So you inherited some vintage clothing. How can you sell it, donate it, or just get rid of it as quickly and painlessly as possible? This has been a weekly, if not daily, question I am asked (along with will you buy my collection?) so it is about time I answer it.
There are many different places to sell your collection (even if it is just one item) depending on what you have, how much you want for it and how much time you have to spend finding the ideal owner.
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- What age are my items? Anything pre-1960s will be easier to sell
- What quality are my items? Designer labels go for big bucks. No label/non-brand name/handmade items are still desirable but less profitable. Research labels here.
- How much time do I have? Selling items yourself will take the most time but give you the highest profits. Selling your items as a “lot” or collection will be quicker but will get a smaller profit. Donating items to a thrift store/school/museum is fast but you only get a tax write off for them.
- How much profit do you need? I say NEED because the less you are willing to take, the quicker it will be to re-home them. Don’t research prices online and expect a buyer/re-seller to pay you top dollar for it. Re-sellers want at least a 60% margin for what they expect to sell an item for.
- Is it sentimental? It is tough to let go of mom’s things. You may not be ready for the disappointment that comes with selling her things for a lot less then you think they are sentimentally worth. Don’t sell until you are really ready to let go.
Selling Vintage Clothing Yourself: Online
Online is a great place to find a buyer fast without leaving your home. All you will need is to post pictures, price, size, description, and shipping policy (will you ship internationally?) You will also need a payment processor such as Paypal.com (always select “goods and service when selling items” but we prepared for a 2.9% fee. It is worth having the protection).
- eBay and Etsy are good options if you want to sell items one by one and wait for the right buyer to find you. The benefit is you get a lot of viewers, but it does take time to set up your store. This isn’t a great option for quick sales.
- Facebook. The newest, fastest, best place to buy and sell vintage clothing is now on Facebook groups. You can sell one item or many items together. Here are some groups to join based on the age and type of your items:
ooh La La! Vintage Swap and Sell Shop – The largest (20K fans) buy and sell group for mid-century vintage clothing 1930 to 1962. This is my go-to place to shop.
Vintage Knitwear 1920s-1940s- Discussion group and buy/sell for vintage knitwear clothing that is 1920s-1950s
Retro Flamingo Vintage Clothing/Accessories – Buy and sell genuine vintage clothing from 1969 and earlier. Men’s, women’s and kitsch.
Retro Flamingo 70’s 80’s and Reproductions – Sister group to the above that now includes later decades and vintage reproduction/inspired clothing.
Reproducing Vintage and Reviving Thrashed Threads – A unique place to buy and sell vintage clothing that is damaged, delicate or otherwise not fit for wear without further repair. Items must be at least 20 years old.
The Unmentionables: Vintage and Antique Lingeries – This group focuses on vintage or reproduction lingerie from Victorian thru the 1980s.
1920s 30s and 40s market place – Buy and sell vintage 1920s-1940s items here. Mostly clothing but household decor, books, and collectibles can also be found.
Unique Vintage Costume Jewelry – The place to sell vintage jewelry and accessories.
Buxom Vintage Beauties– Vintage retro and inspired clothing in plus sizes. No age restriction.
Golden Age Men’s Vintage Buy & Sell – Pre- 1960 men’s vintage clothing and reproductions.
I Love Vintage Ties – Sell pre-1960 vintage neckties and bowties. There are many more “I Love Vintage… groups for men’s clothing for shoes, hats, accessories etc.
Reproduction clothing by brand such as PinupGirl, Tatyana, and Heart of Haute all have Swap and Sell groups where you can sell your gently used brand name clothing.
Facebook Local Groups – You probably have a local buy/sell page for your local area. Search your city name on Facebook groups search and join a few groups. Post your items for sale here and find a local buyer.
*Be sure to read and follow the directions posted in each group. They all are a little different. If you break a rule there is usually no warning before being kicked out and banned.
- Instagram – Instagram is the other new hot place to sell vintage clothing. Post a picture with price and an email or phone number to contact you. Include hashtags #vintage #vintageshop #vintagedress (or shoes, hat etc), #1950s (other decades) etc. Post weekly until the item is sold.
Sell Items Locally
- Craigslist.org/yourcity or area. craigslist.org is another great place to post items for sales for free and find a local buyer. People tend to look for bargains here so I wouldn’t post an expensive item.
- Etsy local sellers – You can search for local Etsy sellers who buy/sell vintage. Search for similar items and use the filter on the left to search Shop Location–>custom–> and then your city. Contact a few sellers and see if they are interested in your collection.
- Vintage Store – Search for local vintage+your city vintage shops that buy/sell vintage clothing. Some shops favor pre- 1960s items while others are more trendy with 1960s-1990s clothing. You won’t get much for your clothes and they may not take your entire collection but at least it is going to a place where a buyer is more likely to appreciate the age of the item.
- Hold a garage sale but call it an Estate sale – Have a garage sale/flea market sale/estate sale and advertise vintage clothing in your description. Vintage clothing buyers keep an eye out for estate sales and will often spend a weekend browsing and buying. Make the buyers come to you! You can also contact local Costume Societies/History groups and invite them to your sale.
- Thrift Stores – You can always donate clothing to a thrift store. I hate to do this with vintage clothing but often times thrift stores (especially big ones like Goodwill or Salvation Army) are connected to other vintage clothing buyers in the area. They often sell donated items to these buyers before they get put out to the public. It doesn’t hurt to ask a manager if they know of a buyer first. My local Salvation Army store has an antique section just for vintage and valuable clothing. I would donate here over other shops just to be sure my items get appreciated.
- Consignment stores – You may have a local consignment shop where you can try to sell your items for a share of the profit.
- Museums – Unfortunately, everyone has the great idea that a museum will want mom’s clothing. The reality is that unless the item is from a valuable designer label or was worn by a famous person or has a strong tie to local history, the museum will not want it. Sorry. They get calls daily and with limited staff they just can’t help you find homes for “normal” clothing. It doesn’t hurt to ask anyways, as they may have connections to other buyers.
*For safety be sure to always meet buyers in a public area such as a coffee shop or a police station.
VERY Large Collections
100s of items in good condition are a dream for people who run Auction houses – if your items are rare or in excellent condition, an Auction house will be happy to sell them for you for a significant cut of the profits (40% is average). I once went to a vintage clothing auction and came away with a lot of great clothes. Some sold for cheap others went for $200+. This is the nature of Auctions. You don’t know what they are going to sell for, but at least you don’t have to catalog sort, price, and process payments.
I once helped a local collector sell off her entire 5ooo piece amazing collection. I first contacted some auction houses (online) and they were interested, but little did I know I had a friend on Facebook who was interested in her collection. She buys/collects/sells vintage clothing so it was a natural fit for both buyer and seller. Start with your friends- you never know who may know someone who wants to buy. It may also help to divide up your collection into smaller lots such as by decade or gender.
Auction houses to consider:
August Auction– very high end/antique clothing auction. They also buy lesser valuable clothing to sell elsewhere.
Kerry Taylor Auctions (London) – In person and online auction, but you must bring your items to the London shop.
Search your city+auction= local auction house
Theatrical Costumes – with so many costume rentals, performing arts groups, and school theatre groups closing down, they are leaving behind an abundance of handmade historical costumes. Typically, vintage clothing stores don’t want costumes. Thrift stores will take them as a donation but put them out for Halloween. My local vintage/thrift shop recently bought a large (500 piece) costume collection from a closed down rental house. It worked out well for them. Other costume rental shops/theaters/university performing arts departments may be interested in your collection assuming they have space. Don’t expect much if any money for them.
Vend at Special Events – If you have a large collection of let’s say Civil War era clothing, it may work out well to attend some historical reenactment events and open up a booth/vendor space. There will be a cost to your rental space so it is a risk to sell enough to cover that, but at least you are selling to your target market. To sell well at an event, you will need clothing racks, tables, a dressing room, and credit card processor (such as Square to use with your phone). Don’t be one of those vendors that only takes cash. It can kill your sales.
- Price your items to sell fairly. If you are selling direct to a buyer for their own personal use, you can price things higher than if going to a re-seller. There is an art to pricing and I don’t know it. I do know that good pictures (on a person/mannequin) with a clear, well written and upbeat description will sell your items faster.
- Shipping – If possible, include free USA (or your country) shipping into the price. Or choose a reasonable flat rate shipping ($5) to include in your listing. You may have to eat the cost to some destinations but being able to provide a clear shipping price upfront reduces the back and forth emailing of shipping estimates and increases the likelihood someone will say SOLD faster!
- Will I buy your collection? Sorry, no. I get so many requests I just stopped looking at them. I do keep an eye out on some Facebook groups, so you never know if I may end up buying from you.
What are your tips to selling vintage FAST? Leave a comment below.