Tips from the pros: How to score vintage finds

how to shop vintage tips from the pros

I’ve been into shopping vintage for some time now, and probably even more now that I live in Utah—there are just so many markets here and it’s one of the only ways to shop unique as we don’t have a bevy of independent boutiques. I’ve become friends with some of the vintage organizers and sellers and love their passion for finding and preserving beautiful old things and I’ve also somehow found myself friends with some of the best finders in all the land (notice: I didn’t say hoarders…you know who you are 🙂 Though I like beautiful old things myself, I do NOT like the hunt. I don’t have too much patience for thrifting as I want the experience to be curated just a little before I come on in and find my treasures so vintage shops and fairs are my perfect venue. SO, today, I thought it would be nice to feature a few experts and their tips for scoring awesome vintage finds. Vintage shopping with The House that Lars BuiltVintage shopping with The House that Lars Built

Check out the pros and their tips on how to score vintage finds below!

Photography by Melissa Leavitt from the Vintage Whites Market 

Kelly & Dave Robson of High Street Market. Kelly and Dave are a husband and wife team in Philadelphia who run the shop High Street Market, where modern home furnishings meet unique vintage finds. They’ve been featured in InStyle, House Beautiful, Better Homes & Gardens, Redbook, Coastal Living, and Southern Living. 

  • The early bird gets the worm, and this is the rule with flea market shopping! So, try to get there early.
  • Bring your own tote bag to carry your finds.  We like to bring multiple bags stuffed into one large bag (if you have unused bags, they also make great wrapping material for any breakables).  Grocery totes are the best because they’re soft, inexpensive, and they fold up so small.
  • Cash is king. And bring plenty of it. You never know what you might find!
  • Make sure you have lots of extra room in your vehicle. You never know when that amazing piece of furniture will appear before you! Make sure you have a way to get it home.
  • Be nice to vendors. Smile and feel free to ask questions! You might be surprised by what you’ll learn.
  • Get ready to negotiate. A good starting point is 20% off the asking price.

Kelly Robson of High Street MarketMeta Coleman, formerly of One More Mushroom, and now set designer for Norr Film, has MAGNETIC fingers. Her bio will read more as a testimonial because I’ve witnessed these fingers in person. She can skim racks and pull out gems. She’s got the vintage gift (in addition to excellent styling and interior design skills). Her work has been featured in Good Housekeeping and Anthology magazines. 

  • Be willing to go early.  The best way to avoid crowds and find the unique vintage pieces is to go as early as you can, or when they open.  The later you go the better deal you may get on pieces, but the selection might be more limited and there with be larger crowds of people to navigate.  (This is mainly for flea markets and yard sales)
  • Never be afraid to kindly ask for a better price.  I usually say “Can you give me a better price on this?’  Or “Is there any way you could sell it to me for…$$?”  There’s nothing you can really lose if they say no.  Most of the time they are willing to go down a bit on the price.  But the nicer you are about it the better.
  • Find the diamond in the rough.  While thrifting look for particular brands that you like, the quality of the product, (type of wood,  craftmanship, etc.), a design element that you like, or colors, etc.  What makes this item stand out to you?
  • Be willing to get your hands dirty.  Thrifting can be a bit dirty and grimy at times.  Be willing to search through ALL the dusty bins and boxes, and racks for the overlooked or hidden items.
  • Go into it with an open mind.  When thrifting it’s important to be willing to find something your not necessarily looking for, and to see the potential of the item.  When removed from all the other clutter how would it look in your environment or home, or on you?
  • Put it out there to the Universe what your looking for.  I know this may sound hokey, but it really does work (a lot of the time).  If there is something in particular that I am looking for I’ll visualize it or put it out to the Universe that I am going to find it.  Most of the time I do end up finding it, or something similar.



Jana Roach of Vintage Whites Market. Jana runs the wonderful Vintage Whites Market, an annual vintage market that stops in Salt Lake City and Somers, Montana. It’s grown from 5 vendors in a garage to 2 shows with over 100 vendors. Their work has been featured in Romantic Homes magazine and were named in the top 25 markets in the nation.

  • Before shopping, make a list of pieces you’re hoping to find and take measurements so that when you find it, you can make sure it fits! Don’t forget to bring a tape measure!
  • Browse quickly through every booth looking for the specific pieces on your list, then take a leisurely second look to let those unexpected pieces find you.
  • Decide on a maximum price that you’re willing to pay for pieces before you shop! It doesn’t hurt to bring a friend for accountability!
  • Make some time to look through booths thinking of creative ways you can use pieces you’re attracted to
  • Make sure to look high and low! Sometimes great pieces are hidden under busy displays or up high on shelves
  • Remember that even if you find a piece that is perfect except for the color…a little paint or stain can go a long way!
  • If you’ve been eyeing a specific piece for a long time, don’t be afraid to make a killer offer!

Jana Roach of vintage whites market


What are YOUR tips for shopping vintage? Leave them below in the comments!



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