The short answer is…yes. Is it the easiest place to source vintage items to resell on Ebay or Etsy? No. Not compared to yard sales, estate sales or thrift stores. But I did some antique mall browsing this past weekend and I gleaned some tips. (This post contains affiliate links. See our full disclosure here)
Tips for shopping an antique mall for your vintage resale business.
- Be patient. Antique malls can sometimes be very large and very packed with vintage, collectibles and antiques. Be prepared to spend a lot of time or to break the search up into several visits. The antique mall I visited this weekend was 70,000 square feet and has about 200 vendors! I actually went to it twice. Once on Friday and again on Sunday.
- Don’t expect to buy a ton! Obviously, prices are higher at an antique mall and may be close to (or higher) than what you can sell it for on Ebay and Etsy. You may shake your head at the prices…try not to let it bother you.
- Be thorough! Some booths are packed FULL of stuff. Love those kind of vendors! You may have to move things around or peek down onto bottom shelves.
- Shop what you know. It can easily get very overwhelming at an antique mall. If you stopped to look up every vintage item there…you won’t make much progress. I decided to shop my niches: flatware, sewing patterns and costume jewelry. Take advantage of your knowledge and experience to see if an item still has some “meat on the bone”.
- Pay special attention to the booths that DON’T deal in the niches you’re searching. They are more likely to not know exactly the value of those types of items and may price the items to move. That’s how I found my stainless flatware finds (more about that in a minute). Many of the booths either had NO flatware or only focused on sterling and silverplate. I found 2 bundles of stainless flatware. Well, actually 3…but the third was overpriced and I have an even bigger bag of that pattern in my profit pile at home, lol.
- Be prepared for smaller profit margins. You may get good at ferreting out the profitable items, but you may still pay more than you would at at a thrift or yard sale. (Although…if you’ve seen the prices at my Value Village and Goodwills lately…I don’t know, not far off.)
Above is a picture of the items I found in the two trips this weekend. We were on family trip (not just our little family, in-laws too) and we got to the destination (about 3 hours away) before everyone else. I headed straight to the antique mall since I knew it would take me longer. My patient family indulged me. Fortunately there is an attached 50s diner and my boys were happy to be rewarded with milkshakes.
The antique mall was a bit overwhelming at first and my finds were slow to start with. I was fine with it…I don’t really go into big places like this with huge expectations…I just enjoy being surrounded by vintage.
I found the little baby spoon in the 1/2 off room. It’s has an atomic looking star on it…so cute! Soon after, I spotted a mannequin in a booth with several pieces of jewelry on it. Like I mentioned already, I noticed that the booth didn’t specialize in jewelry but just had a few pieces. I picked out the figural bell pendant necklace, signed ART (Arthur Pepper’s company). The price was doable so I just went for it..I may only double my money…but again, I’m mentally prepared that my profit margins are lower.
Then I found the atomic potato masher. This booth did specialize in vintage kitchen stuff…but they had it reasonably priced at $3. I’ve sold a utensil in that same pattern before.
In another booth, I found my first piece of Emmons jewelry. It was a sweater guard or clip and I’ve learned that the name is Multiplicity. Emmons Jewelry Inc. was founded in 1948 by Charles H Stuart who went on to start Sarah Coventry a year later. Like Sarah Coventry jewelry, it was only sold at home parties. The white bracelet and earrings are also Emmons and are marked with the early “EmJ” mark…probably from around 1959 or 1960. A great resource for information about Sarah Coventry and Emmons jewelry is the Facebook group: Sarah Coventry & Emmons Jewelry Identification and History
I found the bracelet and earrings on the bottom shelf, kind of shoved back in a booth that didn’t specialize in jewelry. Not in this one, that dazzled me completely. It was just totally fun to look through.
Let’s get to the flatware. Hands down, my favorite finds. The orange plastic ones I found first…it was in a booth that had some other mod and mid century items.
It was priced fairly for plastic handled flatware I would guess, but I noticed that they were marked “WMF Cromargan Germany”. Definitely one of my BOLO brands. I am pretty sure I can use the larger audience that selling online provides and get a good price for these.
On Sunday, we went back again with the rest of the family. Hubby spent a little more time digging and he found these items.
He has sold the curly type bookends before and we thought the pewter Sun Valley mug was interesting. He is a carpenter by trade and specializes in trim plus window and door installation. He knows his hardware. He was quite impressed with the door hardware set he found…and the fact that is was on sale. I’m glad he knows what he’s doing. 😉
The only thing I found on that day was the set of stainless flatware in the bag. It was even cheaper than the WMF set. It turned out to be Lauffer. YES! Another one of my favorite brands to buy and resell. The pattern is called Chevalier.
At first glance on Ebay I was a bit disappointed. Not many listings and even less solds. I knew that wasn’t the whole story and these are REALLY nice flatware pieces. Solid and heavy. Turns out the salad forks and teaspoons are a bit harder to come by. I listed them all yesterday and sold the 2 teaspoons for TRIPLE what I paid for the whole bag. Yay!!
Benefits to Shopping an Antique Mall.
So yes, there is money to made finding things to flip at an antique mall. If you’re prepared to be patient and thorough. Search where other people don’t and shop what you know. This may not be your jam. And that’s totally okay. Yes, I’d much rather hit a nice estate sale priced by the family that just wants to clean house. But consider these benefits:
- At an antique mall….it’s all (okay mostly– there are collectibles allowed usually too) VINTAGE and ANTIQUES. You’re surrounded!! No sifting through decorative collectibles from TJMaxx. Hopefully.
- Think of the education! It’s free! One of my favorite parts about antique store shopping is seeing the goods IN PERSON. People can show me their Bakelite finds in a Facebook group or in a blog…but I don’t really understand the smell of it or the clunky sound it makes until I touch it myself.
- I buy less. Right? My profit piles are bad enough…a lower priced yard sale may make me go crazy on less than stellar stuff. In antique malls, I’m much more selective.
- It’s just plain fun.
So there you have it. What about you? Any great antique malls near you? Any great finds from one? Thanks for reading and feel free to comment below!