How to Thrift for Vintage and Where to Store It

Every time the weather gets a bit warmer, I dream of hitting the flea market. But truth be told, I vintage thrift all through the year. But now that it feels like thrifting season is officially open, let’s talk about how to thrift for vintage and where to store it.

vintage picking at Round Top

Where to Shop for Vintage?

The easy answer to this question is everywhere! But there are some places that are better than others. It also depends on what you are looking for, and how committed you are to the find.

Flea market

Some people like a cleaner experience than others, and some of us don’t mind getting dirty. Pretty much, whatever category you fall into, is where you’ll start. If you like to see how people are using vintage in creative ways and don’t want to get dirty, then curated vintage shows and antique shops are for you!

You can find great things in these two places, and prices will be a reflection of what you are seeing. Vintage dealers have gone out, found all the things, dragged them home, and cleaned them up. Some items have been repaired, then priced, and brought to a show or booth space and curated and styled to be appealing.

shopping for fast fashion vintage

All of that work deserves a price, and items will be shown (for the most part) in a pleasing way. You can curate your own collections nicely from either of these two shopping experiences.

Getting Down and Dirty with Vintage Thrift

If you’re in it for the long haul and the thrill of the hunt, then there are many places to search for vintage. From thrift shops to flea markets, barn sales and garage sales, estate sales and road side finds, the thrift world is your oyster.

Nothing is better than digging through ‘one man’s trash’ for treasure. With my standard vintage picking outfit on (overalls – so much better than pants when you’re digging through boxes- and white tees are my fave) and a pair of dirty boots or tennis shoes, I’m ready for anything.

rose bowl flea - ready for bargains
Hmmm, now what can I do with these?

As a dealer, it’s great to discover a source where I can essentially purchase in bulk. This allows me to give better deals when I am pricing my wares. Heading out of the city to the country is the best plan for finding good deals.

If you find a thrift store that you like, ask them what day they put donations out. Some places work on a schedule, so you can come back for fresh finds. And the best places have all the things organized by categories. Get out of your own city and try diverse communities to find different things.

You can search online on eBay or Facebook Marketplace, Etsy, or Chairish, all depending on your budget. I prefer to hunt things ‘in the wild’, so tech finds are not as much fun for me. But if you are looking for something specific, it’s a good way to go. Grab it quick and put it in your bag or cart, because things go quickly online too.

Finding a Thrifting Community

When searching for vintage, it’s great to join like-minded people. You can find a community of peeps for what you love by engaging with vendors and dealers while out on the hunt. Let people know what you are looking for, and frequent the shops that have the categories you like.

Many shop owners will take your name and keep you on a list if they find what you are searching for. So you want that well stocked store to be thinking of you when they bring in a new haul. Let them know if you are willing to buy in bulk too.

Hit those locations up frequently, let them know they can contact you, and be a good customer by returning to shop when they call! You might even get privy to whether they offer delivery to their best clients. Finding your peeps has its perks.

From a Few Bucks to a Whole Lot More

Once again, prices are all relative to what you are wanting. And I would always suggest to BUY WHAT YOU LOVE and WHAT YOU WILL USE. I want to yell that for those of you in the back. To me, collecting vintage should be about that self expression of what really speaks to you.

If you are a dealer, then you are buying to resell and make a buck. But if you are buying for you, as a consumer, purchase the things that will help you live the life you want and the style you want to live.

Many choose that based on happy memories of the past, such as ‘juice glasses Grandma had’. And the rest of us are curating the look we want to create so we can enjoy the beauty of living with older items. They clearly don’t make things like they used to!

I’ve Got It, Now Where Do I Put It?

Once again, the best answer would be, “to good use” as I always feel using vintage that I buy is the best course of action. But put it out in the open where you can enjoy it.

Three pieces start a collection, so once you have 3, display them together. Collections have more visual interest when they are together and they begin to tell the story of who you are and what you like.

Not only do I shop for my business to resell, but I always prefer to buy vintage, even when I’m traveling. Antique malls hold so many stories of days gone by, and searching while you are in different places will broaden your scope of finding.

Part of the fun of thrifting is coming home and adding that new found treasure to its place within a collection. Shifting and restyling to allow space for the newcomer is part of the pleasure of the hunt.

collecting vintage with Bungalow 47

What About Condition and Prices?

When looking for vintage, many are realistic that they are searching for something secondhand, while others want a unicorn. If you desire that item in excellent condition with little sign of its age, then you will see dollar signs. The internet has let most people know what their treasures are worth.

Part of shopping for vintage is wanting something with patina. I like a bit of peely, chippiness, and am willing to pay for a certain thrifted look. Some wear and tear makes the piece look better to me.

I have even been known to grab treasures that may have a knick or chip if it’s dirt cheap and has really great visual appeal. I can always hide a crack or chip in a dish when used with flowers or a plant on display. After all, if it was a dollar or less, I can use it as needed for a short time then donate it.

I also appreciate the aspect of recycling and sustainability that comes with buying vintage. Guess that officially makes me out to save the planet, right?

And honestly, they really DO NOT make things like they used to.

What Are People Collecting Now in 2023?

A good place to look to see what people are collecting is to the editors of magazines that feature lots of thrifted finds. But what is on trend there isn’t always what everyone is looking for in the wild. Since I sell in a well established and very busy antique shop, I see all the things of what goes in and out throughout the mall.

It is fun to see younger people shopping for secondhand clothing and accessories, because vintage clothing is such a great vibe. It’s cool that mainstream retailers like Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie portray that casual and collected vibe in their stores, but there’s nothing like the real deal stuff.

I see people buying albums and graphic tees, vintage clothing and tons of collectibles. There are so many guys that shop in our antique mall, so I always try to have a little stock for them in my booth. So you never know where you will see the one thing that makes your heart sing!

What I Collect

I’m not sure if it’s my age or a hoarding thing, but I seem to collect a lot! My favorites are things that are useful; milk glass dishes, ironstone, wood and tin boxes, quilts, baskets, wood ice cream buckets, vintage art, alabaster lamps, and a bunch of other vintage goodness.

You’d think my milk glass collection would be complete by now, as I have been collecting since I was 14 years old. I have purchased sets of glasses or dishes, piece by piece, from coast to coast. This makes the compilation even more special as it was purchased in a variety of locations.

I do buy a lot of vintage linens, fabrics and vintage clothing, but have too much and don’t wear it. I’m drawn to the fabrics mostly, since the kind of vintage clothing I like looks better on the racks than me.

I’m saving my dollars for that unmatched one-of-a-kind thing with amazing details waiting for me out there. I buy the good stuff when I see it, and you never know what the future holds!

Bottom line is, I buy what I love and like to use. If I see something that has great design appeal, I may snag that too. Being a dealer of vintage does allow me to search and trade. If I find something great, I can always keep it and sell something I had that isn’t as special.

Final Review and Words of Wisdom

Don’t let retail prices keep you from making a purchase that you may truly regret. We can’t always get a bargain every time. But do stay within what reasonably fits your budget. If you’re looking for a special item, keep a jar to save your dollars in so you will be ready when you find it! After all, what’s more vintage than that, squirreling money in a jar?

Get off the beaten path, try new places, and you just might discover a gem. Buy what you truly adore and your home will always feel authentically you.

For tips on shopping the flea market, check out this post. For inspiration on displaying and styling, check out my Pinterest boards here.

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  1. Thrifting is one of my favorite hobbies! I love all of the tips and ideas you have here.

  2. Thanks so much Susan! Shopping for vintage is the best, and cheaper than therapy! Hahahaha

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