It’s no secret that Washington has some of the best vintage
shopping around. Estate
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!