Vintage Lovers How do you price vintage items?

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Original Post

Hey vintage sellers!

We’re in the throes of pricing month and I’m putting together an article for vintage sellers with tips on how best to price vintage items. I thought I’d reach out to some vintage experts, you, about the best way to go about pricing your vintage items. I'd love to hear your thoughts, best practices and strategies on how you fairly price the items in your shop.

Thanks for any insight you can provide!


Posted at 5:43 pm May 20, 2012 EDT


OK, I'll get this started:
I come from a business that likes to use the expression, "what the traffic will bear".
Before I list an item, I like to see what similar items are going for on Etsy (there's ALWAYS something similar). Then I use the knowledge I have to gauge whether my item is as good or better or not as good. I usually wind up pricing in the middle.
I ship for free in most cases but I do not add shipping into that the price. I have regretted it only once but it was for an item of which I did not have much knowledge and should never have offered!
The items in my shop are heavily researched too. That has to count for something. Also, I like to think that if I don't value my merchandise, no one else will....

Posted at 6:41 pm May 20, 2012 EDT

I concur. I check on Etsy and sometimes some of the other on-line vintage shops and auction sites. I compare what I know with how things are described and sometimes do some additional research. Misinformation spreads very quickly on the internet. I look at what I paid for the item and what I think is a fair market price compared to others selling the same or similar items.

Posted at 6:46 pm May 20, 2012 EDT

Jeni Sandberg from BarkingSandsVintage says
Edited on May 20, 2012

Hey Miss Nickey, nice to see you!

First, you have to know the market--that's the best way to learn how to price. Frequent the places vintage is sold, both in real life and online. A wise man once told me, 'You don't make money when you sell something, you make money when you buy it.' If you pay too much for for an item, you instantly reduce the amount you can make on it. Quick decisions have to made sometimes, so you have to be prepared.

Pricing vintage items usually comes down to researching comparables. If you luck out and buy something for a dollar, you have to figure out if it is worth $5 or $500, so check all your online sources for similar items and price where you feel comfortable given your time, effort and expenses. Everyone does this a bit differently--some people will flip items for a quick profit by pricing lower (and count on the volume of their sales to generate income), others will put a higher price on an item and wait for the right buyer.

What do you do when have an unusual item and can't find any direct comps? Some of it is gut reaction. You've been out there and you've seen what is for sale--how does your piece stand up to the field? If it's something really special, price accordingly. I generally aim high and see how the piece is received. If you have to, you can quietly adjust the price as needed. I'll also hold on to items for a while if I'm really unsure. You learn as you go.

Sometimes, it turns out you sold piece for too little. It happens. A few months later you see something similar for several times what you got for yours. As long as you made a decent profit, you just have to learn from it and move on to the next.

Posted at 6:51 pm May 20, 2012 EDT

I completely agree with the previous posters comments. I always check to see if there are other like items that are currently listed. I try to stay close to what things are listed for and, depending on the condition of my item, I will price it a little up or down. Certainly, if you paid really high for something, then perhaps you will have a harder time trying to make a profit (read as buy low). It also comes down to what others are willing to pay for something and what the current market can bear.

If you have items marked a little higher in your shop, you are able to offer percentage off sales or even free shipping on occasion. And, of course, if the item sits in your shop for a while, it's time to lower the price.

Posted at 7:17 pm May 20, 2012 EDT

Like those above have said, market research is important. One of the most important things to pricing anything, especially vintage or an antique, is to know what you have. Until you know exactly what you have, you can't set a value.

For example, I acquired a very nice shift dress with a pretty, hand painted flower on it. It was from the 60's, clearly, but its fabrication and style. I could have priced it in the same range as a well-made 60's shift would go for in any other shop. But I thought I had a gem. In fact, I was so sure I had a gem, that I went and looked for other dresses with the same label. I found one on Etsy for $20 and purchased it. I put the first one up on my shop for $225, just to see if it would sell for that based on my hunch and a bit of research into the label.

Two weeks later, I received an email about the dress. She was looking for that label for a museum exhibit. I sold both dresses for quite a nice profit and they are now museum exhibits.

Just like anything else, it comes down to knowing your product. The more you know about an item, the better you can market it clearly to attract the right buyers and the more accurately you can price it.

Posted at 9:44 pm May 20, 2012 EDT

So sorry this got to be so long. My apologies in advance... :)

I do compare prices with others here on etsy, but that is not my primary or most important consideration in setting my prices. Typically, I will check other reputable online sites first. I begin looking for the items that are priced more on the high end. (When I am a buyer, I'm interested in the lowest price I can find for a quality item; when I am selling, I want to know what is the best, fair price to ask for that item.) When I started selling online, I figured my price would have to be below what an established site could get, because I was a new seller, with no reputation. I knew a customer would probably be more comfortable buying from an established seller than an unknown like me. In July of this year I will have been selling on etsy for two years, and while Veejay's Vintage is not a household word by any means, I do have excellent feedback, a reputation for honest descriptions, good customer service, and an excellent shipping record. I have slowly bumped up my prices, especially on my nicer quality items and have strategies in place to improve the quality and types of inventory I am carrying in my shop.

Once I have a price from an established, reputable company, I compare my item to theirs as far as condition. If the two items are basically equal I now have a top price I could ask for my item in an ideal situation. At that point, I will search for that item on etsy and sort by highest to lowest price. I then scan through the pictures and read descriptions to keep it a fair comparison. If I have a high quality item, I want to set it near the top of the price range. I do not even consider what I paid for an item in my pricing calculations. I find a lot of wonderful bargains and of course I want to (and do) pass some of that on to my customers, but I also have to remember that those "bargains" cost me a lot of time, energy, and tanks of gas!

I try to remember I am providing more than a wonderful vintage treasure to my customers. I am also providing them with knowledge and info about the history of the item they have purchased and how to care for it, as well as providing friendly and professional service. I try to make a personal connection with my seller and love to hear their stories about why the item has special meaning to them.

I do not overprice my items, but I do know their value. It seems to work for me. I have sold more than one item when there are several other identical items that are priced lower than mine. I do not know the psychology of that or why customers choose my item over that of another shop, but it has happened several times.

I spent the first couple years buying a lot of diverse items for my shop. I had no idea what etsy shoppers were looking for or what areas of vintage I wanted to specialize in, so I happily experimented. I have more of a sense of direction now and plan to move items out of my shop this summer. I don't plan on lowering my prices or having a clearance sale to do that. I will probably sell those items at a garage sale or flea market and take that money and reinvest in the new inventory that will take my shop in the direction I want to go.

I still have a lot of work to do in my shop. Photos and good descriptions are always an ongoing learning process. Ditto for good pricing strategies.

Posted at 12:46 am May 21, 2012 EDT

Hi there teamies! I do agree with all the above advice everyone has kindly shared. I find that there is no rhyme or reason to when some of my items sell - sometimes I relist several times then it goes. As I have an eclectic mix of treasures, I think this is par for the course.
The psychology of all this is fascinating, especially about not pricing too low and why someone's similar item at a higher price may go first.................

Posted at 4:43 am May 21, 2012 EDT

I keep thinking about why some higher priced items sell before the lower priced items and I came up with a few ideas. Sometimes people land in my shop directly from Google and might not actually search etsy so have no idea they might find it here for less $.

Or say I have several glasses of the same pattern in different sizes, all listed separately. The customer may prefer to buy all the glasses from one shop rather than several different ones. It's just simpler. I try to sell the glasses in equal quantities when I have a lot of different sizes in one pattern. Like 6 juice glasses, 6 rocks, 6 goblets, etc. I do this even if I actually have 8 of one of them. I've found customers will often buy more than one set of glasses at a time when I do this. Then I can list the left over 2 glasses by themselves. Also, I will combine shipping when they buy more than one set of glasses at a time, so that brings my price down a little.

Also, I think a lot of factors can play into it and I haven't really researched it yet. But interesting descriptions & facts, how to take care of tips, etc all add value to what you are selling. Some customers are shopping by price alone, others may be looking for something more. I try to target those who are looking for that little extra info and customer service and are willing to pay for it.

Posted at 8:25 am May 21, 2012 EDT

Ivy from ourtimecapsule says
Edited on May 21, 2012

Good morning, Nickey and everyone!

Gosh, what a topic. As most people have stated "experience is the best teacher". Eventually a Seller gets a feel for the marketplace and the basic desirability of an item. Sometimes that marketplace can vary tremendously. Internet pricing for me can be very different from a shop in my local "summer-tourist-antique-y area". Sometimes lower, sometimes higher - depends.

I think every dealer will agree that we all continue to make price mistakes - under and over. If someone gets a great bargain because I underpriced something, well, they'll be back and I'm just happy to move along. As long as I made a profit, it's o.k. If I've overpriced and an item doesn't sell over time, well, I can lower the price and try again.

I believe the Internet has turned the world of collectibles and antiques upside down. The standard guides and "book values" simply don't apply. About 15 years ago, on-line selling really started to grow and within a decade really saturated the market to the point where things that were once hard to find are now readily available everywhere and hard to sell. Some kinds of glass and art pottery come to mind.

The economy also plays a part in pricing. I'm pricing some still desirable things somewhat lower than I once did because the market is sluggish.

Pricing, desirability and availability are also affected by changing demographics of collectors. Each decade seems to produce a new wave of collectors with a different interest, making yesterday's desirable antique or collectible fall in value, and other things go up. As Sellers we do need to be aware of when the fashions change (Victorian furniture out, Mid-Century Modern in) and adjust our thinking/pricing.

I use the Internet as my basic source for deciding a price (all selling venues, general web sites, etc.). My experience gets tossed into the brew along with the price I paid for an item. Sometimes I also need to factor in how quickly I'd like to move larger items, fragile items, etc. I might price these less than I think I can get just out of desperation (storage always being an issue).

There is no hard and fast rule. I'm not sure there actually ever really was. When I first started selling (pre-Internet) I thought there was a book or book value for ever object. There wasn't. I asked an experienced dealer how to price things and she said "Make it up". I was appalled. But she was basically right - there is no absolute. I think the Internet and a world wide market place has made it easier to research and price accordingly and is the key ingredient for me.

Posted at 8:31 am May 21, 2012 EDT

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