How to make money selling vintage: Pt. 1

Trade in time-worn treasures

Selling vintage goods online, especially on popular marketplace sites like Etsy or your own dedicated Online Store, is appealing because it doesn’t require you to create new products for your buyers directly. There’s certainly a lot of work in finding the right items to sell, but it’s a very different type of work than hand-crafting.

But vintage comes with its own set of costs, which can bring down your bottom line. If you’re going to make money selling vintage — whether it’s clothes, accessories or something else entirely — you need a strategy. Here’s a good start:

Track what you’re selling

Before you can increase your earnings, you need to know what you’re already making and what’s selling well for you. Keep a detailed inventory and track what you earn from each item — which means you need to know what you paid for the item, how long you’ve had it, and if you had to reduce the price at any point.

To make money selling vintage, you have to be religious about keeping your records up to date. The information you track is the basis of what moves you can take in the future to improve your business’s bottom line.


It’s true in just about every type of business, but specialization is one of the easiest ways to increase your income. That’s because it’s easier to build a following if you’re offering similar items consistently.

If your buyers know that you’re the person to see about vintage furniture from a particular designer or vintage clothing in a particular color, you’re going to be the first seller who comes to mind when they’re shopping for something specific.

As you’re choosing your speciality, keep in mind what’s going to make sense from a business perspective. If you notice in your records that you can easily sell certain items at a good profit, those items should be your starting point for choosing a niche. Of course, you also need to be able to get your hands on such items regularly in order to specialize.

Cultivate your sources

Especially if you’re choosing merchandise from a limited selection, you’ll find yourself going to the same suppliers time and again. Build solid relationships with them: if a particular local shop will call you immediately when certain items come in or a seller who you usually have to traipse out to the flea market to find will deliver your purchases, you’ll secure a steadier supply of specialty vintage inventory.

Serendipity will still come into play, but it pays to streamline the process of sourcing vintage items.

Have a backup plan for leftovers

There will always be pieces with stains you didn’t notice or a pattern that proves impossible to sell. Putting out items that are of a lower quality than your usual supply isn’t going to help you;  your customers will get the idea that you don’t always offer top-notch products. And those lesser goods can distract them from the solid sellers on your site.

Just what you plan to do with your leftovers will depend on your specialty. Repair may be an option in some cases. Some unsold merchandise can be reinvented — and while the result might not fit as neatly into the vintage niche (a separate page on your website for “reloved finds” perhaps?), your bottom line can benefit.

You may want to create a hierarchy of options on how to deal with different items. But don’t put yourself in a position where you’re indefinitely storing products you can’t sell or you’re throwing them out. Neither option will help your finances.

Build an audience

At the most basic level, you need to build a connection that goes deeper than just making a sale.

Just listing items for sale online isn’t enough. You need to make sure that you have potential buyers checking in on what you’re offering on a regular basis. You need a loyal audience. Just how you can build that audience varies, but at the most basic level, you need to build a connection that goes deeper than just making a sale.

If potential buyers tune in to read your most recent blog post about how you choose items or your ideal vintage Halloween costume or any other personal story, you’re going to be more likely to have an ongoing relationship with your audience. Among other benefits, that means that you may be able to sell multiple items to one person. Think about what you enjoy doing beyond just finding and listing items. You can send out email newsletters, engage with customers on your social media platforms, write a blog, post photos and do so much more to build a captive audience.

Now that you’ve chosen a specialization and started building an audience, you’re well on your way to becoming a successful seller of all things vintage. Stay tuned for the next part of this post to learn a bit about the business and marketing side of selling vintage!

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