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10 Do’s and Don’t Tips For Budding New Vintage Sellers

The vintage scene is really blossoming at the moment, and with this has come budding entrepreneurs wanting to open their own vintage shops.   Recently a few people who want to do this have asked me for some tips, so here they are…

1. Do borrow the antiques dealers trade mantra of ‘CONDITION, CONDITION, CONDITION’. Buy the best condition you can, and in most cases try and avoid any vintage items that are damaged. While vintage items rarely look brand new, I personally believe they shouldn’t show too many signs of damage either. I can often spot a new vintage seller a mile off because they sell ripped, stained or bad quality vintage items as ‘good condition’, claiming that this is normal wear and tear of vintage items. In my opinion, it’s not.  If you do have poor condition everyday vintage clothing/ jewellery etc items in stock (which are not sought after collectables btw) there are a number of things you might want to consider doing, like having a bargain bucket corner or selling them as job lots (there’s a good market for this). You absolutely do not want a reputation for selling shoddy goods.

Tips on how to sell vintage jewellery jewelry and vintage retro fashion ideas

Look closely and you’ll see that there’s some damage to the coating of these old 1950s glass pearls; most dealers would offer these in a discounted vintage jewelry sale section of a shop.


art deco blue glass paste brooch rhinestone silver (2)

When I sell my own vintage jewellery online, I rarely offer broken items. However, there are exceptions. For example, I know this damaged collectable vintage 1930s art deco brooch will be a good repair project for one of my talented customers. I always state any defects clearly in the advertisement, along with good photos of the damage. There is a growing niche market which is specifically for broken jewellery, which buyers like to use for their own projects.

2.Do enjoy researching your items.  If you don’t like investigating and research, do not become a vintage seller. Research is a massive part of a dealers work, and can takes many hours just on one item.There’s just no getting around this one, you have to love learning about your vintage subject all the time.

3. Do give the best service you can.  My tips?  Give detailed, honest descriptions, with the best photos you can from multiple angles.  Ship within 48 hours, and keep a customer informed of their order status and shipping times, especially if there is an emergency delay or you are posting overseas.  If there are any problems, always offer a no-quibble refund.  Never take things too personally, and always be polite and professional. Make sure you have friendly (and legal) terms and conditions – aggressive one’s are a sure way to put off your potential customers.

Tips on how to sell vintage jewellery jewelry and vintage retro fashion ideas
Taking photos from different angles is a must. Vintage collectors can find out so much from something as simple as a brooch fitting. For example, at first glance these two vintage brooch backs (above and below) look identical, but notice the different clasps in use; the brooch above has a c-clasp, while the brooch below has a roll-over clasp. This indicates to a collector that the above brooch is much older than the one below.

Tips on how to sell vintage jewellery jewelry and vintage retro fashion ideas

4.  Do visit as many antiques events and vintage shops as you can.  Literally feel your way around your chosen subject!  If you love vintage clothes, touch the fabrics, examine the sewing and seams, take note of how things were printed, and learn the old clothes companies names.  With vintage jewellery, hold the beads, study how things were made, feel the weight of the metals,  notice the different types of clasps used. Compare all your discoveries with modern items, and see how they differ.

5. Do give a little back, and share what you learn. Not only is this a lot of fun, but the antique and vintage trade would grind to a halt if we didn’t share our knowledge. I wouldn’t be doing this job now if it weren’t for kind experts writing vintage jewellery articles which helped me so much in my early days of selling. It’s feels really good to give back now I’ve acquired some knowledge of my own.

6.Don’t ask other vintage sellers to do the hard work for you. While sellers usually do help each other out, they also know when they’re being sneakily tapped up for a valuation by a lazy vintage newbie who can’t be bothered to do some simple two minute Google search of their own.  I’ll say it again – if you don’t like research, you won’t like being a vintage seller.

7. Don’t expect to sell your item straight away. While occasionally you do sell items within minutes of being put on sale, it’s not unusual to have jewellery in stock for months, and even years.

antique scottish agate buckle brooch victorian jewellery

I fell in love with this stunning antique Victorian Scottish agate articulated buckle brooch, and when I put it in my shop I thought it would sell within weeks. Oh how wrong I was – took nearly five years!

vintage cherub angel gold tone earrings clip (2)

At the other end of the time scale, I added these these cute vintage 1980s cherub angel earrings to a shop I had and they sold within. … 6 minutes!

8. Don’t give descriptions of your item based on a guess – chances are you’ll be wrong, and your customer won’t be happy.  There are a lot of knowledgeable collectors out there who have loved vintage fashion long before it became on trend, and boy do they know their stuff! If you have a vintage item in stock which you honestly don’t know much about, then don’t be afraid to say so – just give a detailed description of it’s condition, measurements, and lots of photos!  Encourage your customers to ask questions too.

9. Don’t under-charge, nor over-charge for your vintage item.  Finding the right prices to sell at is a constant struggle, because there is no concrete-set industry standard for vintage fashion. Just because something is old doesn’t automatically make it valuable, yet under-charge and your item won’t sell as customers will think it’s a fake or damaged. Again, do your research and investigate what prices similar things are selling for in other outlets.

10.  Finally, enjoy what you do!  There’s a world of difference between loving something as a hobby, and doing it full-time, and I have personal experience of this. You see,  I never set out to be in the jewellery trade – my childhood dream was to be an artist.  However, when I finally got the courage to quit my job and do that, I slowly realised I’d made a huge mistake; I loved painting, I just wasn’t enjoying it as a full-time ‘job’.  It was a humbling experience, and it was hard to admit both to myself and to others that my dream was becoming a boring nightmare.  I’d always liked buying vintage jewellery to wear for myself, and I fell into it quite by accident as a way to suppliment my income during this transitioning and painful time. I had no idea at that time I would end up a become a complete jewellery enthusiast! Life works out strangely (and for the best), when we are honest and open, especially to ourselves.

Quick tips for selling vintage jewellery and stuff online….

Tips for selling vintage jewelry fashion online

Here are some quick tips I’ve compiled about selling vintage items and jewellery online….

  • Try and make life as easy for customers as possible by writing clear, detailed descriptions; the best listings are to the point with the good photos.  The worst listing that I’ve ever saw had simply said, Nice ring, don’t know  size but it fits my finger if that’s any help….
purple quartz amethyst modernist cocktail ring

What’dya mean you want a ring size?

  • Be honest in the description – if you item has damage (even if it’s only a bit, or is old) then it’s always best to say so; it often won’t put that many people off anyway and they’ll appreciate the honesty. Expect poor reviews and annoyed customers if you are too vague with your descriptions and condition reports.
repair vintage 1960s glass paste diamante bracelet

Stones missing? Run away without a backwards glance from any seller that says damage like this is normal for vintage jewellery.

  • If you’ve had a bad experience with a customer (it happens to everyone at some stage) then try not to have a knee jerk reaction to it, no matter how angry you are.  This means not filling your future listings with retaliatory bitter rantings/ unreasonable terms and conditions to ‘protect yourself’ from scammers.  It won’t work – con artists will try to scam you regardless, and you’ll simply put off the good customers.
  • Offer a friendly no quibble refund policy (in most cases it’s the law anyway) – it keeps potential customers happy if they know they can get a hassle free refund if needed.
  • Post items out as quickly as possible.  There’s nothing worse than buying something on a Monday, only for it to take a week to arrive.  Customers love fast shipping, and are more likely to choose your business again if they know an item will be shipped quickly.
  • Package items well, especially jewellery, crafts and clothes.  Lovely packaging can be the difference between a satisfactory customer experience and a fantastic customer experience.
vintage heathergems boxed jewellery brooch scottish thistle

Quality packaging = we care about our customers.

  • If I don’t know much about an item I’m selling, then I’ll always say so, and encourage potential buyers to ask questions.  It’s better to do this than guess about the item, end up being completely wrong and having to issue a refund.
  • Take good, clear and bright photographs – use free photo software to help you adjust things like brightness (most computers/ laptops etc come with this as standard) or you can find free one’s online (like Picmonkey). You would not believe how many people take dark, blurry photos of their products, and then wonder why their items don’t sell.
crap photos

Nope, can’t see a thing .. next!

And the final tip? Enjoy your selling adventure’s, and if it stops being fun, then give it a rest for a while 🙂