Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A Rare Tuesday Estate Sale

Most estate sales around here start on Thursday, Friday or Saturday.  Today there was one in a nearby town and I've had cabin fever, so I decided to go.  The pictures and ads were all about the primitives, Civil War stuff and things from the late 1800s, so I didn't expect to find much.

I was number 30 and as we 'extras' (they usually only let the first 20 in to start) waited in line, several of the poeple talked about how high this dealer's prices were.  So, I figured that not only wouldn't I find anything I wanted, but if I did it would be too expensive for me!

They were right -- it was ridiculously high.  Now, I'll be the first to admit that I don't know anything about Civil War memorabilia or primitives, but I know that a fairly common glass & zinc lidded mason jar shouldn't sell for $20.  There was so much stuff and there were so many people NOT buying much!  

Upstairs, though, was the sewing room and wadded up in a pile on a chair was a crazy quilt top made out of feedsack fabric and dated 1935.  It was so pretty and the colors were amazingly bright.  I cringed as I looked for the price on it...and was pleasantly surprised (AND did the happy dance with it all the way down the stairs.  
Isn't it beautiful?
Apparently the dealer doesn't know how to price linens or vintage handwork!  Tucked in a closet in the same room was a bag lot of feedsack hexagon pieces and blocks for a Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt AND a bag lot of 13x13 feedsack crazy quilt blocks.  They were priced really low -- unbelievable!  
Crazy quilt blocks -- 24 of them!  Plus some darning cotton and a darning egg
Grandmother's Flower Garden pieces and blocks
Here are closeups of some of the blocks from the friendship quilt...
This little house is so sweet!
In case you can't read this, it says 'Ernie Rogers 1935'

I added in a few books and a few more things from the kitchen (largely ignored by the primitives folk) and I was on my way home with my treasures.
I especially like the Torte and Cake cookbook and the Edgemont tin.  The green bowl is a mid-century design that I usually see in plastic -- this one is enamelware!

I've never heard of this 'Bezique' game before, but it's quite old (looks like early 1900s or even late 1800s).  The little books are butterfly and flower field guides.  The bigger red one is all photos from the Spanish American War
Here's what the field guides look like
I've seen this print several times before in different sizes and colors.  This one is 8x10

Sunday, February 9, 2014

What I've Learned as a Seller

Three years -- that's how long I've been selling vintage!  It's hard to believe it's been that long, because the time has flown by.  I opened my Etsy shop in October, 2010 and began selling in the antique mall in February, 2011.

I knew there would be a big learning curve, but I don't think I was prepared for what I didn't know.  Selling vintage is so much different from collecting vintage.  Today I'd like to lay out some of the things I've learned in the last three years and maybe they'll be helpful to new sellers (and to collectors, as well!)

1.  Sell what you know and what you love...
This seems so obvious, but it isn't really.  When I was working as a floor walker at the antique mall, I'd see all the interesting things people were buying -- often things that were completely not 'my thing' (for example, depression glass, vintage designer clothing and primitives).  I tried picking up similar items at sales to add to my booth or shop and it just didn't work.  I didn't know how to price them, didn't know what was worth buying and didn't feel 'invested' in them.  I think we're all much better off staying in our own passion areas.

2.  Just because it's old it doesn't mean it's worth buying...
I picked up lots of old stuff at the beginning that will never sell.  I haven't been able to sell it in the booth, on Etsy or even at my garage sale.  You know something is a loser when you take it to the resale shop and they turn it down!  Now I stick to things that I know are sell-able (though I still make mistakes sometimes).

3.  Don't buy it just because it's cheap...
This one goes with number 2.  Sometimes things aren't cheap because they're a bargain, they're cheap because they aren't worth more than that.  Those little goodies are losers, too -- if you spend 50 cents on something you really don't want just because it's 50 cents, you've just thrown that money away.

4.  Don't buy junk...
I keep a list of things not to buy.  Sometimes it's items I have lots of (like breadboxes), sometimes it's things that don't sell in my booth (hankies), but this is written at the top of my list in capital letters:  DON'T BUY JUNK!  If an item is broken or needs repair, I'll usually pass it up now (I didn't used to).  I don't have time to fix everything and will never get enough money for the little thing to reimburse my time spent.  I'll still buy lamps that need rewiring and linens with stains (but not usually holes), and the very dirty doesn't stop me, but ceramic or mechanical items that are broken just aren't worth it.  Exceptions are ceramics that are really special -- those are worth restoring.

5.  Don't be wishy-washy...
There have been times I've put something in my 'buy' pile at a sale and then spend the rest of the sale trying to decide if it's a smart purchase or not.  Most of the time, it's not (for me, anyway).  I've learned that, if I go back and forth on whether something is worth buying, I should leave it for someone else.

6.  If it's right, jump on it...
The flip-side of number 4 is the fact that I KNOW the instant I see something that is just great!  When that happens, I've learned to grab it.  I've really regretted the times I've lost something cool because I've decided to 'think about it and come back' or I haven't picked it up and held on to it.  

7. Trust your instincts...
If you feel that an item is a winner, you're probably right (and don't let someone else talk you out of it).  Mr. KV doesn't go shopping with me much, but I laugh because usually when he does there will be one moment in the outing when he'll ask 'Will someone really want that?'  I've learned to be pretty confident about what I know.

8.  Don't beat yourself up over mistakes...
I've learned that I'll make mistakes -- that's a given!  I don't know a single dealer who doesn't have a 'what was I thinking' story' or who can't tell me about the ones that got away.  It's really hard for me not to dwell on the money I've wasted or the things I didn't buy that I should have, but I think I've gotten (almost) to the point where I can just move on.

9.  Keep it fresh...
I've learned to make lots of trips to the booth to rearrange and 'fluff'.  Even if I don't take lots of new items in, little changes can make it look more interesting and catch someone's eye.  Often it's as easy as moving things from one side of the booth to the other, because people tend to always walk a mall in the same pattern.  (If you don't believe me, try walking your favorite mall in the opposite direction and see how different the booths look to you).
On Etsy, I try to change the titles and make revisions on items that I renew and often will take new pictures, too.  It's good practice to review the keywords, as well -- maybe just a tweak is all it needs to sell.

10.  Have fun...
When this starts to not be fun any more, I'm done!  Ive learned that it takes LOTS of time and energy to run my own business -- even a small one like this. If it starts to be a chore or something I dread, I'm going to phase it out.  Life's too short to hate what you do every day.

Those are my words of wisdom (wisdom being a relative term...)  It's not often that I have an entire post with no pictures.  The next one will be back to the fun stuff, I promise!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Hooked on Vintage Christmas

Reality check:  Christmas was over 41 days ago.  Around here, though, it seems that Christmas never really goes away! 

Every year my aunt gives me money at Christmas, which she tells me has to be spent just for me -- not on the house or for things for the family.  I think about getting clothes, shoes or make-up, but that never happens.  The money gets spent at antique malls, estate sales and flea markets and, more often than not, on vintage Christmas.

Look at the treasures I've found so far this year:

I found this little sweetie at my 'home' antique mall, Livingston Antique Outlet.  He's a mid-century Santa, made in Japan.  I think he's going to stay up all year long in my china cabinet, because he's just so cute!  I'm always so impressed by the effort and attention to detail that these old decorations had.  Even though they were considered cheap little items, they're really complex. 

Look at his sweet spun cotton face
The detail on the packages is remarkable.  Look at the little pipe-cleaner candy cane on the package and the 'extras' in the chimney next to the bottle brush tree
Santa even has extra gifts in the net bag on his back
These Gurley tapers are from our mall, too.  I've got a ridiculous amount large collection of Gurley and Tavern candles, but I've never seen tapers before.  Again, there's great attention to detail -- Santa's boots are painted black that there are paint dot decorations up and down the tapers. 
Gurley Santa taper candles
The foil candle holders were in a booth near the one where the candles were -- with their original box.  All of it - candles and holders - were in close to mint condition
The holders cost 39 cents back in the day
Who wouldn't love to have a pair of dancing Santas lighting their Christmas dinner table?
I think I showed you this cool tinsel tree already, but I wanted to share it again.   I found that in Allen, Michigan on a trip with my junking buddy Bargain Hunter.  In fact, I almost left without it and she talked me into going back for it -- good thing, too, or I'd have been driving back down to Allen (almost 2 hours away) the next day!
A year ago my sister-in-law sent me a picture of some handpainted mirror ornaments that came to her from her grandmother's decorations.  She asked if I ever see them and would I watch for some more -- in fact, I'd never even heard of them. 

They're called Mirrorettes and were sold in packages of 6 or more back in the 1950s.  I started watching for them at sales (I've never found any) and on Ebay, where they sell for a lot and are usually in poor condition.   I won't pay the ridiculously high prices they usually go for, but finally managed to get these six -- all in good condition for a more reasonable price.  My sister-in-law and I will split the set, so now I'll have a few.
They have different picture on the back.  They're actually two separate handpainted mirrors glued together back-to-back
Here's what they looked like in their package
Credit to an Ebay listing for this picture -- this isn't my set

Monday, February 3, 2014

Etsy Every Day Project - Made it through January!

Well, as usual time has flown by and January is over!  The days just melt away (even though the snow doesn't)  I managed to list at least one item every day and sometimes several more...now to keep the momentum going...

Here are the rest of the January items:
#22 - Polka Dot Half Apron
#23 - Indianapolis Speedway Souvenir Pennant
#24 - Mid-Century Mad Men Roly Poly Glasses
#25 - 1929 Honeycomb Valentine
#26 - Kittens in a Basket Plate
#27 - Watkins Glen, New York Souvenir Postcard Folder
#28 - 'My Recipes' Recipe Binder - never used
#29 - Mid-Century Bamboo Glasses
#30 - Missions and Landmarks of Southern California Postcard Folder
#31 - Nova Scotia, Canada Souvenir Pennant

That wraps up January -- 31 down, just 334 to go (gosh, that sounds overwhelming)!

On an equally fun note, the shop went past the 400 sale mark, so I'm busy pulling together items for a giveaway to celebrate.  I think I'll theme it 'My favorite things', which guarantees that there will be at least one postcard folder, one souvenir pennant and some kind of vintage Christmas in the mix.  More on that soom...