How to Research Your Thrifted Vintage Finds!
Whether you inherited great-aunt Martha’s estate or you are an Ebay/Etsy seller and come across killer deals at the flea market…there comes a time when you want to know “what are my vintage items worth?”. For our purposes today we will be focusing mostly on the reseller angle. (This post contains affiliate links – see our full disclosure here)
The short answer is “they are worth whatever someone is willing to pay”.
While this is definitely true, by gathering information about our item we can possibly increase the amount someone is willing to pay. Understanding the rarity (or not) of our items plus their background and history can hopefully get us to a reasonable asking price and the item into the hands of a new owner.
The following are a few options that I use when I’m researching the vintage items I sell on Ebay or Etsy. In doing this, I’m trying to find out more about my item. I want to learn the history of the item, the age, the designer. I want to know how rare or common the item is…how does the condition of mine compare to the condition of others available?
Once I have that information, that can help me with pricing my items. I can see what other similar items have sold for and how recently. I can see how many are available at the current time.
Online Selling Sites
This is probably where I start most of the time. I search right on Ebay itself. Other sellers’ listings can be a gold mine of information. I do take a look at current listings to see what’s available but for pricing ideas, it’s absolutely important to search the “SOLDS”. To find the sold prices on Ebay: from your search results page look along the left side of the screen – you probably have to scroll down a bit until you see the “Sold Items” checkbox on the side. Click that.
The prices will change to green. That’s how you know the item is sold. On a side note…if you just check the “Completed Items” box right above the “Sold Items” one, you’ll see all the items that have ended, sold and unsold. This may also give you an idea of how desirable the vintage item is – if many were listed and only few sold, that may tell you something.
If you have the Ebay app on your phone, the process is similar. Search results page, hit the “Filter” or “Sort” link at the top, scroll down and toggle the “Sold Items” tab.
On Ruby Lane, you can see a limited number of solds since many sellers remove their sold items monthly. On your search results page, scroll down to the very end of the results. Recently sold items that fit your search terms will be at the end of the list.
Etsy does not have a sold items section…HOWEVER…if you come across a link to a specific sold item, either through a search engine or Pinterest, you can put that link into Flipper Tools. This will work for older Ruby Lane sold items as well as Best Offers accepted on Ebay.
After searching Ebay and Etsy, my next stop is definitely Worthpoint. No, it’s not free. Yes, I pay for it and have done so for several years. Honestly, I don’t think there is a day that has gone by when I’m working and listing that I haven’t accessed it. I think it’s invaluable for vintage selling.
Ebay search only goes back 90 days but Worthpoint shows Ebay solds (and other sources) going back several years.
Sometimes as sellers of vintage and collectibles, we come across items that are a bit more rare. Here’s an example.
I’m still researching this vintage enameled egg shaped locket and really have no idea the exact age. I bought it online and it was described by the seller as a Russian egg locket. I can’t confirm or deny that. There are no marks. It’s not gold and the stones are rhinestones. I can understand the Russian reference since it’s reminiscent of Faberge eggs and the double headed eagle with the crown on top looks very Imperial.
But what surprised me was that I couldn’t find many others like it. Several egg shaped enamel lockets but none with the figural eagle on top. So I turned to Worthpoint and I found….ONE. Well, at least the closest to it I could find.
Holy schnikes. Okay, so mine is not guilloche enamel, it’s just black enamel. And I don’t have the stand that this one does. But it definitely sold for a lot more than I expected. I just discovered a missing tiny stone so that will affect my price as well.
This has happened countless times over the years, where research on Worthpoint has helped me get more information on my vintage items and caused me to price higher than I might have first been inclined.
If you’d like to try it out, Worthpoint has a free trial. Click here to get 7 free days or 7 free lookups. You will get billed if you continue to use the service after the free trial, so keep that in mind. There are a couple levels of subscription. I’ve always just used the Price Guide, so I can’t comment on the Marks Library value.
We all know Google. Google is actually pretty invaluable. But don’t forget different aspects of this search engine that may help you. When I type in some keywords or search terms, I not only read through the initial text page, but I also click on the Images tab. I can scan pictures pretty quickly to see if I can find a match to my item. Either to another similar item for sale or to a website that discusses the item.
You can also upload a photo of your item to Google and conduct an image search that way. Google will scan images all over the web to find a match to your item. The results can be pretty comical but sometimes you hit a match. This can work well for logos. Take nice clear, up close photos with clean backgrounds.
Your phone may also have a similar capability. Google used to have Goggles, but now I think they have Google Lens. My husband’s Samsung phone has Bixby Vision.
Don’t stop with Google. Many people I’ve spoken to have good success with Bing and Yahoo. It just may give you some results that Google doesn’t.
Don’t laugh! There is a wealth of information out there among the people!! On Facebook, collectors have gathered into (sometimes very specific) groups in order to discuss their favorite subject, share their collections and show off their knowledge. Take advantage of it!
I recently got this pair of salt and pepper shakers identified. It was in the Mid Century Modern Dinnerware group and the commenter identified them as Laurel pottery. She was a Laurel historian and I trusted her experience. Knowing the maker helped me realize that with the damage mine have – they probably weren’t worth listing. Still deciding.
Here are a sampling of groups I use to get answers. Also, I sometimes just read through the posts to learn.
Like I said, that is just a sampling. There are SO many groups on Facebook for every category imaginable. Do a search for the category of your item and see what comes up. These are ones I’ve used repeatedly over the years and so I stay in the groups. And as mentioned, I love scrolling through them occasionally – it’s an education in itself.
A couple tips about Facebook groups: Be patient. You’ll have to ask to join the group and it may take awhile to get approved. Read the group description carefully. If the group is about pre-1960s ties, don’t post your wide 70s polyester beauties and ask for help. See if other people have asked for help and gotten a response. You may have to try more than one group. And lastly, don’t be thin-skinned, lol. This is a general social media rule but some of the groups can be a little intimidating if you take them too seriously.
A few thoughts on research in general
So, these are the main sources of information I use when researching my vintage items for reselling. Ebay or Etsy themselves, Worthpoint, search engines and Facebook groups. At times, though, there just isn’t information to be found. Comps just aren’t there. You have to know when to walk away and just list your item the best you can. Don’t get stuck in analysis paralysis.
What about you? What are some other sources of information you’ve used to research your vintage items? Leave a comment below!