Three Easy Steps to Navigate an Antique Store Without Being Overwhelmed

March 28, 2022

Written by 

Sarah Richardson

Antique stores are wonderful places to find hidden treasures. If your experience inside an antique store has been anything like mine, you can quickly find your self overwhelmed with nowhere to start. Sometimes I find myself looking at everything and nothing at the same time. I end up in an analysis paralysis where there are too many choices so I end up not picking anything. Sound familiar? If so, this blog is for you.

Antique Stores Versus Thrift Stores

Before we begin, I want to quickly define the difference between thrift stores and antique stores. In my opinion, thrifting is the process of going to second hand stores like Goodwill, Savers, or the Salvation Army in order to sift through donated pieces. Here, you will have to do the digging and research yourself to determine if you have found a valuable item hidden among ordinary donations. You can usually find a hidden gem for a great low price as long as you are willing to put in the work.

On the other hand, antique stores are a curated collection of unique gems that someone else has already thrifted and is reselling in a personalized booth among other vendors in the shop. Antique stores are usually cream of the crop and come with a higher price tag more true to the value of the item. Most purchases will cost you more than thrift store items due to supplementing the seller’s “finders fee” so to speak.

Before walking into an antique store, I have learned there are a few things I can do to prepare for a successful trip. Like I mentioned, antique stores can be overwhelming and leave you feeling defeated. These simple steps will help you enjoy the process and hopefully, come out successful!

Determine Your Category

Antiques stores can be full of large interior home furnishings such as dressers, chairs, china cabinets as well as smaller interior design items like mirrors, wall art, figurines, and trinkets. You can also find a variety of work wear such as vintage leather jackets, fur coats, and costume jewelry. Not to mention the large variety of glassware, kitchen pots, working tools, and assorted pottery. You can even find nostalgic sewing equipment, children’s games, and sports memorabilia. The plethora of items can no doubt be overwhelming.

That’s why the most important thing before walking into an antique store is to chose what category you are shopping for. On my most recent trip, I was focused on finding art, but more specifically, original, framed oil paintings. By narrowing down my category even further, I was able to look past all of the other distracting items to find my hidden gems.

Create A Budget

If you have never been to an antique store, I will forewarn you: You may experience sticker shock. A quick Google search defines sticker shock as “the shock or dismay experienced by the potential buyers of a particular product on discovering its high or increased price.” In other words, you will be paying top dollar the majority of time in an antique store. My personal budget is always $100 when I enter the store. This sometimes means I can get a few small items, and other times maybe just one larger piece.

By setting a budget upfront, I am able to stay focused once I am in the store. This helps me make a decision on what it is I truly want. During this last trip, I was looking for framed oil paintings and was lucky enough to find something special. Since the painting I found was $38, I had enough room in my budget to buy a few more small items. Keep reading to see what I scored this trip!

Have Fun and Focus!

Most antique stores have several booths of different sellers. Before you know it, you can spend quite a bit of time in one booth looking at all the little treasures. Therefore, it is important to determine how much time you want to spend in the store before going in. By doing this, you are able to finally set your goal for a successful trip. For example, this last trip I allotted one hour and $100 dollars to search for framed vintage oil paintings. Needless to say, it was a success! Following this easy three step process allowed me to stay focused, maintain my budget, and remain on time to score these wonderful items.

Pro Tip

If you are an experiences antique shopper, here is an extra tip for you! Before you leave the house, take a tour of your home to determine which area you want to decorate. For me, I knew I was looking for art above the bed in my guest bedroom. By knowing this in advance, I was able to stick to general dimensions for something not too large or too small. I was excited to get this piece home and put it exactly where I had in mind.

Total for Treasures

Vintage Metal Bells $14
Vintage Framed Daisy Oil Painting $38
Vintage Framed Pressed Florals $10
Hand Carved Wood Mushroom $18.50
Total: $80.50 + tax

Antique Store Prep List

  1. Determine your category
  2. Create a budget
  3. Set a time limit
  4. Once inside, stick to your objective

And of course, have fun!

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I'm so glad you're here. I'm Sarah, a retired NCAA Division I volleyball player who bought my first house after college and fell in love with all things home improvement. From design, DIY, and thrifting, you can find it all here. I hope you will be inspired and encouraged to make your house a home.

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