One of the most common questions we used to get asked when we owned our vintage store was, “Where do you find all this stuff?” We used to jokingly answer, “It finds us!” When you’ve been in the vintage junk biz for many years, you learn where and how to hunt down the goods! Today I’m pulling back the curtain, so you can hunt yourself! Here’s Where to Find the Best Vintage Junk (plus shopping tips).
My 20 years of vintage picking has led me on many adventures! There’s never a dull moment when you’re on the junk hunt. Here are some of my tried and true ways of finding enough goodies to fill a store regularly! I’ll share some of my vintage shopping tips with you along the way.
Where to Find the Best Vintage Junk (plus shopping tips)
During cold winters, On-Line Auctions are the way to go to find great vintage junk and antiques without going outside! 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 about our adventure retrieving our purchases from the sub-basement of a 100 year old building downtown in “On-line Auction Finds and Adventures”. Definitely memorable for the whole family!
Estate Sales are one of my favorite ways to find items to sell (and keep;). I 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.net 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 you want the low-down, so you can know what to expect, definitely read my “Estate Sales 101 and Insider Tips”. Once you attend one of these, you’ll be addicted! If vintage junker blood runs in your veins, you’ll be hooked!
Church sales usually occur in the spring, though sometimes in the fall also. They are usually Thursdays, Fridays or Saturdays. Items can be found for super cheap and en masse. I love the friendliness of church sales; the helpers usually help me carry my purchases out to my van even! Many times they’ll have home-cooked lunch or bakes goods for sale, too! When you spend money at a church sale, you are usually helping out missions, the youth group, or some other ministry. Win/win in my book! For all the ins and outs of buying vintage at Church sales, check out “Church Sales 101”.
Curbside Clean-Up Days
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). Read and see pics in “Curbside Junking Adventures and Tips”.
Family and Friends can have the Best Vintage Junk!
Family and friends can be one of the 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!
During my many years of selling, I put a lot of time, money and effort into refreshing my vintage finds, so the closer to free I could get items for, the better. If friends want more $$ from their items, I recommend Facebook marketplace, Craig’s list, or having a garage sale . But when they’re ready to just make it go away, I would come pick it up ASAP, no questions asked! Sometimes I paid them what I would buy the items for at an estate sale or garage sale, if it was in the budget.
If you’re not searching for large quantities of treasures, Garage Sales are great if they’re in season. It can involve a lot of driving, but can be quite enjoyable if the weather’s nice! If you like vintage items, definitely head toward an older, established neighborhood. The newer suburban homes tend to have kids toys and clothes.
If you want to have your own Garage/Yard sale to clear out some junk, check out “Garage/Yard Sale Tips”.
Flea Markets can provide a plethora of vintage goods! Just know you are buying from someone who has spent their hard-earned time picking and finding the junk themselves, so they want to make some profit! You will find everything from farm-fresh, dirty junk to cleaned up and repurposed treasures.
Tips: Get their early for the best choices. If you buy in bulk, you’ll get better prices. Always ask, “Is this your best price?” Flea market dealers are used to wheelin’ and dealin’; it’s a fun game for them! They know how much they have in it and will make sure they’re going home with something in their pockets. Try to make it a win/win situation!
If you want to hunt for vintage junk on a consistent basis, Thrift Stores don’t disappoint. They have a constant, changing array of items if you go to a larger closer-to-the-city store. 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.
Get to know different store’s prices. Some will have better prices on certain items than others. If you want to learn what I look for, check out “3 Things to Look for at the Thrift Store”.
My former store partner 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. If you want to find true farmhouse vintage junk straight from the source, these types of auctions can be pretty fun!
Be a Vintage Junk 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 friend to be safe) and ask. Put a note on the door if you have to! Once I followed a trailer-load home to ask if the older gentleman was going to scrap the amazing (Herman Miller) fiberglass molded chairs. It led to a great relationship of junk-swapping!
Facebook Marketplace (and/or Craig’s list)
Facebook Marketplace has recently become an easy place to find great vintage junk at reasonable prices. You can easily peruse what’s available on your phone or computer. But it’s all a timing game; great things at great prices will go fast. Use the same security measures you would if you were picking up an item from Craig’s list-bring a buddy. And remember, you can always back out if the item doesn’t look as good in real life!
Become a Lora B Insider!
If you love vintage junk and the desire to See Potential so you can Create the Unique, you have found your people! Sign up below to become an Insider and you’ll get access to all my best tips and tricks, plus get seasonal printables to decorate with. It’s fun, and it’s FREE!
Hope this guide gave you some ideas on where to find great vintage junk! It certainly answered the question I heard many times through the years…”Where do you find it all?” Are there some new junk adventures here you’re going to try? Hope you enjoyed this “Where to Find the Best Vintage Junk (plus shopping tips)”.