t make things the way they used to.

A practical guide to shopping: If it makes you swoon

So whatever you are drawn to, whichever piece makes you swoon and think of simpler days, go with that. Buy what you love and you will always have a place for it in your home. And the thrill of the hunt will be enjoyable and adventurous. Hit up some local estate sales and begin researching items, if you are interested in value. If you can find an auction in your area, go and observe and see how things work. Soon you’ll be buying with the best. Check out this post for tips on shopping a flea market.

While we’re at it, buying what we love, buy what is useful as well. I see antique malls full of figurines no one is collecting anymore because they’re only things to collect dust. So go for what speaks to you, and what will enhance your quest for living beautifully and simply. Then it will always be a joy to incorporate those items in a useful way into your everyday life.

collecting vintage with Bungalow 47

Tip 2: Buy the highest quality you can afford.

This tip, also known as ‘start small’, is an important step. Starting out can feel intimidating, but watch and learn while scoping out the good stuff. It is easy to get caught up, my dude, I have been there! But start with those first items you know you will use, what truly speaks to you. Then build as you go. Remember, once you have 3 items, you have the start of a collection and an excuse to go shopping again.

DO NOT pay good money for anything that is broken, or stained in a way that you will not use it. And trust me when I say, I have ended up with a million things I said I would fix. Some I have fixed on occasion, but they were things like furniture that got reupholstered, or something to paint or glue. Usually if you wait, another item will come around that is not chipped. That will be the one to make you proud and put to use in your home, and your money will be better spent.

collecting vintage with Bungalow 47

Tip 3: Learn to focus and train your eye.

The best part of this tip is, this takes practice, meaning you should shop often. Oh darn, you’ll have to go on a treasure hunt! But the more you get out and see, the more you will train your eye to find what you want. You will become a blood hound for those items you love. And it will surprise you at how easily they show up in your path. This will allow you to start to be a bit picky, and find the things that will fill your home with personal style.

A gentle warning, you don’t want to be too “dog with a bone” and only look for one or two specific items. If you do, that is precisely the time you will miss out on something wonderful. So train your eye to be discerning for what you love, but keep an open mind for that fabulous one-of-a-kind magic that may find you.

collecting vintage with Bungalow 47

Tip 4: Research and ask questions.

There is a reason Google lens was invented. So if you find something cool, you can actually know what it is and what era it is from. This can also give you clues on what to pay. You can look on eBay, and can often find someone selling cheaper. If you find something that’s a bargain, just grab it and ask questions later. But if you are shopping, and find something you love that seems like a good price, it’s smart to check the internet.

However, don’t be too picky for a few dollars. If it’s there and in front of you, then buy it now if you can take it right home and enjoy it. Most of the time, I find that when I check the internet for pricing, it is much higher than what I am seeing locally.

Get some info

If you are shopping in a store or where you can speak to the vendor, like at a flea market, ask questions about the piece’s history. Sometimes they know the back story of where it came from, and it makes it extra special to know where that article originated. Auctions are fun, and sometimes will know where the collectible came from and how it ended up there.

As a dealer, I love to have this extra knowledge that I can pass on to its next owner. It is always a big bonus when you find an item that someone has thoughtfully written the history on the back. Having that knowledge gives me all the feels of goodness, and is just good to know. Read this post how we added that history to a piece of furniture we restored.

Tip 5: Don’t be a snob.

The best deals are found when you are willing to get a little dirty and get out of your comfort zone. Go on the hunt, where others won’t. Great items can still be found at garage sales, barn sales, and flea markets. Even by the side of the road, thrift stores and more. If you want to have a high end experience shopping for fancy antiques, go at it. The prices will match your experience, which is fine if you want to buy collectibles that are very specific and have the budget for it.

I will say I have had the most fun when I was digging through a pile of crap (not literal crap, but one man’s trash sort of crap) and discovered that diamond in the rough.

Story Time

Let me share a quick story (one of many like it) to inspire you to be ready at anytime for your next treasure:

Years ago, when my kids were at home, I was driving my teenage daughter to a friends house. We were cruising a neighborhood when I spotted a pair of AWESOME concrete planters that had the perfect patina that someone put out at the curb. I just love trash day. Apparently these people weren’t seeing it.

So of course I slowed down to get a better look and my daughter knew exactly what was happening. She shrieked, “OMG Mom! You cannot trash pick right in front of my friends house! And we’re driving a Mercedes, how embarrassing!” To which I responded, “You know I’m getting out to get these. So you can either help me and make this quick, or you can hide yourself while I struggle with them!”

Precious and obedient little thing that she was, she got out and (very quickly) helped me to stash those in the back of my vehicle! SOLD! No price is the best price! Great style doesn’t require a lot of money.

Later I realized she was right. Not that it was embarrassing but I needed a car to suit my life. I went back to something that was more ‘me’ that I could feel less guilty about getting dirty. Apparently my hubby doesn’t love when I scratch the car up while scavenging crusty stuff. And apparently, neither does the leasing manager at the dealership when I’ve returned vehicles in the past.

Who loves to antique collect?

So, let me give a shout out to all you lovers of old stuff, and future junk dealers. Get out there, wear clothes you can get dirty in, and dive into the wonderful world of antique hunting. There is something special waiting for you and it might just be sitting on the side of the road!

I’d love to hear your favorite ‘thrill of the hunt’ story. Drop me a note in the comments section and tell me what you collect and how you find it. Check out this post about how I use my collections at the holidays.

The Antique Shop Where I Sell

If you live in the greater Lansing, Michigan area, you can check out where I sell antiques here. It’s the best antique shop around, and people come from all over the state. They have amazing costume jewelry, antique furniture, old hand tools, comic books, fabulous primitive antique stuff, clothing, antique art and so much more. I love to find sewing related antiques, quilts, and household goodies. It is the best place to shop, so stop by when you are in town.


  1. Betty Jo Harris says:

    Love, love, love this.

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