Proven Strategies for Finding Antiques at Bargain Prices

For vintage buffs, antique malls, flea markets, and thrift stores are like Disneyland. It’s a place where dreams of finding hidden gems come true. While it may seem overwhelming at first, with a little know-how you can score some serious treasures without breaking the bank. So follow along and learn how to master the hunt with my expert tips for scoring antiques at bargain prices at antique malls, thrift stores, and vintage festivals. Happy hunting!

Buyers and sellers are all looking for the same thing in the end and that is a “bargain”. The buyer is looking for a bargain item to add to their collection and the seller is looking for a bargain item that they can re-sell for a profit. Many people today still ask “Are there any bargains out there left to be had”? My answer is YES, you just need to know how to spot the bargain and have patience.

Shopping Antique Malls

Treasure Hunting – as I like to call it requires lots of careful hunting, seeking, and searching to locate that bargain item.  Also, you have a lot of competition as you are not the only one out treasure hunting. With the popularity of online auction sites, antique & collectibles shops, more and more flea markets popping up regularly and shows like Antiques Roadshow, there are a lot of treasure hunters indeed. But, with that being said, all these venues for seeking treasure may actually make it easier to find a bargain…..that’s right, I said easier.

First, it helps to have an idea in mind of what it is you are looking for be it furniture, Coca-Cola items, marbles, fine art, Mid-Century Modern, kitsch, etc…. Get to know what type of items are the most sought after by collectors and develop your keen sense of awareness so when you are out treasure hunting you can quickly scan the area you are looking in for that bargain.

Vintage Franciscan Starburst Dinnerware
Franciscan Starburst Dinnerware

Also, it helps if you can learn the pattern of when shops and stalls receive new inventory and wares and put it out for sale, being first in line to rummage about may indeed yield you a bargain.

Two of my all-time best tips for treasure hunting in an antique shop/antique mall are:
Strike up a conversation with the booth(s) owner and let them know what types of items you are looking for and find out how often they rotate their merchandise. Also, if there is an item(s) you are interested in ask the booth owner if they would consider giving you a discount because you are ready to buy right now. Rental space is not cheap in top locations and if sales have been slow you might get lucky and receive a discount.

Vintage Shopping and Thrifting Tips Yasmina Greco
Vintage Shopping and Thrifting Tips Yasmina Greco

Booths that are going out of business = bargains! Some locations mandate that booths sell x and bring in x in sales and if this does not happen then the booth must close up and leave. If you can be one of the first to rummage the going out of business booth you stand a fair chance of finding a bargain.  Usually, these booths are in the midst of getting packed up and have 50% – 75% markdowns in the hopes that the owner does not have to haul all his or her wares away. I can personally attest to these going-out-of-business booths being a great source for bargains as 9 times out of 10, I do find bargains. Also, if you are in a booth that has furniture or cupboards with drawers and doors, open them and look inside as you NEVER know what may be in there or hidden under some paper and linens; I found a lovely Limoges of France pillbox.

Thrift Stores, 2nd Hand Shops, Consignment Shops

Stuff San Francisco Yasmina Greco Mid-Century Modern Lighting Lamps Sputnick
Stuff San Francisco Mid-Century Modern Antique Mecca

Perhaps antique shops and malls do not appeal to you for your treasure hunting, and you prefer thrifting or visiting 2nd hand shops, vintage boutiques, thrift stores, buy-the-pound shops, charity shops, or consignment shops and that’s great as bargains can also be found in these venues. I have found competition to be fiercer in these venues as folks are usually lined up bright and early waiting for the store to unlock their doors and then everyone makes a mad dash to get to the areas they prefer to treasure hunt (house wares, clothing, toys etc..) Sometimes folks are grabbing items so quickly and discarding what they don’t want just as quickly that the items get damaged in the process so the chances of finding a bargain are not only slimmer but, the chance of finding a damaged item that is a bargain are higher.

Vintage Yellow Napco Miss Cutie Pie Vintage Kitsch Collection
Vintage Yellow Napco Miss Cutie Pie Vintage Kitsch Collection

Did you know that you can actually negotiate for items in a consignment shop? If there is an item(s) you are interested in have the shop call the owner and see how much you can negotiate off the price. Also, in many thrift shops, and 2nd hand shops they have discount days where they mark all items with red tags down to 50% on Wednesday or on Sunday all items in clothing are 25% off (discount days differ from store to store). Also, if you are a senior citizen many of these shops will give you a Senior Discount every day or days deemed Senior Discount Day as well as you can apply your Senior Discount to those 50% Wednesday red tag sales etc……  Bargains galore!!!

Quick comment on thrift stores and geographical locations: I have noticed that prices on the West Coast at Goodwill, Salvation Army, Value Village, Deseret Industries etc.. to be quite a bit higher on merchandise compared to these same stores in the South. I wonder how East Coast pricing compares.

Shopping Antique Shows and Festivals

1950s Red Dinette Set at Antique Mall
1950s Red Dinette Set at Antique Mall

If you are a serious treasure hunter then you will want to get up early and get in line ASAP so you can be one of the first through the doors the moment the show opens. It might cost a bit more for the opportunity to get in early, but it will also help you be the first to spot treasures.
Bring cash. Sellers will be more negotiable if you have cash. Also, if you stay late, as the show is closing then sellers will most likely be more willing to make deals, so they don’t have to pack-up and haul their wares back home.

Online Treasure Hunting

Finally, the best place I think to get a bargain is online auction sites, social media sites, online global marketplaces, your local Facebook marketplace. Many sellers hold live sales today on social media platforms as well as sell items via their stories and there are many bargains to be had.

Social media shopping is really exploding. Do some research so you are familiar with the hashtags to use. If you are a vintage Pyrex collector then try searching the hashtag #pyrexlove #pyrexforsale #pyrexjunkie and be amazed at the posts you will find. A word of caution, Pyrex is one of those items that a lot of people are collecting these days so many buyers/sellers are educated in the items value so although you can still probably score a bargain, it will be more difficult especially if you are looking for a rare piece or pattern.

Holt Howard Bell-Bottom Gobs Salt and Pepper Shakers
Holt Howard Bell-Bottom Gobs Salt and Pepper Shakers

Many sellers on online sites offer the “Make an Offer” option, and you can negotiate without leaving the comfort of your home! Auctions end 24/7 so if you happen to be awake at say 3:00 AM and are the only bidder on an item that had a start price of .99 then wow – you will get one heck of a bargain!

Also, sometimes the simplest of keywords can yield you a score. Not all sellers will take the time to research items, especially if they move estates, it is quantity they are going for so they might enter a listing with some very simple terms like “cat cookie jar” as opposed to researching and seeing if they might have a “vintage Lefton Miss Priss blue cat cookie jar” or a “vintage Norcrest Blue Cat cookie jar”. Sometimes too when it comes to vintage ceramics pieces that are dogs, cats, or bears, they can be mislabeled as it might look like a cat to a seller but your keen eye spots it and knows it is immediate a bear made by xyz.

Norcrest Blue Cat Collection
Norcrest Blue Cat Collection

So there you have it, my top tips for scoring treasure at antique malls, collectibles shops, thrift stores, one social media, and online auctions. I hope they help you as much as they’ve helped me over the years. Now go forth and find those amazing deals! Have you had any success with these tips or do you have your own strategies that work well for you? Let me know in the comments below – I’d love to hear about them.

Follow along for fun videos I take at antique malls and when I am treasure hunting. I also have a lot of related content and tips on collecting vintage Christmas, Holt Howard Price Guide, and you can join my vintage Kitschy Christmas Facebook group for fun vintage holiday treasures that members share all year. You can also find my vintage inspired t-shirts I wear for good luck (Pyrex, Holt Howard, Christmas, Kitsch, Poodles, Pinup, Rockabilly) at my lil shop