Find the Cheapest Vintage & Antiques (5 Places)

Find the Cheapest Vintage & Antiques (5 Places)

A universal question asked by antique sellers is where to find the cheapest vintage and antiques. The five places that serve up the best and cheapest vintage and antiques include: town-wide garage sales, estate sales, flea markets, the curbside, and thrift stores.

I recently asked my newsletter readers and Facebook group members to fill out a survey. One of the questions was, “What topics would you like to learn more about?”

[Subscribe to my newsletter here and/or join my FB group-Your Vintage Headquarters here.]

Not surprisingly, they responded that they wanted to know where to find the cheapest vintage and antiques.

You all hear me talking about my “cheap” vintage and antique finds regularly on YouTube videos, and you indicated that you would like to buy the same sorts of things at the same low prices.

Not too long ago I wrote about 15 proven places to find antiques, but today I’m going to tell you the top five that I personally rely on over and over again in my antique business.

Rules for Buying Cheap Vintage & Antiques: Keys to Success

Shop regularly!! I shop almost every weekend for at least a few hours, usually a bit more. You have to be “out there” on the regular to get the really good deals. You cannot expect to shop once a month and bring home the high quality “cheap” stuff.

Get to know the staff at the various establishments. I’m certain that because I take the time to get to know the estate sale professionals, the thrift store cashiers, and the flea market owners, I get offered good deals, particularly when I buy a “pile” of antiques.

Be kind and friendly with all sellers. I’m equally certain that because I’m friendly and engage in conversation with sellers at garage sales and flea markets, they too give me good deals.

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes! Mistakes are going to happen but don’t let it get you down. Learn from the experience and move on. [I do recommend only taking risks on items that don’t cost a lot of money.]

Check eBay for comps. Take the time to check eBay quickly for sold prices on similar items to get an idea of value if you’re unsure. Sometimes it seems like a hassle in the moment, but it will pay off in the end. Click the previous link to learn how.

1. Town-wide Garage Sales

Town-wide garage sales are my absolute favorite way to shop for vintage and antiques. Why, you ask? Because they offer a very high concentration of varied sales in one general location. It saves time because you don’t have to map things out and money because the sales are in one area.

In my area, vintage shoppers can find numerous such sales throughout the entire garage saling season (May to October in Upstate New York). Look for them on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace.

When looking through Craigslist “garage sales” I input “town-wide” in the search bar to narrow things down and find these sales. Also search “townwide” and “town wide.”

At the Middleburgh (NY) town-wide sale this past weekend, I picked up this pair of orange, concrete planters in the shape of fish for just five dollars. Priced at $150, you can find them at the Gristmill Antique center (Troy, NY) where I have my booth.

Other items I picked up include: six Italian Christmas ornaments for 25 cents, two small side tables for $2 each, and two vintage thermoses in a plaid carry-all for $1(!).

Middleburgh typically holds its sale on the third weekend in August. Other town-wide sales that I enjoy include:

  • Nassau (NY): Second weekend in June
  • Woodlawn area of Schenectady (NY): Third weekend in May
  • Warrensburg (NY): Last weekend in September.

Not too long ago, I’d research and plot out a trail of garage sales within a ten-mile radius of my home. I’d get up at the crack of dawn and spend hours on both Friday and Saturday tracking down sales and filling up my van.

These days, I have neither the time nor energy for these marathons. Town-wide sales offer a welcome alternative: no mapping or driving all over creation!

2. Estate Sales

Estate sales, particularly those that advertise as “barn sales” or that feature barns, are also among my preferred destinations for shopping vintage. I used to avoid them like the plague because of their notoriously high prices. But recently, their prices have dropped.

As estate sales have grown in number over the past decade, competition has increased. And because antique prices in general have dropped (over the past 20 years), estate sale prices have likewise dropped dramatically. As a result, I now consider them a key source for merchandise.

An estate sale that included this barn-filled with all kinds of amazing “junk”-took place over two different weekends last summer, and I attended both.

I picked up this charming “Four Poster Lane” sign at that sale for just $4.

A more recent estate sale out in the country involved the selling off of the contents of an antique shop that closed over 50 years ago. Both inside and out contained all kinds of valuable antiques, a number of which were free(!).

Here are some of my tricks of the trade for shopping estate sales:

  • Look for sales run by families as they tend to have much lower prices than those run by professionals.
  • Learn the companies that offer the lowest prices, particularly those that give you one price on a collection of your “finds.” This is a key way to get “cheap” prices.
  • Get to know the estate sale professionals themselves as this often leads to lower prices as you are recognized as a friendly “regular.”
  • Keep your phone handy to do quick eBay searches on potential buys.

Learn more about shopping estate sales HERE.

3. Flea Markets

I absolutely love a good flea market. They usually offer large quantities of merchandise, at lower prices, all in one location. The fact that they contain multiple dealers means more variety and a greater chance of finding one or more sellers with reduced and/or sale prices.

I have several annual markets noted on my phone and plan to attend them every year, whenever possible.

Annual Flea Markets (Indoor)

Annual events are wonderful places to shop. Churches in particular often hold them, usually inside and offering all sorts of new and old items donated by church members.

I look for such sales in rural areas that do not tend to get advice from antique dealers, which can lead to exorbitant prices.

This photo shows an annual sale at a Catholic church outside of Troy (NY). I’ve been known to walk out with literally 6 or 7 banana boxes filled with goods. Unfortunately, they have yet to hold their event since Covid struck 🙁

Get more details about church flea markets HERE.

Annual Flea Markets (Outdoors)

Annual outdoor flea markets tend to be professionally run and attract an assortment of vendors selling a variety of new, used, and antique items. Typically they are open anywhere from once/year to once/month to once/week through the season (May through October in my area).

Look for a large number of vendors to set up their wares, including antiques, new items, and garage sale-type merchandise. I recommend focusing on the latter at first since they often contain some of the best antiques at the lowest price point.

One outdoor flea market in my area, the Malta Flea, is open one Saturday/month and typically offers some great merchandise. Another, organized by St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, runs a yearly outdoor market in May that I enjoy.

One of my very favorite outdoor sales takes place annually in Buskirk (NY). I always find great pieces there, including those in the photo above from a couple of years ago.

Keep track of the annual events in your area on your phone so you don’t miss any!

Year Round Flea Markets (Indoors)

Indoor flea markets are similar to antique malls, housing multiple vendors, but with generally lower prices. They can offer a treasure hunt experience that often results in several discoveries of underpriced, resalable items.

Upstate New York isn’t known for it’s year-round, indoor flea markets but we have a couple that I look forward to visiting, particularly in the “off season” when I’m desperately looking for shopping opportunities.

Dollar Bills, which I discovered while attending the Middleburgh town-wide sale last weekend, contains numerous vendors and offers pretty reasonable prices. We’ll definitely be heading back.

4. Curbside

If you’re low on cash then curbside junkin’ provides the perfect solution to your merchandise needs. If you know when towns in your area plan to hold special “large garbage days,” you can score really big.

Adirondack girl holding a blue and white china cat & a rusty cast iron kettle

And fairly regularly I come across items neatly set at the end of a private driveway with a “Free” sign attached. I rescued the blue and white ceramic cat and the cast iron kettle while vacationing in Wilmington (VT) last year. They each sold for $28 from my antique booth.

Learn more about finding cheap FREE antiques on the curbside here.

5. Thrift Stores

Thrift stores offer the final way to find cheap vintage and antiques. While many have higher prices than other options, they can nonetheless serve you and your business. The secret? Look for smaller, independent thrift stores. Invariably they not only have lower prices, but a much better selection.

Let’s take a look at both types.

Big Chain Thrift Stores

I’m not the hugest fan of the “big” thrift stores like Salvation Army (above photo, right) and Goodwill. I think their prices tend to be too high for me to make a decent profit.

But when I do visit, I usually find one or two items that are just good enough to bring me back for another visit, like the pretty restaurantware cups and bowls and teapot in the above photo (on the left). Each cost just .69(!).

During the winter, when other sales venues are few and far between, sometimes your local big thrift store remains your only option. I shared some of feelings about the “big guy” thrift stores here.

Independent Thrift Stores

On the other hand, I LOVE many independent thrift stores, like the above ReUse Center, which I always look forward to shopping at whenever we drive through Ithaca (NY).

While it’s quite large, like a Salvation Army, it contains many higher quality items at lower prices and it’s not a chain.

The photo on the left shows just some of the items I picked up the very first time we ever shopped there back in March.

One of my favorite local small thrifts is the Schenectady City Mission Thrift Store. While small, I always find hidden treasures for reasonable prices, and it supports a wonderful cause, too.

To see ALL of my vintage finds and learn where I bought them, for how much, and what their values are, subscribe to my YouTube channel.

A special thank-you to everyone who filled out my questionnaire and to those who let me know their desire to learn where to shop for cheap antiques. I do hope today’s article answered that question for you 🙂

In the comments below, let me know some of your favorite sources for vintage and antiques. Inquiring minds want to know!

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