You just might have something tucked away in your garage, basement, or under your bed that’s worth a lot of money as a decoration in someone else’s house. If it is not in your territory, there are probably several objects at your parents’ or grandparents’.
Spend a few minutes on HGTV or Pinterest and you’ll see the former is trending. Wooden tennis racquets, metal fans, mason jars of marbles, Viewmasters and turntable-board racks adorn beautiful homes and trendy restaurants.
Thousands of interior decorators buy these items from decoration sites such as Chairish.com or AptDeco.com as well as on eBay. Architectural salvage stores are also an important source. Individuals can sell one or hundreds of items on these sites. Local salvage stores are still buying in person as well.
How much can you get selling old items for vintage home decor?
Based on interviews with salvage vendors and online home decor sites, here’s what you could salvage for some of your old “junk.”
- 1960s Avocado Green Corningware: $75 each
- Wooden ladder: $20 to $40
- 1980s push-button phone: $50
- Galvanized metal sink: $20
- 1970s wooden tennis racket: $60
- Wooden crates: $5 to $50
- 1970s Smith Corona electric typewriter: $250
- Two feet of green plank fence: $10
- Seven vintage books in the same shade: $100
Decor opens new opportunities to sell things you think no one wants. A lightly rusted outboard motor won’t sell in a marina, but a salvage shop owner with interior decorators as customers want. The motor will sell because of its look mounted on the wall of a beach house, not to propel a boat.
Another example: designers and decorators care more about color than content. A copy of “Reader’s Digest Condensed Books” costs about $6 on Abebooks.com, a leading used book seller. But a group of seven vintage books, including several copies of “Reader’s Digest Condensed Books” in an array of shades of blue, sells for more than $125 on Chairish.com.
Vintage decor is in demand
“I think over the years it’s become a trend to create different spaces and smart spaces,” said Richard Hughes, creative director at Clear ph Design in St. Petersburg, Florida. “I think the more we’ve seen social media come into play, the more wacky ideas people have.”
His company creates digital marketing, develops brands and consults in interior design for commercial spaces.
Clear ph helped create the look of Salt Shack on the Bay, a waterfront seafood restaurant in Tampa.
“We had to find things like old crab pots, old shipping cleats and ropes,” Hughes said.
The proliferation of home decor TV shows has made vintage decorating a more mainstream trend. It’s not just decorators and designers who envision old items as fabulous accents and décor.
“I can always tell when something’s been on TV because suddenly everyone wants a funky door for their pantry or suddenly everyone wants a fireplace frame even if they don’t have of fireplace. These shows help spark creativity,” said Larry Schiller, owner of Schiller’s Architectural & Design Salvage in Tampa.
It’s not just the desire to be unique that drives vintage interior design; stories and sustainability are also important.
“Designers look for pieces that spark conversations, like ‘Where did you get that?’ or “This room must have quite a story behind it,” said Jesse White, owner of Sarasota Architectural Salvage.
As with Schiller, it mainly sells architectural salvage items such as doors, windows, fireplace surrounds, light fixtures and wood.
Here’s how to start selling your old home decor stuff
Although there are many home decor sites and brick-and-mortar stores, not all allow individuals to sell their own items. Here are some options that welcome outside sellers.
Sell antiques to an architectural salvage warehouse
Start by finding an architectural salvage store in your area. Most cities have at least one. Although they focus on structural pieces such as bay windows or columns, they also want those unique elements that become decor.
Find the architectural salvage outlet in your area and check the website to find out if and when they buy from the public. Then check out the photos on sites across the country to get an idea of what they’re buying and selling.
In-person sales to a salvage store owner can sometimes offer more opportunities than posting online. As you load your car with an old metal tricycle and a box of pool balls, you notice old picket fences in the rafters of your parents’ garage. Take it out and see if you can get $5 or $10 for it. It’s not worth the time and money to post online and ship, but if you’re in person and you’re already selling other more popular items, you can get rid of less fashionable items as well.
The warehouse needs to make a profit on their purchases when they sell your products to customers, so they may pay less than a site like Chairish.com. However, it’s usually cash on site without the hassle of posting, shipping and paying for a cut on site.
Sell vintage items online
Here are three of the best options for selling that 1980s push-button telephone or your grandma’s wooden pineapple-shaped bowl.
Chairish.com has cool pieces ranging from furniture to vintage postcards. The company approves and edits every listing you submit and handles payment and shipping. He charges an average of 30% of the selling price. Potential buyers may also offer less than the asking price, so there’s room to negotiate if your items don’t sell in the time frame you want.
AptDeco.com operates in the Northeast and San Francisco Bay Area. Sellers can list items for free on AptDeco.com and the website takes 15%-38% of the sale price. It handles display, payment processing, and advertising. Sellers can allow buyers to pick up their items or coordinate with AptDeco to complete delivery. The seller may offer to pay none, part or all of the delivery costs.
The site mainly lists furniture but also offers categories for vintage decoration.
If you list less than 250 items per month, listing an item on eBay is free. The online merchant keeps an average of 12.9% of the sale price and 30 cents per order.
“We definitely look on eBay sometimes,” said Hughes of Clear ph Design. Many of the same things sold on Chairish.com are also available on eBay.
Beware that designers are often willing to pay more on Chairish.com than bargain shoppers looking for deals on eBay. A push-button phone was recently listed on Chairish.com for $85, while a similar phone on eBay is $30. The asking price for a 1970s Chris Evert-endorsed wooden tennis racket was $85 on Chairish.com and $17 on eBay.
But remember that Chairish.com takes a larger share of your sale.
Katherine Snow Smith is a journalist and editor and lives between St. Petersburg, Florida and Chapel Hill, North Carolina. She is the author of “Rules for the Southern Rulebreaker: Missteps & Lessons Learned”.