guide to the best second hand finds | farm fresh therapy.jpg

the hunt: how to find the best hidden treasure

So I have been getting some great feedback lately from readers on our home and the items we have used to decorate it. I have been getting a lot of “where did you find that?!”.

Kiel and I have been antiquing/thrifting/estate saling for years. We started right when we met before I moved to an apartment in North Carolina and had little money to buy goods to furnish it (and had to leave a lot of stuff back in Ohio to furnish my old apartment as I was renting it out).

As “picking” and “flea markets” and the vintage style have grown in popularity, I sometimes forget that there are people out there that have little to no experience with how to find sweet unique stuff for a good deal. So I have spent the last hour attempting to sum it up for you. Here are all my secrets on how to get the best score.

Where to look

ESTATE SALES- Estate sales are often held when someone is moving and they are looking to get rid of almost everything in the house. This is my favorite place to find great items. From furniture to smalls to clothes you can find just about anything. The great thing about estate sales is that you can get on a mailing list for the vendors in your area and often can see pictures before hand to determine if its worth the drive. The prices tend to be great, especially if you go later in the sale when items are marked down. The down side to estate sales is that they often have limited hours (but mostly weekend hours) and they often have a long line at the start of the sale. Estate sales can often be found on Craigslist or in your local paper.

GARAGE SALES- Another one of my favorite places to find really cheap items, especially smalls. The downside is that they are often hit or miss with items as you don’t know what you will see until you stop. You are also likely to see more junk than good stuff, but it is usually worth the look since you never know. Sometimes you can find groups of sales all together which makes it much more worth the stop. You can find sales ahead of time on Craigslist or your local paper. Or you could do what we do- just drive up and down neighborhoods until you find something.

ANTIQUE MALLS- You can often find really unique and interesting items at antique malls but be warned that you will more than likely pay the price. This is because just about everything being sold at antique malls had to be upcharged for the seller to make a profit. This means that you get a curated selection and often don’t have to wade through a lot of other junk. While I enjoy going antiquing, I am pretty cheap so I don’t always find a whole lot I will shell out for. The upside- you can find some really sweet stuff that may only come around once in a lifetime! I can’t really say I have one favorite antique mall, but certainly have some favorite booths within the ones I frequent. I really enjoy going to new antique malls rather than the same ones over and over as there is often limited turn over in the booths. I typically go by the Sunday Driver or google “antique malls” on my phone to find local antique malls.

FLEA MARKETS- In my experience, flea markets tend to be hit and miss as well when it comes to finding good stuff and what the prices will be like. Sometimes flea markets will have booths with a ton of $1 plastic stuff made in China, and other booths may have some really nice antiques. They can be a gamble but I have never been known to not stop at one because if you do find something, you can usually find it for a decent price or haggle your way there.

ANTIQUE SHOWS- Another one of my favorite places to look for stuff. Often the prices are better than antique malls because the vendors are selling directly and don’t have to pay a large booth fee or consignment to a store. You also get competitive pricing and the ability to haggle at shows since vendors usually want to sell a lot of stuff in a limited amount of time. You can often find really sweet furniture, smalls, and who knows what else there. My favorite in Columbus is the Scott Antique Show that runs November- March one weekend per month. I also enjoy the Springfield Antique Extravaganza each year in May and the Country Living Fair in September if you are looking for Ohio Shows.

ANTIQUE SHOPS- Don’t get me wrong, I am a big supporter of antique shops, especially because they are often small businesses. Butttt they tend to be pretty costly (and rightfully so because often this is the owner’s sole source of income). However, you are probably going to get some pretty sweet handpicked stuff. So if you want something that is polished and ready to go, this is your best bet.

ETSY (and other online sources)- I typically don’t shop sites too much for vintage goods (I like etsy for the handmade stuff and craft supplies), so I may not be able to add in a whole lot of input here. I sometimes find these sites overwhelming because of the immense amount of information available. But if you are looking for something very specific or looking for items in bulk, this is the way to go for sure. You may however pay the price for it (or not depending on the shop). Another downside is that you can’t touch/ feel/ ensure working capabilities of items online, but again the selection in items is HUGE. My advice on this one is find a few good shops via word of mouth or ratings and stick with your favorites.

AUCTIONS- I can’t provide a whole lot of information on auctions as I have not frequented many. I find them very tedious as they can be very time consuming when items are auctioned off individually and are often a whole day event. I probably don’t have the patience for them, but I know a lot of others that have a lot of luck with them as you can usually get items for cheap and can find things in bulk.

THRIFT STORES- More often than not these days, thrift stores are very picked over. But if you keep a pretty open mind about what you are looking for, you may find some really good stuff. Upside is that prices are really good, downside is that you are competing with a lot of other people for the quality stuff and again have to wade through a lot of junk to find good stuff. I tend to look mostly for small versatile items at the thrift store- like bowls, pots, baskets, etc that can be painted or repurposed.

What to look for

What I tend to focus on most when looking for items (especially for around the house) is color. If it is the right color, I will probably like it, even if it is completely unfunctional and useless. I also give some respect to shape, form, and texture. But what attracts me most to purchase something is functionality. If it can hold something it is probably sold.

Hints: get inspired from what you want your home to look like before you go and try to have in mind what kinds of things you are looking for (like furniture only, smalls, a theme, etc) before you go or else you will be totally overwhelmed and probably unsuccessful because you will either buy everything and be totally broke or end up empty handed.

Also to get through more stuff quicker (as often at the markets, malls, and shows there are TONS of vendors), quickly scan each booth to see what kinds of general items they have and decide if it is worth a longer look. For example, if it is a booth filled with shabby chic stuff and you like modern, it is probably not worth your time because you are unlikely to find something that pleases you. Also if you are looking to keep on the cheap (I am really guilty of this), then start looking in the booth and find something that you may be familiar with in the way of price point (like wire baskets- they are super popular and usually range around $20) and see what it is listed at. If you get sticker shock, you again may be unlikely to find something in your price range. But only do this if you have a lot of ground to cover in a short amount of time, otherwise you may miss out. My favorite finds have usually come when I have had ample time to adequately look around or when the item had a really cool back story as to how we found/bought it.

So once you have found your amazing treasures, be sure to share them. I posted mine a few weeks back and was featured on the Country Living Magazine website last week!

And please let me know if you found this information useful or if you have any further advice for readers!

(all photos taken at the Country Living Fair in Columbus, OH September 2011 with the kodak 35)