A Vintage Junker’s Guide: Where to find the Good Stuff!


When you’re in the business of selling vintage, antiques, and second-hand finds, cold season weather can put a damper on treasure hunting. Winter is a season of scarcity for even human foragers! That’s why I thought I’d put together a “Guide for Where to Find the Good Stuff.”

I’ve included real-life adventures and advice from my almost 20 years of “picking”. I’m always on the hunt for good junk  (And I’m maybe feeling a little wistful that I can’t buy a store-full anymore).

On-Line Auctions

During cold, Minnesota winters, On-Line Auctions are the way to go. You can sit in your comfys with your mouse and screen and peruse any and all types of wares. You need to have a bidding number with the auction company you are using. Put in your zip code and a mileage zone and start plugging in search words. There is usually a preview day to actually see the items (and the condition they’re in), and there will be a specific pick up day and time. If you can work within the parameters and live in or near a larger city, there can be a lot available. Read more about my crazy on-line adventures and scores {Here}


Estate Sales

…are one of my favorite ways to find items to sell. I just love the opportunity to go inside a house and see how someone else lived! It’s like a house tour and a really good thrift store rolled into one. Estate sales are listed in local or city papers and can also be found on websites like Estatesales.com and Estatesales.org, where you can view pictures of items available. There is usually a specific time to get an entrance number about an hour before anyone is let in. Once the sale starts, they let people in according to their numbers, sometimes only allowing a certain number in if the house is small.

FYI…The group that attend estate sales regularly are kind of a secret society. If there are some really hot items to be had, they will sleep in their cars in front of the house the night before and create “pre-numbers” on post-it notes. These numbers are then swapped for the “real” numbers from the estate sale company. Sales usually run 3-4 days and offer discounts the last couple of days. Just ask the company what their policy is. You will need a receipt written up with your items in each room, floor or area, and then you pay at the end. It’s best to have help when retrieving larger items. The first couple hours of a sale can be pretty hectic. Insider advice: Make a pile near one of the workers and have some post-it’s with your name written out to slap on the items, otherwise you never know who will grab your goodies out from under you!


Church Sales

…are usually in the spring, though sometimes in the fall also. Items can be found for uber cheap and en masse. I love the friendliness of church sales and the homemade goodies are much better than fast food. I also like to think I’m helping out missions, the youth group, or whatever crowd the proceeds are going to. Win/win in my book. Check out this post for all the ins and outs {Here}


Curbside Clean-up Days 

…are the reason my garage and outbuilding are completely full! Cities and small towns alike will offer a day or series of weekends where residents can place almost anything they don’t want on the curb to be picked up by the garbage/recycling companies. Scrappers (people who turn in scrap metal for $) take advantage of these days and bring large lawn trailers to be filled up with scrap metal. But just about anything can be found, so if you keep an open mind and have some DIY skills, you can fill a trailer pretty quickly!

To find out if these type of clean-up days are offered, check out a city’s website. If the garbage will be picked up on a Saturday morning, you will want to be driving around Thursday through late Friday night, even early Saturday morn. Bring gloves, scissors, a hammer and a drill…and some baby wipes to be adequately prepared. If you can get over your shyness, the whole experience can be as fun as a block party! Have an empty van and a trailer and plenty of tie cords. There’s no rules, so if you just want the hardware on a piece, or just the drawers, go for it! If you get it home and have buyer’s remorse, anything can be burned or scrapped. Do try to keep people’s piles neat though (or as neat as they had them). Half my house and yard has been decorated this way! Read and see more {Here}


Family and friends 

…were some of my best sources of vintage finds, especially furniture. Once everyone knows you’re in the renew and rescue business, it’s amazing how many people tell you about their grandma who’s heading to the nursing home, their friend who got divorced and has to part with a lot of stuff, or someone who’s really sick of the family heritage stuff they’ve been storing in their basement for umpteen years! I usually put a lot of time, money and effort into what I’m selling, so the closer to free I can get items for, the better. If friends are wanting more $$ from their items, I recommend craigslist, or to have a garage sale. When they just want to get rid of it, that’s when I like to get in the game. Otherwise, I will pay them what I would buy the items for at an estate sale or garage sale. It’s really offering them a service to take it all away, at that point. Read about one of my favorite private estate sales {Here}.


If you’re not searching for large quantities of treasures,  Garage sales  are great if they’re in season.

Throughout the year, Thrift Stores have a constantly changing array of home items, although I’ve found quite a few of them to be too spendy lately. Get to know your local ones and you’ll find that each of them have their niche. I like to get linens from one, dishware from another, and furniture from a third.


My store partner, Cheryl, had great luck at Live Auctions. Sometimes they are held in an auction house where you can sit and bid while munching on popcorn, sometimes they are held on location at a farm. Weather conditions can make or break the fun factor. Rain, snow and standing in mud with an umbrella, while wearing many layers is not for the faint of heart. But farmhouse style is all the rage, and these types of auctions will fufill those desires!

Be a Stalker. We’ve all driven by those houses or farms where the piles outside are just asking to be picked through. Take an example from American Pickers and stop by (with a partner to be safe) and ask. Put a note on the door if you have to! Once I even followed a trailer-load home to ask if he was going to scrap the amazing fiberglass molded chairs. It led to a great relationship of junk-swapping!

Hope this guide gives you some ideas on where to find great vintage junk! And it certainly answers the question I heard so many times through the years…”Where do you find it all?”

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10 thoughts on “A Vintage Junker’s Guide: Where to find the Good Stuff!

  1. Great ideas! And I totally understand the Minnesota winters, I’m a Minnesotan too haha. Love lounging in my comfies.


  2. Great post, Lora–very comprehensive. It’ll be a great resource for a lot of people, I’m sure. Thanks so much for linking up your posts with us at Vintage Charm 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great tips! I love estate sales. Definitely one of my favorites, and now I am hosting mini ones in my home for a friend. Going well so far. They do not do numbers here in Utah. Also, now curb finds. 😦 We have to take them to a donation place or dump. I’ve never participated in an auction, but would love to some time. Thanks for sharing your tips with SYC.

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