Tips for Vintage Hunting

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Okay, so I’m not a vintage junking pro.  But I do love trying my hand at it!  There is almost nothing that sparks my creativity like strolling through an antique mall or vintage shop.  I love good flea markets, thrift stores, and antiques markets.  When they say the thrill is in the hunt…that is absolutely true for me!  I have learned a few things over the years that help me have even more fun when I’m vintage hunting (or junking!).  Here are my DO’s and DON’Ts for junking:


DO make a detailed list


I always try to make a wish list before going on a junking trip.  Sometimes I walk away with most of the list checked off and sometimes I end the day with a pile of good junk that wasn’t on my list at all!  The point isn’t necessarily that you buy only those items.  But it does help me stay a little more focused.  I have left a store or market before, only to realize that I forgot the one thing I really needed most and probably could have found!  So I rely on a wishlist to get me started!

Here is what is usually on my list:


  • Architectural salvage
  • Books with good patina
  • Brass objects—deer, quail, bunnies…things I could use seasonally
  • Containers to hold trees and plants
  • French antiques—ironstone, books, bottles, baskets, wood pieces
  • Things I collect, such as mortar and pestles
  • Cubbies of any size!  (If I don’t use it in my own home, they are great display for our pop-up markets and always sell!)
  • Small drawers, such as file drawers or card catalogs
  • Vintage art
  • Vintage mirrors
  • Chippy, white anything—stools, baskets, trays, salvage, frames, to name a few
  • Wooden bowls

DO know the purpose for your trip


Are you strolling for the fun of it?  Is this a social trip?  Are you gathering ideas to spark creativity?  Are you purchasing for your vendor booth?  Are you purchasing gifts?  Are there specific things or a specific “look” you want to find for your own home?

These are all perfectly valid and reasonable purposes for a vintage junking trip!  Listen, I’ll take any excuse or reason to go junking for a day or two…or a week!  Just as having your wishlist can help your time be more productive, so can knowing your purpose.  If you know you are solely purchasing for resale at your booth or pop-up market, you’ll want to scoot right past the “pretty” booths and roll up your sleeves to dig.  This is so much fun and so rewarding!  When I am on a buying trip for our pop-up markets, I try to have some themes or looks in my mind ahead of time.  But if something is a great deal that you can stick away for a different season, GRAB IT!

If you are gathering ideas for your home, whether to purchase or just to start getting creative, it helps to have the following in mind:

  • Measurements of the space
  • General style and “look” you hope to achieve
  • Budget

Having these things in hand BEFORE you go will help your shopping to be productive, fun, and help keep you on track!  I am guilty of getting caught up in the moment and realizing that I spent my budget on something that wasn’t the priority.

DON’T overthink it!


After I just talked about having a wishlist and clear purpose?  But it’s true!  If you know you need a sofa table and you come across a piece that fits the space, suits the aesthetic of the room, and is within your budget, GO FOR IT!

I have also been guilty of overthinking, even to the point of ruining the fun of it!  If you’re looking at inexpensive items that won’t blow your budget, GO FOR IT!  An item that is unique, that you love, and isn’t going to break the bank is almost always a great choice!

If you love it, grab it!  It can be so disappointing to love something, walk around to overthink it, only to find that someone else loved it too!  (I clearly have experience here!  Ha!)  As you spend more time junking, you’ll get better and faster at making decisions and knowing what you’re looking for!

DO carry detailed measurements


This matters.  A LOT!  When you are shopping for furniture and wall décor, especially, make sure you have those measurements written down!  I keep lists in the notes app on my phone so it is always handy.  You never know when a quick thrift store run could produce the amazing storage piece you’ve been trying to find for months!  It is so disappointing to find a piece that you love, purchase it, and get it home…only to find it is two inches too wide.  I’ve walked away from countless “great deals” on pieces that I dearly loved because I knew they just wouldn’t be the right fit.

DO be patient!


The right piece….whether furniture, accessories, wall décor, lighting….is worth waiting for.  You might have to hunt for a long time before you find the perfect thing.  But be patient!  It is much more enjoyable to curate your home over time with pieces that have the best look and function for your space and family.

DON’T walk away from that thing you can’t live without


…unless it is going to really mess up your budget or it’s some massive piece that you 100% know you can’t possibly use.   But for those one-of-a-kind finds that you come across, grab them and have fun!  Last summer, we were on the 127 World’s Longest Yard Sale.  It was toward the end of the trip, we were tired, and it had been a long day.  We stopped at a field in Tennessee with a number of vendor tents.  I walked into this tent and sitting there was the most perfect vintage ice cream sign.  Double sided, great condition, enough patina to show character and wear, and a price that couldn’t be beat.  I didn’t know exactly where it was going to go, but I didn’t blink an eye before grabbing it.  In fact, I stood guard over it while my sister-in-law went to find my husband (who had the cash!)  Those are fun finds and you can guarantee you’ll be glad you went for it!

DO go prepared!


  • Take cash! Vendors prefer cash and sometimes you can even get a little better price if you offer cash.  It is perfectly acceptable to ask if there is a cash price!  You’ll want to have a good supply of small bills for those accessory items too!
  • Take something to carry your goods around with! When we go to bigger junking spots, we use a collapsible wagon.  It’s fun to see it fill up with our finds!  You may want to carry a market bag or tote bag to put smaller items in.
  • Bring hand sanitizer, wet wipes, and paper towels! A good junking spot is going to get your hands dirty and sometimes doesn’t have great places to wash up!
  • Take plenty of water and snacks…and maybe a little caffeine to keep you going too! “Junking ain’t easy,” after all!

DO be kind, above all!


As someone who has been both a vendor and a buyer, I can speak from a little experience here:

As a vendor, I never mind if someone is purchasing several items and wants to bundle it together for a little better deal.  Sometimes, I don’t have wiggle room on an item and have to honestly express that.  But most of the time, I am happy to negotiate a little with someone who is KIND and is purchasing a few items.

As a buyer, I never ask for a “deal” at a retail shop but I usually do ask if there is a little better price for a grouping of items or on large ticket items.  I also understand if a vendor isn’t able to deal and respect that!  If they are able to deal, I very kindly thank them and if they aren’t able to deal, I still very kindly thank them!

Vendors work very hard to find items to sell.  Hours go into cleaning, sorting, pricing, setting up, staging, selling, and then breaking it all down to pack up, only to unpack and reorganize it all again in their storage.  BE KIND!

DO remember look online for antiques and vintage!


Especially in this day of online shopping, vendors are being creative and branching out to online sales.  You can get some fantastic pieces from places that you may never be able to travel to.  You’re also supporting real people with small businesses who depend on your mutual love for vintage!!!  That is the best part of all!

I hope these DO’s and DON’Ts are helpful to you!  Junking can be a fun and creative way to get some great deals, spark creativity, learn about history, and just have a generally wonderful time!!!  So….what’s on your junking list?





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