As part of our ongoing series on choosing secondhand furniture, I’d like to discuss research tips when shopping for something secondhand.
Researching in the moment: Bringing along your smart phone or iPad and hit up Google, Ebay, or Etsy. These are quick sites to find what the item you’re looking at is currently selling for. More than likely you’re wanting to research quickly if you’re standing in the middle of a store, at a yard sale, or in someone’s home at an estate sale. Look up numbers, names, or any other information you find on the piece. If you don’t have a smart phone or iPad handy, then ask around. In a thrift store, someone might actually know something about the piece you’re looking at (patrons and employees). I know that this can be risky, but at the same time you might just find somebody nice. Often, if you’re at an estate sale, auction, or yard sale people might know about the piece anyway.
If you decide to buy without being able to research (at a thrift store), ask about the return policy. You can just go look it up and possibly return it if you’ve made a bad purchase. Most likely, you’ll love a piece regardless of what you find out.
Researching Later: If you think a piece might be a good deal and you’d like to look up quality, then feel free to leave. Go home (or to the nearest library) and do a quick Google search. Look for like items or things that might tip you off about what a piece is worth. Also, if you’ve got a camera phone or camera on hand then take a picture. If not, then jot down a description. That way it’s easy recall when you go to look it up.
Ongoing Research: For some folks the idea of researching just turns them off entirely. Which, I understand. Trust me, after grad school for 3 years, the word research still kinda makes me cringe. BUT, I love researching things that I’m totally into. Of course you can do this online, but another way to do “blanket” research (a one stop shop of sorts) is to get some books. If you’re like me, the reason you’re looking for a good deal in the first place is because of finances so loading up on books of your own isn’t an option. Well, that’s where your local library and Google Books comes in. My favorite find lately is by James W. McKenzie titled Antiques on the Cheap: A Savvy Dealer’s Guide to Buying, Restoring and Selling.
This book mostly has tips for used furniture hunting, but I’ve really enjoyed reading it. This author gives such a great run down and tips for antique buying. No, I’m not a dealer (even though I’ve got dreams of being one), but I still like to know what I’m buying. Also, he covers if it’s worth restoring yourself. Good questions and thoughts.
Lastly: If you like it and you don’t care about its history or worth, then by all means buy the damn thing. If it’s got value to you, for it to enter your home, then kuddos and happy thrifting!
Other tips for researching that I didn’t cover?
For the past several weeks Jess and I have been posting about things we think everyone should know about purchasing furniture secondhand. Just to recap: We wrote about why we buy secondhand in the first place here and here. Also here’s a quick recap of our previous posts.
- Know Your Shared Style: Jess wrote about figuring out what works for both you and your partner. This leads to a happy home.
- Tips for Recognizing Quality: I gave my tips that I’ve accumulated from my mother’s advice, reading, and my personal experiences.
- Reality versus Vision: Jess gave some great advice about taking a step back and not falling in love with a piece right away (some advice I should heed).