Shopping Tips for Antique Markets


This is a guest post from Dylan Leavitt, host of Dylan’s Vintage Minute, which is produced in Boston at WGBH’s Antiques Roadshow. Dylan is an expert in shopping for vintage and antique items. In this post, she will share tips on how to navigate an antique market, like Brimfield.

It was love at first sight. A chrome ice bucket from the 1950s with teak details beckoned me from a Brimfield booth, glimmering in sunlight and saying, “Please, let me come home with you today. You know you need an ice bucket like me the next time you’ve got friends coming over for drinks…” Tote bag in tow, I made a beeline for the bucket.

“Could you tell me a bit more about this ice bucket?” I asked the vendor, “I love that it still has the original tongs!” The vendor smiled, and gestured that she wished to take a closer look at my new item of fancy. I walked over with the piece and she cocked her head slightly to the side, considering it like she would a photo of an old acquaintance. After she explained a bit of its provenance, she said, “I’ve got it at $40 right now.”


“I really love this piece,” I said, “especially the fact that the teak looks to be in good condition. But I’m wondering if you could do $35?” The vendor paused for a moment. What if she didn’t agree? Was $35 too bold? I felt a dash of adrenaline set in, but just a dash—we’re talking about a $5 increment here, so the difference concerned pride more than price. I would have been fine spending $40, since I’d seen other examples listed online for twice the amount. But wouldn’t it be great if she came down to $35? She nodded her head. It was a deal.

Antique markets can be daunting to first-timers. Table after table of seemingly random flotsam, how do you navigate the field to find hidden treasures? Watch my video on how to get ready and tune up your bargaining skills!

Here are a few more quick tips:

– Have a few categories in mind for items you’d like to buy. The categories might be based on a design period (Are you looking for something mid-century? Older?) or a type of item (a new chair or vintage dress.) This will help hone your eye in the vast sea of items for sale.

– Set a budget — this will also help you narrow down the selection. Bring cash and a checkbook just in case you fall in love. You might find the perfect coffee table you never knew you needed!

– Be curious. If you’ve got something specific in mind to buy, do the research beforehand so you have an idea of market value ranges and tricks to tell if the vase you’re about to buy has the right signature! And on that note—a smartphone is never a bad idea to have in your back pocket for last-minute questions.

– Buy what you love. Whether you’re a beginner bargain hunter or a seasoned collector, you will come home happy knowing you’ve got something precious no matter what the monetary value might be in 15 years!

Check out this cute vintage milk glass cake stand I found at Brimfield recently:

Dylan shares her favorite retro trends, tips, and more on Dylan’s Vintage Minute. Be sure to catch up with Dylan on TwitterFacebook, and subscribe to her YouTube channel here.

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