It's been over a decade now that I've been selling vintage as a full-time career. And to say I've gotten a million questions would be an understatement. To many, selling vintage or antiques seems like an exotic and mysterious activity. The education needed is not exactly something that can be learned in any traditional institute of education, as so much of it involves feel, instinct and trial and error. So questions by those not in the trade are common and honestly can be a lot of fun ( and a bit of an ego boost if I'm totally honest) to answer. There are some questions that come up again and again and I thought what better subject for a blog post than to answer those here! Now there are also some questions /comments that are better left unsaid and I'll get to those in another post, but for now read on for Six Things You Definitely Should Ask ( or say to) A Vintage Dealer. (This goes for antiques as well.)
- What is this item's history? Every vintage dealer I know loves it when someone asks us to tell them an item's story. The dealers I know are not only lovers of sustainable shopping and so forth, but history lovers too. When we can find out the story behind an item we absolutely do and many is the time I've sat with a private buying appointment client and just soaked up the stories and history behind the things I'm buying from them. When I can, I love to pass that info on to the next forever home of said item so the story lives on. It makes me feel that I'm helping the person who owned and loved that item (especially if they are no longer with us) live on. So don't be afraid to ask us what the story behind that darling 1940s blouse you just picked up may be. Often we won't know anything, but sometimes we do, and we'd love to share it.
- How can I style this vintage dress/top/home decor piece? This is one of my favorite questions, personally. For me vintage is a way of life, but because it's not something you can just run out and grab, like towels from Target, once you've found a gem you can't live without, it can require some finagling to work it into your life. To me, that's part of the charm and fun, but I understand that sometimes it's not so easy. So, when someone says to me that they absolutely adore a vintage sweater, for example, but can't figure out what to wear it with, I'm instantly in with brainstorming ideas. Match it with jeans! Why not? Oh that pair of 1950s linen towels? Use them as curtains for a smaller window if you're afraid they'll get ruined by your toddler if used as actual towels. Yep, I love these kinds of questions and I know other dealers that do too, so don't be afraid to ask us for our advice! Chances are we've done plenty of these style ideas in our own lives and homes!
- I have vintage I don't want anymore, I don't suppose you buy other people's vintage items, do you? YES! A million times, yes! Private buying appointments are one of the best ways to source vintage and I absolutely love them for many reasons. Not the least of which is the answer for question #1. I have time and a chance to get some history on what I'm buying. That said, selling vintage to a vintage dealer does come with some caveats, but I'll cover those in another blog post. So, yes, ask us. If we are overstocked or aren't interested in the items you have specifically, we may be able to refer you to another dealer who may be.
- Do you have pets? Smoke? Use scented laundry detergent? Etc...Please let us know if you have any sensitivities. Its not rude to ask us these questions- even though it may seem a bit like invading someone's privacy- because we understand that we are dealing in second hand items and often out of our own homes if we're online dealers. People have allergies. Its just a fact. We would much rather be able to let you know that, yes, we have a dog, then have you break out in hives and be miserable because of something we sent you. That said, do understand that we get these items from someone else, and we have no idea generally what sorts of allergens it's been exposed to in it's lifetime. Also, that try as hard as we may to keep our items free from pets, chemicals etc...occasional things do float on by and its nearly impossible with that, plus the item's history, to guarantee any kind of complete freedom from all allergens.
- I don't want to ruin this by wearing ( or using) it. Oh no, please..use it! Wear it! Its not meant to sit forever in the dark in a closet or drawer. Honestly, vintage is made so much better than today's comparable items that it's probably going to hold up to your use of it far better than a similar item made today. Wear the sweater to go pick out your Christmas tree. Use the flour sifter the next time you make cookies. Carry that purse as your daily handbag. Unless you have something truly remarkable, and I do mean historically so, it's not a museum piece and is meant to be used. Treat it right, but use it and don't hesitate to ask us what use it can hold up to. If it's truly fragile, we won't hesitate let you know.
- Where do you find your vintage? Last but not least is the number one question that I suspect all vintage dealers get and this one also belongs in the Questions Not To Ask A Vintage Dealer category too. It's all in how you ask and what your intention is behind asking. So for this blog let's focus on why and when it's ok to ask this and I'll address the not ok portion in the follow up blog. Its ok to ask this if your sincere wish is to understand where this stuff comes from. Its ok to ask this when you are just impressed by the amount of history and hands on education the dealer has about their job. Its ok to ask this when you're just curious about the overall idea of being a vintage dealer and what life is like being one. Its ok to ask this when you've found something that to you seems like a treasure and you can't imagine where this little gem came from and how it wound up here in your hands. There will always be those dealers who hoard this information more than Smaug the dragon hoards his gold, but I don't know any personally. On the flip side there will always be those who are trying to learn our trade-secrets and if we suspect your question is coming from that direction, we will probably be pretty closed lipped about it, but that's for the follow up blog...."What Not to Ask ( or say) to a Vintage Dealer". So if you are not getting any real answer to this question, my suggestion, if I may be so bold, is to look deeper into either your motivations for asking, or how you're asking. Otherwise, yes, go ahead and ask! A sincere and transparent interest in our process is nearly always going to be welcomed by a vintage dealer. Why? Because we love what we do and because it's kind of a niche career field it's fun to be able to share it with those who are genuinely interested in how we do it.
And that wraps up the list of six questions to ask ( or things to say) to a vintage dealer. I think it can all pretty much be summed up with one general idea...a sincere appreciation for and interest in our products and their history will almost always be a welcome topic of discussion to nearly all vintage dealers. So the next time you're in a delightful little antiques or vintage shop, don't be shy, strike up a conversation if the shopkeeper seems willing ( and isn't clearly being pulled in ten directions). They'll most likely appreciate the interest and a chance to share what they know and you may have some fun stories to tell about the 1930s beaded belt you just bought when your friends ask you about it!
As always, much love and be sure to leave a comment with any questions you may have for this vintage dealer. See you next time for Things NOT to Say to a Vintage Dealer...