It’s no secret that Washington has some of the best vintage shopping around. Estate sales, auctions, flea markets, and secondhand retail shops consistently offer incredible opportunities for the dedicated and creative shopper. I’ve heard, and agree with, the many reasons Washington has such an abundance of vintage treasures, most of them having to do with the area’s unparalleled midcentury leftovers as well as the transient nature of the area. As a vintage junkie myself, I love a good flea market or consignment shop, and I have a circuit of local retail obsessions that call to me on Saturdays (or Thursdays, when most of them bring in new stock). But my true vintage scavenging faith lies in none other than our local Craigslist.
It’s true, some people find Craigslist quite daunting. Not only do you have to spend your precious time probing the Internet, but you also have to arrange to pick up whatever piece you buy. And carry it. There’s plenty of potential hassle, but the true believer will tell you it can be worth it. Craigslist is full of incredible finds, usually priced well below retail. The epic Craigslist score has texture and character, it has a story, and best of all, you worked for it. And perhaps the most telling of the Craigslist secrets is that the best finds, in terms of both price and quality, are the ones that appear and disappear in the blink of an eye. They’re scooped up by the seasoned Craigslister before you ever knew they existed. After enough obsessive searches for that perfect piece, you too can become an accomplished Craigslist hunter-gatherer.
Lucky for you, I’ve hunted and gathered my way into so much great furniture for my own home I eventually had to cut myself off—the result of which is my second life as a Craigslist blogger. I also learned a few things—and made a few mistakes—along the way. Here are some quick tips that may help you score something incredible from the hallowed halls of the Internet marketplace.
Know what you’re looking at. To put it simply, know there’s a difference between the Ikea side chair from 1993 and the über-famous Danish designer chair from 1963. If a seller is touting a big-name designer or manufacturer, educate yourself about that item. That way, you can surely spot the fake, and the inflated price. That being said, there’s nothing wrong with a fake. I love my imitation Barcelona chair scored from Craigslist several years ago—the price was right, and I have yet to meet a guest who could even tell the difference. The key is to know exactly what you’re paying for.
Negotiate! Craigslist isn’t Design Within Reach—most people are willing to haggle a bit. This is especially true of that certain item that has been hanging around the pages of Craigslist, unsold, for three weeks. Lowballing is certainly an acceptable strategy, and one that often pays off, but learn when to push and when an item is truly priced appropriately.
Search often. I am constantly casually scanning Craigslist for anything and everything. But if you’re in the market for a very specific, special item, checking Craigslist constantly is a must. (And by constantly, I mean three times a day.) Needless to say, you’ll usually be up against some stiff competition, and Craigslist waits for no man. I once sold a gorgeous set of Globe Wernicke metal barrister shelves in less than three hours—and had responses to the ad literally within seconds of posting.
It’s all about the search. I’ve got my own laundry list of keywords I use to search Craigslist. Most are pretty straightforward, but through practice I’ve learned that some of the most fruitful keywords are inaccurate, vague, or little-used descriptions. For example, don’t just do a search using “midcentury”—search “MCM” or “midcentury.”
Now, just for good measure, here are a few finds to get you inspired. Happy hunting!