Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Buying Vintage on eBay

One of the places I periodically look for vintage for either myself or for the shop is eBay.  This can be a fantastic site for vintage and other items, however it can also be a minefield for whether it is really considered vintage.  Don't get me wrong I am far from a vintage snob; reproduction vintage style is absolutely fine in my eyes (I wear a lot of it), however I like to know exactly what I am paying for so I thought a few tips would help for those of you who have considered looking for vintage on online auction sites.

Two examples of recent lucky eBay finds
  • Finding an item on these sites is largely luck. I try typing in different decades (eg. 1950s, 1960s), combined with garment names; then try different phrases such as mid-century or mod; and one of my most frequent search phrases is simply "vintage dress" you would be amazed at how many dresses I have found this way.
  • You can also filter the search down into the vintage clothing category, but remember not everyone will have done this so you could miss some things if you filter out general clothing.
  • When searching for "vintage" always check if there is a brand name, if there is one quickly pop it into a search engine to get some background; you'll soon know if it's a reproduction piece if the company was only formed in the last 5 years!  If it is genuine vintage then you will also be able to get some idea on what it is worth paying.
  • Check and check the details that eBay asks the seller to fill in for era and detailing.
  • Look out for the phrase "Vintage style" as usually this means a reproduction piece.  However, it may still be vintage, it could be a 1980s does 1940s piece for example.
  • Look at other items the seller has for sale to get an idea of their products, it may give you a better idea of the accuracy of their descriptions.  
  • If in doubt ask questions, eBay and other auction sites are generally safe places to buy things and sellers are not on the whole out to con you but to some people second hand = vintage.  eBay does not have the same rules on vintage descriptions as Etsy does (where vintage is only 20+ years old). 
  • It's okay to ask for more pictures.
  • These are some of the specifics for searching for vintage on eBay, all the usual vintage tips apply (check pictures for ideas on construction, seams, labels, design, look at fabric etc)  
  • As I said luck has a lot to do with buying vintage online, just sometimes the most amazing finds are the ones you bid on at the last minute with terrible pictures with two line descriptions, and you are in luck it's a gorgeous late 1950s dress.... sometimes anyway don't count on it every time, I've got some shockers based on that theory before!
But at the end of the day I would say if you like something, it's in your price range and it's worth the money then does it really matter if it is true vintage or not? (Unless of course you're planning on selling it on Etsy in which case it obviously does!)

* If I think of anything else or discover any new tricks I will certainly add to this.


  1. These are really good tips! I especially like the one about looking at other items the ebay seller offers to get a better idea of the accuracy of their description. I would add to check their reviews too! Thanks for mentioning the difference between “vintage” and “vintage style.”

    1. Thanks! It's so easy to get tripped up on the vintage style thing, there are som many amazing repr's out there! Having said that I love the repro's too!

  2. As far as buying/saving on eBay goes:

    If you see an item that you want listed in auction format, send the seller a message asking if they will accept $x to end the auction early and sell the item to you. If that doesn’t work, use a sniping service such as to bid for you. It’ll bid in the last few seconds, helping to save $ and avoid shill bidding.

    If there is a particular item that you want that is relatively rare on eBay or goes fast when one is listed, use to set up a saved eBay search for it. You’d get an e-mail whenever a match is listed. You can use the price, category, exclude word, etc. filters to narrow down the results that you get in the e-mails. Excellent for “Buy It Now”s priced right.

    If the item that you’re looking for is difficult to spell, try a misspelling search site like to find some deals with items that have main keywords misspelled in the title. Other interested buyers may never see them.

    1. Thanks for additional tips, these are really useful!


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