Tips for Shopping at Antique Stores

Where I find my decor is always a question that pops up and the truth is Antique Stores are my most consistent source! Yard sales and Online Buy and Sells have landed me a few deals but actual storefronts are hands down the hidden gold mines! These are some tip for shipping at Antique Stores!

I love rummaging at Antique Stores! It is like stepping back in time, seeing what my grandmother’s generation would have worked with, used and valued!

Almost every antique store has one thing in common, the smell! There is a musty, dusty smell that I kind of dig (although some people must think I am crazy but hey! That smell goes away with a cleaning and some fresh air).

However, every antique store is a bit different. From the layout to the pricing, to the owner’s knowledge. Some feel like you have stepped into a museum! Other’s feel like they found some junk and dumped it on tables, without cleaning up the items at all.

vintage antique milk glass and jadeite

Get a Feel for the Store

The tip is to wander around! Is it neat and tidy? Are the shelves well dusted? Price tags neatly on each item? Do they run it like a strict business or rather a beloved hobby?

Check out what section has the most items that are displayed carefully. Often this will either tell you what the owner’s value you the most or love the most. These items, the owners may have the most knowledge about as well.

Chat with the owner or staff! Antique stores are often family run, they LOVE their job and can tell you stories of how they sourced their items.

Getting familiar with a good store can help you see if they have quite a bit turnover of products (which is a great sign that they buy and sell often so always new stuff!).

vintage books and watering huge bought from an antique store

The Price Might be Negotiable

Sometimes (depending on the type of store!) you can offer a lower price and see if they will give you a bargain! Having a feel for the store and knowing how the owners treat the business can give you a few clues to if bargaining on the price is possible.

I have two favourite stores I love to frequent. Once is gorgeous like a museum! I rarely take my children in there and walk carefully because every corner is filled with breakable objects!

They have an exquisite collection of glassware and antique clocks and it is carefully curated for variety. They know the value and can tell you everything about every piece. Their prices are NOT negotiable. That sticker is there for a reason because they know the market value.

However, my favourite little haunt is a mishmash of everything old and chippy. Very few breakables because he prefers to bring in wood and metal pieces. He also is always restocking, bringing in things he wasn’t sure about but they ‘looked neat’.

His store is always buying and selling quickly and if something doesn’t move in a few months he will lower the price. He also offers deals…I bought some bed frames from him and was debating on some sleigh bells…we went back and forth on the price and offers and I walked away with the beds, bells and a little wooden donut maker for $40 less then the ticket price.

Lack of Knowledge Can Affect Your Wallet

Who doesn’t hate overpaying for an item? Who doesn’t love getting a steal of a deal? Not knowing the value or the difference between replicas can hurt your wallet or get you the steal of the century!

Sometimes those fancy antique stores have a speciality (like the one I mentioned above) and many high priced curated pieces. Even though I know that 95% of their inventory is not my taste, or in my price range, I am looking at that 5%. Often they will have a little corner with stuff they saw or were given and have zero knowledge about it and therefore have super low prices. They want to get rid of it so they can focus on what they really love. This is how I scored a few antiques I adore, and for only a dollar or two!

The flip side can bite your hiney! Replicas the days are beautifully crafted and to the novice can trick you to thinking you are getting the genuine article! If you pay attention you will notice some of these replicas always pop up in Antique stores with a BIG price tag that is often higher then what you would pay for brand new from the retail store. However, if you really want it and it is sold out everywhere, jump for it!

macro detail of a washing board and old batten lace handkerchief

Ask about Broken ‘Projects’

Did you know that sometimes Antique Store owners will keep a few broken pieces of furniture as projects? These collections will often accumulate and they will discount them heavily to make room for new items.

They often can be super chippy and rusty, the furniture unsteady and missing a few nails. For the handy DIYers, this can be a jackpot! Often these are items people will pass up and will remain on the owner’s ‘to-do’ list. If this is the case, keep making a lower offer. You never know when they will finally decide to let them go and you have yourself another score!

close up picture of the iron from a replica church window

Have a List of Wants and No Expectations

Having a mental list of items you would love to have in your home can help you make good decisions. This can allow you to see how available the item is, what the asking prices online typically have been, to see if there are replicas.

I also go into Antique Stores with zero expectations! Unlike a regular store with a regular inventory, theirs is always fluid and always changing. Never start a day of shopping saying to yourself that you MUST buy XYZ…but rather go with the hope that something will pop up.

Think of the spaces in your home and know how much space you have to work with, for example, a large hallway that needs a piece of narrow furniture, of a shelf that could use a little something extra. Having a broad and general idea may help you see neat object that would be perfect and completely unexpected!

vintage postage scale bought from an antique store

If Local Go Often

I love popping in every few months to my favourite Antique Stores. This always means their items will have changed a little or quite a bit (often find the summer months their inventory changes often because of all the yard sales!). Going often means you can also see what items have been there a while and you can possibly negotiate the price and be sure with your decision for purchasing.

Going often can help build a relationship with the store owners. They can learn your style and taste and also help the hunt! When searching for something, in particular, they add it to their own searches and possibly let you know if they come across it. Many owners LOVE being able to do this because it is a sure sale for them!

I hope these tips help! We hit up two of our favourites today and came home with a couple of goodies that I know will make an appearance soon online! We also found a few treasures that we need to think about because they are BIG purchases!

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DIY, massive (slow) renovation on a budget, momming 5 little ones, farmhouse & vintage goodness, Canadian Mom blogger

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