Welcome to the first volume of Nerd Nest’s Vintage Finds Guide! We first became obsessed with collecting and selling vintage after moving a few blocks away from the very best Antique Mall in the Kansas City area, Rivermarket Antiques. We’ve since expanded our obsession to finding awesome vintage goodies in other Antique malls, thrift stores, garage/yard sales, estate sales, and websites. We’ll give you our general guidelines for thrifty shopping here in Volume 1 AND give youtips that are specific to vintage venues next week in Volume 2.

Rivermarket Antiques

General Guidelines

1. Open all boxes and containers. Our favorite vintage find of all time looked like this and was tucked underneath a table:

Our 1929 Royal

This is what was inside:

Our 1929 Royal

For $20, this amazing WORKING 1929 Royal was ours! It’s worth over $600. Imagine what would have happened if we hadn’t opened up that boring case?

Our 1929 Royal

Lots of the best stuff is in cases. Typewriters, sewing machines, shoes, cameras, old medical supplies… the list goes on.

2. Take your time. Look around. Most of the best things are hidden, especially if they’re great deals. If the goodies are displayed right there in the middle, then the seller probably knows what they’re worth. Things that are super under priced tend to be tucked away.

Heavy Copco Michael Lax Design Denmark Casserole Pot - Burnt Orange

For instance, this awesome Copco Casserole was hidden on a shelf behind a couch. Curiosity caused me to lean over the couch to see what was behind it, and man was it worth it!

3. Test things out. See if typewriter keys stick. If the item has a plug, ask if you can test it with an outlet. Bring a stash of batteries with you. You won’t always be able to tell (you probably aren’t going to have a random type of light bulb with you if one is burnt out), but it’s always good to check if you can.

Portable Lionel Electric Phonograph - Record Player

Make sure the price fits the working condition. If it doesn’t work, make sure that what it takes to fix it (time, parts, money, etc.) is worth it.

4. Tag team. Jake and I are luck, in that we have a built in team. We’ve become experts in the things that we usually sell and/or collect, but sometimes we find something that may or may not be a diamond in the rough. If I’m alone shopping, I’ll call Jake at home and have him research an item to make sure it’s worth what I think it’s worth. If you have a Smart phone, you can do this from the store! It’s always best to go in with knowledge, but having a back-up researcher is the best way to broaden your horizons.

5. Think outside of the box. Most people have functional fixedness, which occurs when you only think to use a thing for what it was specifically made for.

Cash/Jewelry Box

This is a cash box. This is how I use it:

Cash/Jewelry Box

I was in the market for a cool jewelry box that would organize not only earrings and the spare things I pull out of my pockets at night, but also all of my headbands (the tray lifts out, the headbands are underneath what you see here). Two dollar jewelry box, my friends. This works for me, since our loft has an industrial feel. But, you could always spray paint it pink or something to doll it up to match your decor.

5. Speaking of spray paint, try not to let your love for color trick you. Yes, things are usually cooler in fancy colors (see: typewriters). However, boring colored things are usually cheaper. And a coat of paint does wonders.

Dream Craft Kit

Your eye is usually drawn to things in colors you love. But you can usually change the color! So look for neutral.

Aqua Vintage 45 Record Holder - Mail Holder - Office Organizer

That said, be careful about painting vintage items; some things will lose their value if they do not remain in their original condition. On the other hand, some things become more valuable if they are upcycled. Research first.


6. Tell all your friends. If your friends or family members know what kinds of things you sell or collect, they’ll keep an eye out for you. Friends call us all the time with a “Hey, I found a typewriter. Do you want us to get it for you?” And, there are always presents! Our friends Amy and Nikole found that awesome Victor adding machine for us. I can’t wait to get ink for it!

Vintage Adding Machine

Friends = scouts that love you.

We have so many more tips and tricks for you! Watch out for Volume 2 next week!

Also, let us know if you have any questions about shopping vintage and we’ll answer them in Vol. 2!