Snag » Ask Snag All Found. All Vintage. Wed, 05 Oct 2016 21:18:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Ask Snag: How to Negotiate Fri, 22 May 2015 01:59:09 +0000 Negotiating

It’s here! It’s finally here! Just in time for crazy garage sale season. This guide will help you in getting the most of your pocket full of quarters and dollars and help bring home a van full of vintage goodies.

1. The first step and most important step to negotiating: be nice. Seriously for the love of all things, be nice. I’m assuming all of our readers are nice since we’ve only had nice comments so far (thank you commenters!). The Snag team has seen it all: a man running up to one of us and verbally berating us to get a “deal” on a harp (yes, I know, a harp), a woman throwing quarters and dimes at the checkout person, and a great amount of other general nastiness. But it’s simple: show the seller some respect and you’ll (probably) get some respect. If you try to get a deal by being aggressive, pointing out flaws in merchandise or insulting the seller’s pricing, it’s not going to end well for you.

This doesn’t mean you need to accept any price, but almost 90% of the time you will be refused a price reduction if the seller doesn’t like you.

2. Be enthusiastic—but not too enthusiastic. Sellers like to deal with motivated buyers—they don’t want to waste their time dickering with someone who might just change their mind anyway. As tempting as it can be to stay aloof and give off a “I could take it or leave it” vibe, you might get a better deal if you seem genuinely interested and give them a cue that you will indeed buy the item if you strike a deal. Just don’t get carried away—nobody is going to give you a deal if they’re certain you’re going to buy it anyway.

3. Know your price. What are you willing to pay if this is going in to your home? Do you love that dresser? Will it haunt you at night if you don’t purchase it? The last dresser and nightstand set I purchased was off of Craigslist. It was listed for $300 and I really didn’t want to pay that much for it. I had exactly $200 in cash and knew if I offered less than that and some other Craigslist buyer snatched it up I was going to be bummed. So I called the seller and negotiated on the phone and simply stated, “Your dresser is beautiful and I love it, but would you be willing to accept $200 cash? That’s all I have at the moment.” Nice, no lies, plain and honest. She said yes. Woot.

4. Know their price. Refer to our guide on how vintage items are priced as a starting point. But don’t stop there. Unless it’s the first day of a sale and the item you’re negotiating for is in demand, you can generally get at least 10–20% off items priced over $20. Flea markets, antique malls, shops all generally have a small discount. Sometimes more. Once I was going to purchase a mid century hutch for $80 and asked the front desk if the dealer had any discounts or sales. Yes, turns out they did and I purchased it for $60. Ask if they can do any better on the price.

Knitting basket and tensor light

5. Buy in bulk. If you walk up to pay and you have amassed a ton of things, you will get some better deals. If all of your vintage wallpaper and lamps add up to $25, it’s highly likely a $20 offer will pass muster.

6. Don’t sweat the small stuff. A candle holder for $3? Eh, probably pay the $3. Unless you really only have $2 in your pocket left and there’s no other money shoved in your cup holder.

7. Timing. If you’re at the garage sale or tag sale on the last day, you can often get things for 50–75% off. Sure, it might not be the most stellar pickings, but you never know.

8. Know when to walk away. If you feel like there will be no convergence between your price and a seller’s price or you start to feel uncomfortable, seriously it’s just stuff and leave it behind. Once, I picked up an old fortune telling book in the bottom of a mouse-turdy box at a flea market. The seller told me it was very rare and said it was $100. Really? Then he launched into a diatribe about investing in antiques and how could I be so stupid not to pay his price? I walked away and never went back to his booth again.

Does this help to boost your confidence and save you a few dollars? Any tips we have missed? Please share in the comments or shoot us an email.

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How a Vintage Item is Priced Thu, 16 Apr 2015 19:32:38 +0000 How a Vintage Piece is Priced

Before we write our tips and tricks for negotiating (which we haven’t forgotten our request for, we promise!), I thought it would be helpful to discuss why things at a store or flea market are more than when you find them at a thrift store or garage sale. In this post, I will be using a generic 1980s radio, which is my latest find to illustrate pricing.

1980s Radio

I used to only collect, but then I had a hoard of midcentury in my basement and what to do with it all? Help things find a home with other vintage lovers of course. As some of you may know, Austin and I have a little booth are at a local store in Des Moines called Funky Finds Vintage & Retro. If you haven’t been there, check it out because the store and owners are amazing. Therefore, we are in the interesting position of being collectors, buyers and sellers all at the same time.

So here are some “hidden costs” that you may not be aware of when it comes to pricing an item.

1. Almost everything is filthy. Just filthy. I bought this radio at Goodwill the other day for $3 because I can potentially sell it on eBay for $30. But not before I spent 30 minutes cleaning out undefined “goo” from every crevice imaginable. Everything needs some degree of conditioning—i.e. dusting, degreasing, deodorizing or washing—and that time spent is money.

2. Almost every item needs to be tested or repaired. In this example, I needed to go get 5 AA batteries only to find out the tuning dial doesn’t display the station it’s on. Looks like I will be selling it for less than $30 and spent ten minutes of my time. Furniture involves even more work refinishing, re-gluing, researching and often times reupholstering.

3. Sellers pay commission, rent and taxes. This is one thing when I was just a casual collector I never thought about. Sure, the store owners pay a lease, employees and everything else that goes along with a business, but individual sellers whether at a thrift store or on eBay are shelling out too. eBay takes 10% of what you sell. Commission can be anywhere from 10% to 30% at a store. Taxes can be 30%. Rent is negotiable with how large of space. This radio really isn’t so cute anymore and I’m questioning my purchase. But you can record live radio on to a cassette tape!

4. Time spent hunting should be time paid for. One time I heard someone say that a dealer’s time spent looking for things to resell is just for fun. Yes, it is so much fun for us, that’s true! When we are all together going to garage sales we have a blast laughing, telling jokes, running like maniacs out of the van to grab that vintage light first and other nonsense. But shouldn’t everyone have fun at their jobs? There are days when I go to thrift stores and garage sales for hours and I come back with one thing to sell. That radio? I’ve been to the same Goodwill four times since and found nothing. That’s at least an hour spent with one radio found.

5. Getting the item involves gas, storage, postage and more. We drive all over the place, all over Iowa and other states. And then there’s storage. All seller’s have at least some space dedicated to storing pieces waiting to be reconditioned and sold (my two-car garage was not used for cars for a year, much to the dismay of my husband!) and in some cases expenses for renting storage can be staggering. If I do sell this radio on eBay I will need to drive to the post office to get packing materials and postage. At the store where we sell, there are price tags, pens, pins, nails, hangers, all sorts of supplies we need to show the items in the first place.

6. Every item has a price, a price that needs to be researched. It’s important as a seller to research the market value of items you’re selling, either online or the market in your local area. Regularly selling items too high or too low compared to your market can both spell disaster for your business. I had a feeling this radio was cute and probably had some 1980s cult following. I found out that was true with a search on eBay. Sometimes things require a whole lot more time researching, such as furniture or dishes. Again, a little more time spent.

So here’s the breakdown. One radio for $3 that possibly will be sold for $20–$25. Commission of at least $3 on that sale. Taxes about $6. That means a net profit of $11–16. And I spent at least an hour and a half cleaning and let alone finding the darned piece of plastic. My “hourly” pay without taking in to account gas, storage, supplies, monthly rent? $8 maybe?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. I love looking for antique and vintage things. The point is, most sellers aren’t getting filthy rich and there are so many things that go in to pricing. Not to say that there isn’t wiggle room, and that post is coming up next!

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Ask Snag: Where to Find Lampshades? Fri, 11 Apr 2014 13:46:29 +0000 During the past couple weeks I’ve been asked not once but twice about my shadeless lamp situation. I tried going back through our posts and finding just how many shadeless lamps I’ve purchased but I couldn’t figure it out technologically. I know there’s been a lot.

Most recently it was these two fine specimens.

Shadeless Lamps

I think this next one was Austin’s.


Maybe a little bit of this shadeless action?


It’s true: we all purchase tons of lamps without shades and without worry. Where do we find them? Everywhere. Thrift stores, Goodwill, Salvation Army, garage sales, estate sales. My favorite place to find them is at garage sales. Mainly because there are some hideous lamps with spectacular shades priced around $1.00. From my experience, don’t offer to purchase the shade and leave the lamp, even if you pay full price. People get a little insulted you might not want their lamp.

photoI remember seeing this lamp at a garage sale. While the lamp might not be everyone’s cup of tea, the lampshade behind it is pretty sweet. I think it was bigger than anything I needed at the time, but now I wish I had it.

If you’re wanting to get a lampshade right away, check out Lamps Plus. They have some nice shades for a good price. I’ve also purchased more traditional shades at Lowe’s (they have great clearance shades), Target, and even Menards for that art deco lamp above.

What about you guys? How do you handle a shadeless lamp situation? And keep the questions coming, we love hearing from you!

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Ask Snag: Reviving Mid-century Legs Thu, 13 Mar 2014 13:32:33 +0000 Snag reader Susie scored this fantastic mid-century sewing desk with a matching footstool. As seen in this picture, the desk is in remarkable condition.

Sewing Machine

Unfortunately, the footstool’s accompanying legs are a little rougher.

Sewing Machine FootstoolSewing Machine Legs

Here’s what Susie writes:

I thought maybe the snag team could give me some ideas on how to refinish or fix the the brass hardware and restoring the stools wood finish.

In the pictures you will see how the brass plating is scratched and showing the brown base. It’s like the flaws are there for good. Is there any way of restoring them back to the pretty brassy finish? If not, do you have any other suggestions? 

The second issue is the finish of the wood is dinged and scratched. If I want a nice smooth finish, do I need to strip the whole thing and start fresh, ugh? It’s more the legs that are pretty rough, the actual seat wood is ok. 

Also, as you can see one of the feet is bent and missing a tack on bottom, I assume I can pick up something similar at a hardware store.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated! 

So, with those three things in mind, let’s get started!

1. Brass Plating on the Toe Caps

Honestly we’ve never had much luck cleaning these up, and polishing any kind of mid-century brass hardware is a total crapshoot. Most often these caps are thin sheet metal with a microscopically thin layer of brass plating protected by a layer of clear lacquer. With age and use, the lacquer scratches and cracks, allowing air and moisture to seep in and tarnish the brass. Since the plating layer is so thin, the tarnish often goes all the way through to the base metal.

If it was one of our pieces, we would just accept their battle scars.You can attempt polishing by first removing the clear lacquer with acetone or lacquer thinner and then polishing the metal with a polish like Weiman’s metal cleaner, but the plating easily polishes off. You can protect them from getting worse by applying car wax or spraying a new coat of clear lacquer over them. If the toe caps are badly damaged or rusted, you can clean them smooth with a wire wheel and steel wool and then paint them a similar color to the original. Metal-looking spray paint is getting better and better.

2. Scratched Legs

Most manufacturers used white woods like pine and birch for legs of walnut finished pieces. The factory applied finish is a semi-opaque and sprayed-on to ensure that it covers the wood evenly and matches the tone of the expensive veneers used elsewhere. That’s why when you see even a shallow scratch, it’s bright white. Unfortunately, these woods don’t take stains or conventional finishes predictably and repairing or refinishing them can be tricky.

For larger scratches, try Danish oil in the scratch to see if it becomes less noticeable. Try this in an inconspicuous area first, as the wood might not take the oil or it may become quite a bit darker than the original finish.

For small scuffs that feel worse than they look, polishes such as Formby’s Almond Lustre can make a pretty dramatic impact. For greater polishing you can also use H. Behlen’s Buffer’s Polish. This stuff can perform amazing feats with finishes dulled by fine scratches.

For smaller nicks and scratches, try fill sticks such as Guardsman that can be found at most big box stores. These crayon-like sticks fill-in scratches and can even be mixed to get the color right. Usually I rub them into the scratch and then lightly burnish with a cloth or paper towel.

Usually with these steps, completely refinishing the legs will not be necessary. Phew!

3. Missing Glide

Remove all of the glides and yes, you’re right: take one to a hardware store to see if you can find something that will work. Replace all four to account for any height discrepancies in the new and old glides. It looks like there is a large hole bored for the glide to insert into, so it’s important to find the same kind of insert to make sure it works correctly. If you can’t find what you need at the store, these guys probably have it. Worst case scenario, if you can’t find a suitable replacement, remove the remaining glides and replace with adhesive felt or nylon glides.

Susie, we hope these tips help with the restoration of your foot stool. Thank you so much for sending us your project.

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