Thrift Shopping Tips from a Vintage Treasure Hunter

published Jan 5, 2017
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(Image credit: Minette Hand)

Emily Waldman‘s Austin house is full of treasures—vintage and antique gems she’s scoured from many different places. As a true treasure hunter, Goodwills and Craiglist prove to be fertile decor hunting ground for her, as well. Below, in her own words, Emily shares some of her top tips for vintage treasure hunting.

(Image credit: Minette Hand)

Don’t let them know how much you want it:

At thrift shops I am happy to pay $3 for a vase, since most thrift stores benefit nonprofits. You have to develop your own sense of value, so you know what you’re paying is less than it’s probably worth.

On Craigslist, I absolutely negotiate! I try to keep it friendly, though. And depending on how bad you want the piece, frame it as an option, not as an absolute.

Also when it comes to Craigslist, it’s good to do some research—I always try to buy things for less than I know I could resell them in case the item doesn’t work out or I change my mind. That’s when it’s good to know your brands.

(Image credit: Minette Hand)

How to zero in on the good stuff while on a hunt:

Look for texture. I always zoom in on metallics, wood items or rattan. Then check if it’s the real deal by seeing how well it’s made—check the seams, check the furniture joints, look for chipping.

I would much rather buy a chipped and scratched piece of furniture made with real wood by someone who cared than a plastic high production piece that’s in pristine condition. It also helps to know what is fixable—like with a new cushion or a fresh coat of paint!

(Image credit: Minette Hand)

What Emily likes to buy when she thrifts:

Glassware, textiles or prints. I am not easily grossed out so it doesn’t bother me one bit that someone else might have slept with that blanket, or drank out of that amazing gunmetal champagne flute. That’s what washing machines and dishwashers are for, right?!

I also always buy folding TV dinner tables, because they are the best all-purpose table! Nightstand, side table—whatever—and you can just fold up and store if your current home doesn’t need one!

(Image credit: Minette Hand)

Thanks Emily! See more of Emily’s Austin home in her house tour → This Treasure Hunter Filled a Sixties Home with Fantastic Finds

*This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.