7 Must-Have Tips for Antiquing

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Do you love the thrill of finding that special treasure when you’re out antiquing? Or is it overwhelming and intimidating to go looking for such high-value items? Whether you consider yourself an expert or novice in the world of antiques, there’s always something new to learn with these expert tips for antiquing.

kitchen butlers pantry decorated for halloween.

Antiquing can be a fun, exciting way to curate your vintage home decor. But it can also be overwhelming – halls of old goods, multiple dealers and sellers vying for your attention, price tags that can be downright shocking at times…where do you even begin?

Luckily, with just a few helpful tips and tricks up your sleeve, antiquing can quickly become a rewarding experience. From finding trustworthy vendors to having the right form of payment (hint: cash is king!), turn antiquing from daunting to delightful with these helpful tips that will have you browsing like a pro!

Tips for antiquing

Top Tips for Antiquing

Ever since I discovered my passion for decorating, incorporating antiques into my spaces has been a must. I love to bring in vintage items because they have history and help me tell a story.

I also secretly love that an old piece is something that lots of folks aren’t likely to own. That is, it’s not something you can buy at Target. (No shade to Target, because I love them too!!)

Earlier, I shared some of the “previously loved pieces” I used in my ORC master bedroom makeover. In that post, I wanted to include tips for antiquing but chose not to because the article was getting too long. I promised I’d get back to you with those tips, so that’s what I’m going to share today.

Whether you’re new to antiquing/thrifting or just looking for helpful tips for your next hunt, here are my suggestions for a fun and fruitful antiquing adventure!

flowers on outdoor fall tablescape.

1. Plan, but be open.

It never fails. If I’m searching for something specific, I never find it. When I go antiquing and am open to possibilities, I will find more things than I can fit in my vehicle.

A prime example is the lamp I sourced for my master bedroom makeover. I wasn’t even looking for a floor lamp when I happened upon it. Now it’s among my favorite pieces in the room.

Because this is how antiquing/thrifting seems to work for me, I’ve developed a strategy:

  • First, I make a list of all the things I’m hoping to find.
  • I also take measurements and jot them down with any colors or styles I want to keep in mind.
  • If necessary, I make a note of how much I’m willing to pay for a particular item.

Shopping can be overwhelming, so it helps to start with a plan. This detailed list can make it easier to stay within your budget if you’re tempted to overspend. Saying no to things you like but don’t have a need for is also easier with a digital or printed list.

Of course, you can veer from the list when you come across that unexpected piece that blows your mind or causes you to rethink your decor plan! Case in point: the desk/small table I found for my master bedroom.

Another example is my vintage-inspired tablescape. While I began sourcing with a plan, I allowed that to change as I found pieces that I loved.

close up of an antique floor lamp

2. Do your homework.

If you are looking for a particular item, do your due diligence when it comes to price. You don’t want to be taken advantage of by an unscrupulous seller, so take the time to research and be informed before committing to any purchase.

It’s also advantageous to have a general sense of antique values so you don’t overpay for an item. Luckily, these days you can do a quick google search and see what similar items are selling for on eBay or other online sites!

More posts to learn about antiquing

a front porch with white and blue furnishings

3. Find the right store.

If you’re serious about antiquing, it’s important to find the right shop. Visit a few places and take notes on their selection, prices, return policies, etc. Get to know the staff and vendors so that you can develop relationships with them.

This will help you find out when new items come in or if they have something special that isn’t on the shelf. Plus, you can often get better pricing as a regular customer than as a one-off shopper.

Visiting or live in Pittsburgh? Then check out my favorite Pittsburgh antique stores!

transferware pitcher with topiary.

4. Take your time – walk through twice.

Whenever possible, give yourself time to thoroughly explore a store. Typically, I walk through once, quickly looking for anything on my list. Then I walk through again, a little more slowly, taking it all in and being open to all the possibilities. This is when the magic is likely to happen!

It might sound a little “woo hoo,” but I think “the antique will find you.” So don’t get hung up on when you go, where you go, or how often you go. That perfect piece will find its way to you.

antique drinkware on a patio

5. Always ask for the best price.

Most stores will work with you on price. In fact, if you just ask for a better price, some dealers will automatically knock off 10%. This isn’t always the case, but antique shops with multiple vendors usually have systems in place, so they don’t have to reach out to the booth owner every time someone asks if they can do better on the price.

It might feel uncomfortable at first, but you’ll always be glad you asked. I can assure you it also gets easier once you become accustomed to saying: “Is that the lowest you can go?” (You might even practice saying it before you go shopping.)

One important thing to note: When an item is marked “FIRM,” there’s rarely room for negotiation.

wooden box on a desktop with various vintage and antique decor set on top

6. Bring cash.

You will often get a better deal if you pay cash. I’ve found this to be the case 95% of the time. That’s why I try to carry greenbacks with me when antiquing.

I like to have a variety of bills because this can prove helpful in negotiating a price. Let’s say, you spot a cute lamp that is marked $25. You might be able to get it for $20 if you offer a $20 bill.

Buying with cash can also help to keep you within your budget. Your spending limit is what you have in your pocket.

7. Check return policies.

Most places in my area do not accept returns of any kind. Be sure to note return policies or ask before purchasing. This is why it’s so important that you come prepared with measurements, color samples, etc. Once you purchase something, it’s yours.

bottles and long stem glasses on a table

Frequently Asked Questions

I’ve been an avid antiquer for years and years, and these are the questions that pop up frequently. If you have another, feel free to drop it in the comments below, and I’ll get back to you!

What’s the difference between antiquing and thrifting?

While these terms get mixed up frequently, I do feel there is definitely a difference.

Antiquing is the practice of buying vintage or antique items. Thrifting is a term used to describe the act of shopping at thrift stores, which sell second-hand items such as clothes, books, and furniture.

There’s a quality difference between the two stores typically. That’s because thrift stores consist mainly of donated items, while antiques are more likely high-value heirlooms.

I enjoy both, but if I’m looking for something high-quality and unique, antiquing is definitely the way to go, in my opinion.

bookcase decor with books

Why do people love antiquing?

From my experience, the answer is simple: People love antiquing because it’s a great way to find unique items that you just can’t find anywhere else. Whether it’s a ceramic cotton ball rabbit or a brass snail, these items give your home an entirely unique feel that no other store-bought item can.

Plus, you get the added bonus of knowing that you’re supporting local vendors and businesses. That’s always an important plus in my book!

What are the best items to buy at antique stores?

I think every collector might have a different answer for this, but I’ll throw mine out there: vintage art and Christmas decor.

I love the idea of having vintage art around my home to give it a unique and timeless feel—so much so that I have an entire post devoted to how to decorate with vintage art!

Likewise, I also absolutely adore perusing antique stores for different vintage Christmas decorations – from old-fashioned glass ornaments to retro Santas. Something about pulling them out year after year and continuing their story brings me so much holiday joy!

What’s the best place to antique in Pittsburgh?

I know this doesn’t apply to the vast majority of you, but I’ve had several requests to share where I go, so I’m happy to oblige. Here’s an entire post answering where to antique in Pittsburgh!

booth in an antique store

Wrap Up

Well, there you have it…my tips for antiquing. I hope they’re helpful. As with all aspects of creating your personal happy place, enjoy the process!

If I think of any other tips, I will be sure to update this post. If you have any more questions, let me know in the comments below.

More posts to learn about antiquing

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24 Comments

  1. I enjoyed this post on antique shopping. I have a booth in an antique/vintage shop in western NC, so I shop often. One tip I have for shopping flea markets and shops with booths, like you said, go through twice, but walk the opposite direction the second time. I have found that you see items that you missed the first time around because of the different angle. I stumbled onto this quite by accident several times. It really works!

  2. You find great pieces and use them in your home in the most wonderful ways! I used your Pittsburgh shop list a few years ago and enjoyed the shops we went to. Love looking at your photos of how you incorporate vintage finds at home — they are the best and inspire me.