Last fall, I remembered being on the hunt for antiques with my uncle. We spent a month attending auctions and browsing auction houses, fleas stores, garage sales, and vintage stores in multiple states. You name it; we’ve been there!
Having a widening interest in vintage furniture and comics, I’ve always been keen on finding authentic antique pieces. However, finding legitimate pieces is the more challenging step, preceded by finding an original store you can shop from.
As things stand, I’ve developed this guide, so you know where to browse and buy from safe and trusted stores. I will also be providing helpful buying tips when adventuring for antiques. Happy shopping!
Table of Contents
History of Antique Stores:
The first real boom in the antique market came during the Renaissance period. The antiques were from Ancient Greece and Rome. Due to the extremely high demand, many artists produced “fakes”, which artists would sell. However, there were no “shops” back then.
Henry Francis du Pont was a well-reputed American horticulturist, an expert, and a collector of early American furniture. He was driving the public to believe that antique furniture was excellent. Thus, the pre-civil period was marvellous for antique items.
The Rockefeller family then aided the American antique business to multiply by furnishing Colonial Williamsburg. Beginning with “curio shops” later turned into the modern “antique stores”, they did not include specifically house antiques. Still, anything unusual could be easily found here.
In short, the antique boom began in the Renaissance period with art and artefacts fetching soaring prices. The curio shops date back to the 17th century, while “antique stores” were first seen in the 1920s.
10 Best Places to Buy Antiques Online:
Antique pieces are tough to find, and you often have to visit flea markets or vintage stores to find authentic antique items. Similarly, shopping for antiques can turn from demanding to impossible if you’re in far-flung areas where it’s difficult to find such stores.
With the development of the internet and relevant technological advancements, online stores quickly found their foothold in the market. Stores such as Amazon, eBay, and Etsy provided platforms for buyers to shop without setting a foot out of their homes.
Antiques are no exception to this rule. With hundreds of online antique stores and auction houses, online antique buying opens many doors for collectors and enthusiasts, especially for items not readily available.
Shopping for antiques without leaving your home’s comfort has never been easier than today. However, it is essential to note that this has also opened the doors for scamming since you can’t see the object you’re buying.
The most important aspect of a safe shopping experience is buying from sellers that proudly own and stand behind their items.
Mercari is the best source for finding affordable antiques online; it is handy for people who like shopping at garage sales and getting great deals on antique collections.
The site allows you to make offers to sellers, enabling you to negotiate a price mutually. The site offers an easy interface and helps find local art and artifacts from all over the globe.
Mercari also offers an authenticating service. Sellers can quickly get their items officially authenticated by professionals. These items are then marked and can be easily spotted by buyers by searching.
2. The Internet Antique Shop:
TIAS is an online store with a wide variety of rare antiques, from antique furniture to handmade and vintage items. Still, the site specializes in advertising antiques, such as posters and neon signs.
The website has a Trusted Merchant Guarantee program for which sellers can sign up. Sellers with the Trusted Merchant Guarantee have a 14-day return policy if the object falls short of your expectations. That being said, TIAS still has the best advertising antiques available online.
Backed up by Amazon’s return policy, it is an excellent source for buying collectables. Buying great antiques on Amazon may not be the most brilliant option. Still, you can safely browse miniature collectables such as rare coins, cassettes, or vinyl records.
Some of the more interesting antique pieces available on Amazon are a wooden jewellery storage box with flower carvings, a bronze Victorian pendant necklace, and a non-functional metal phone with a broken receiver, all exceptional items you can extend your collection with.
4. Modern Antiquarian:
Modern Antiquarian is a company born out of love for antique furniture. The company aims to develop and support the subject of antiques, aesthetics, and the community surrounding the topic of antiques. It is the best option to buy curated antique items from the internet.
It’s a fascinating option if you’re looking for that extravagant piece that would fit your aesthetics but still has a history that talks. One of the safest places on the internet you can buy from, Modern Antiquarian has an extensive catalogue of antique furniture and decorative items.
Founded in 1977 as a hardware restoration and salvaging store, Rejuvenation was quick to set vintage restoration as the map of its business. It is the best option if you’re looking to get your hands on items restored by the company to their original beauty.
The site also has a vast catalogue of light fixtures and décor items you can choose from and also offers a 30-day money-back guarantee in case you’re not satisfied with your product!
With a history going back to the 18th century, Sotheby’s is the world’s largest, most trusted, and most dynamic marketplace for art and décor. Its reputation of authenticity spans multiple countries and experts, including private collectors, museums, and an international community of connoisseurs.
The company holds multiple auctions weekly. Users can physically/virtually attend them and bid for various items, including art, watches, jewellery, antique furniture, wine, and spirits. All items can be bought safely as the company ensures safe and reliable transactions.
7. MS Rau Antiques:
MS Rau Antiques offers a wide range of items, from art and jewellery to furniture and collectables. The company has a network of acquisition experts constantly looking for the best things in the world, offering clients supreme quality and condition.
The online antique store also specializes in certain exclusive antiques, such as medical antiques, canes, and music boxes, having a reputation as the best online antique store for buying unique vintage pieces.
The store is particularly highlighted for its 125% money back program, guaranteeing a 100% refund for any item purchased in the original purchasing condition in 5 years and a 5% increase in its value.
Having a reputation as the best online antique store for furniture, Chairish is a reliable place to get your hands on vintage furniture and art. The site offers 40,000+ pieces, with more modern designs dominating the market.
It lists designer patterns and vintage prints as a fascinating place to look for items, including pottery, rugs, furniture, and art.
Chairish consists of individual sellers, slightly reducing its reliability. However, the site still offers a 48-hour money-back guarantee if you realize this object is not what you’re looking for!
9. 1st Dibs:
1st Dibs, a high-end antique site, is particularly famous for its strict authenticity process. The company has a reputation for enlisting and selling expensive vintage items, with the average piece selling for $3000. Due to its high prices, 1st Dibs is a reliable site to buy from because of the strict standards it enforces.
The site offers a variety of items, from highly sought-after jewellery and watches to unique and elegant furniture. Sellers undergo an extensive vetting process before they’re allowed to sell, allowing the company to stand behind the listed items. It is the best place to get your hands on valuable antiques online.
10. Ruby Lane:
Ruby Lane is an online antique store, possibly one of the world’s biggest, with 2000 different shops specializing in specific collectables like Madame Alexander dolls, pottery, and art.
Individual sellers enlist the shops after complying with the company’s customer-friendly return policy. So, you can quickly return anything that doesn’t resemble what you imagined within a limited time.
Webstore is an online auction platform that works like Amazon, eBay, or Etsy. Sellers can list their items, and buyers can bid, with the highest bidder making a hassle-free purchase. It is the home to timeless antiques and collectables.
Artfire is an online art site which enlists heirloom jewellery and other fascinating antique collectables. From jewellery, entertainment, art supplies, and crafts, it gives a chance to artists to list their work and find a buyer.
There is no doubt that Etsy is one of the biggest marketplaces in the world. The website has a separate Art & Collectibles and a vintage section. From antique carpets to remarkable old paintings, the site offers various categories you can choose from.
Similar to Etsy and Amazon, eBay lists items in the same way. It is one of the best places to find a wide variety of vintage items, including furniture, sports equipment, arts and collectables.
Many users have mentioned eBay as a good source for antique buying, thus significantly adding up to the site’s reliability.
Rehab Vintage is known throughout the design industry for its quality restoration. The company specializes in metal restoration but also takes on projects of curating lighting, collectables, and oddities.
They also build a custom line of furnishings you can choose from, maintaining a line of 20th-century American heritage.
Tara Shaw Antiques:
Whether you’re looking for that specific piece to complete your drawing room décor or adding an item to your collection, Tara Shaw Antiques has covered you! The site has an extensive catalogue you can choose from, such as antique furniture, jewellery, kitchen items, garden antiques, and many others.
The company has multiple showrooms you can visit and get inspired from!
Just Vintage Home:
Just Vintage Home is another site that offers a wide range of antique items. The website divides its collection into pre-medieval, medieval, and post-medieval articles. It has a lot of pieces you could add to your collection.
Antiques and Chatchkes:
Antiques and Chatchkes is a family business run for the past 60 years. The company has several experts to help you liquidate your antiques or help you buy the right one. The site has an extensive catalogue, including antique furniture, collectables, hand-crafted jewellery, and lighting accessories.
In addition, the site also lists many vintage items for sale you can get your hands on.
Like Amazon, eBay, and Etsy, Shopify provides a marketplace for sellers and buyers to interact. However, buyers have to pay a small fee to display their viewing items. Shopify is a hot candidate when it comes to vintage and antique items. Whether looking for historical pieces or trying to find antiques that sit on your shelve, Shopify will not disappoint!
Bonanza is not the most popular online platform for buying and selling but still makes this list owing to its easy interface and extensive catalogue. The site offers a broad category of products, but the most attractive is its vintage collection.
Quite often, sellers are unaware of the worth of their items and end up selling them for incredibly low prices.
Tips For Buying Antiques:
Suppose you’re on the hunt for that particular piece for your collection or considering upgrading your home décor. In that case, antiques can fill this void of authenticity for you!
Blending new and old items has been a common practice since the introduction of antique stores in the 17th century. This guide will help you understand the ins and outs of buying antiques.
There are a few things you should keep in mind to get the best deals when shopping for antiques:
Be Patient and Research Well:
Antique shopping takes time, so make sure you’re patient. It would be best to look at all the right places, from cheap garage sales to expensive, exclusive auction houses. Having background knowledge of different eras and vintage items’ prices can help you assess the value of what you’re buying.
Make sure you watch some videos and read them up nicely, so you know how to identify objects and recognize manufacturer marks.
Relationships are key. Knowing when a masterpiece will land beforehand can help you get ready. Make good use of your communication and skills and build a friendly relationship with antique houses and store owners.
You mustn’t limit yourself to a single vintage store. Many stores have price fluctuations depending upon the number of articles they have, market demand, and several other factors. Be sure to cast a wider net.
Thrift shops, fleas markets, garage sales, and local antique shops are all places you can adventure. Similarly, the internet provides the biggest platform to explore your interests. Online marketplaces such as eBay, Etsy, Facebook, Christie’s, and LiveAuctioneers can help you look for your item.
If you’ve found your particular piece, make sure you ask the right questions and force the seller to disclose all relevant information to your selection. This is especially true for online shopping, where sellers might not take a picture from every angle, and you may end up with a piece that looks different from what you imagined.
Inspect For Damage:
If there’s a vintage item that catches your eye, thoroughly inspect it before making any decision. This is because even the slightest evidence of wear and tear can significantly influence the value of a piece. Problems such as a missing piece, a broken handle, missing markings, or washed carvings can lower the price of your article.
Learn About the Value:
Different antiques have different values. High-end historical antiques in weary condition can fetch much more than newer ones in good condition. However, several factors are considered while estimating the price of antiques. These include:
This is the foremost factor that influences the price of any antique. Items in relatively good shape are worth more than similar pieces in lousy shape. You should thoroughly assess the condition of an antique before buying it.
In general, older items are worth more than newer items on the market. This rule stands true for all antiques considering other factors are constant.
Suppose the antique has some history backed up by evidence. In that case, it will fetch you a much higher price than an article with no relevant historical importance.
Pieces with high-quality craftsmanship evident from their manufacturing or those that belong to well-known manufacturers are worth more than their counterparts.
Suppose the object you’re looking for has been released in limited quantities. In that case, it will be much more expensive than items that flood the market. This is especially true for limited edition vintage items. For example, a Madame Alexander Eloise doll, with only 5 pieces ever produced, sold for $5 million.
Items with an authentic standing are worth more than those whose legitimacy can’t be confirmed. The presence of manufacturer markings, the artist’s signature, the location, etc., drive up the price of the antique you’re buying.
The market demand for an object is another factor affecting the price. If a piece is highly sought after, it will be worth more than a piece not demanded.
If you’re buying an item from an antique shop, make sure you weigh the commission the store’s keeping. The store needs to pay the rent, utility bills, transportation, and maintenance, and to do so; antique shops take a steep cut from every sale made. Thus, it is vital to understand how much the store will keep for your piece.
This is a difficult task and requires expertise. But if you’re well-read on your piece and have done your research, there are a few signs of a fake you can look out for. For example, if the object is in a suspiciously perfect condition, there is a chance that it might be fake. Similarly, mass-produced objects differ significantly from others, often lacking extraordinary craftsmanship.
Many antique stores allow their customers to negotiate, so it’s crucial to polish your negotiation skills before you land in the waters of buying antiques. It would be best if you offered a 10-30% value less than the store quoted.
Check the Dealers’ Background:
If you’re shopping at an antique store, you should ensure that the dealer you’re working with has a reputable name. Make all necessary background checks on the dealer and the shop. If the store has been present for a long time, you can get a general idea about the business’s reputation. Ensure that the dealer protects all transaction details after your purchase.
If you’re buying online, make sure you search and read all reviews relating to your dealer. If there are complaints, you might want to sit this one out!
Buy What You Love:
You should avoid going to antique stores with a fixating approach of sticking to one thing. Instead, look at every piece with an open heart, and buy what you love! Similarly, if you haven’t found something you adore, hold off until you find the “right one”.
Avoid Buying in Big Cities:
This is not a general rule. Often stores in smaller cities and towns offer better values than in large cities. However, dealerships in large cities may also keep low prices owing to the competitive market.
Follow this rule however it suits you, wherever you get a better deal.
Buying antiques is a tough job. You can choose from many places, from garage sales, auction houses, and fleas markets, to online platforms. I hope this guide helps you in making safe purchases.
You want to ensure you’re working with the right person and making the right offer. You also want to know that you understand the process well. If you do a little research here and there, you’ll most definitely love antique shopping for the rest of your life.
So, next time you decide to go hunting for your vintage shelve or decide to give your room a classic look, make sure you read this guide, so you don’t end up emptying your pockets on something you don’t want!