Identifying and Pricing Vintage

Vintage items were made to last and have withstood the test of time. Many pieces were manufactured with superior workmanship and quality, unlike some of the mass produced pieces made today. Pick up a piece of vintage pottery and notice it's weight. Look at the detail and craftsmanship found in vintage clothing. Play with a toy that won't break in a child's hand. Read a book with beautiful illustrations instead of reading a digital version.

In today's economy, the number of customers frequenting thrift and second hand shops continues to increase. Garage sales are becoming more numerous. People are buying clothes and household items at a fraction of what they would pay for new. Even worn or broken items can be repurposed, refinished, or upcycled into something new. Garage sales often start on Friday or Saturday, so if you have some free time this weekend, take a walk around your neighborhood and discover some vintage for yourself!

Vintage Identification (Is it really Vintage?)

The identification of vintage items is not a science. Oh, it's easy if a manufacturers mark, copyright or item name is found on a piece, but what if there's no information to be found?  That's when the research begins - on the internet, in books, and through experts or appraisers. Research is the key to all successful vintage collecting or selling. Often, however, there IS NO information to be found on a particular item. Examining style, wear, patina, quality of workmanship, composition, etc usually give an accurate picture of age. Unusual and unique items are often compared to similar items of the same era. As one becomes more familiar with vintage items, it becomes easier to recognize these characteristics. Reputable vintage dealers will do the best they can to honestly describe all pieces in detail.

Vintage is a variable market and pricing often reflects collector interest at the time of sale. Prices are constantly changing and will vary from vendor to vendor.  When purchasing or selling any item, consider the value it has for you, but don't be afraid to be flexible. Today's inexpensive vintage may be tomorrow's sought after collectible or a highly prized antique may lose considerable value almost overnight.

Pricing for Resale

Browsing through any collectibles price guide, the inexperienced collector will assume a new acquisition is a monetary goldmine. Then they become frustrated and don't understand why their item won't sell at book price. Any item is worth only as much as someone is willing to pay for it, and prices in most books reflect the highest retail value that can be expected for an item in mint condition. To determine to actual price you can expect to receive for your item requires lots of research. Price guides are great to determine the relative value of one item over another, but that's not necessarily what things are actually selling for.
I usually start my research on Ebay. I search completed listings for the specific item, and for similar items, to see what they actually sold for, including shipping. I don't pay any attention to the asking price of unsold items, as they are often inflated. By checking sold items, I can see what someone is willing to pay. After my Ebay research, I often check out other selling sites such as Etsy, Artfire, and Bonanza.

If you sell at a local collectibles mall, as I do, or at a flea market, you'll also want to check out the prices of your competitors items. Price your stuff too high, and customers will migrate to other booths. Price too low, and they'll wonder what's wrong with your stuff! Always price an item with consideration to it's condition. Two booths may sell the same pyrex bowl... one for $12.00, and another for $8.00. Why? Condition.. condition.. condition.

Then there's always the problem of selling something that you can't find anywhere and have no idea of it's worth! I often find myself in this position because I look for the unusual. In that case, I price according to what I would pay for it. Sometimes it sells, sometimes not, but then I have a cool collectible for my own use! I never buy anything I don't like.