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Behind the price tag: How to value your work as a vintage reseller
Resellers don't just take used items and mark them up to turn a quick profit. There's much more going on behind the prices. Photo: Neda/Pexels

Behind the price tag: How to value your work as a vintage reseller


Resellers offer a service and that means prices will be higher than what people can find at the thrift store. Stop playing defensive when questioned about pricing and use this list of reasons to explain why prices are marked as is

In a business where prices can fluctuate wildly between sellers, it can be tricky to strike a balance between accurately valuing your own time and effort, and making sure your prices are accessible to the people who want to buy from you.

Fold in the fact that resellers appear to have struck a nerve with some consumers in recent years, and those in the vintage world are forced to get defensive.

Most vintage resellers enter and stay in the business because vintage and secondhand is a passion for them. Or perhaps they were raised in a thrifty household, and it’s become a way of life.

The majority are women, and anecdotally, a lot of new vintage resellers appear to be young women. So why do vintage resellers need to justify every dollar of profit they’re able to make?

Resellers are putting an immense amount of time, money, and effort into curating their collections, repairing and refurbishing items, and doing all of the things associated with running a small business, like marketing, e-commerce, etc.

Add to this a level of vintage knowledge that is only acquired with research, time and experience, and you can start to see the value you are building into your prices.

If you’re a vintage seller trying to feel confident about your prices, here are some factors to take into consideration:


Older doesn’t always mean more expensive, and it definitely depends on the audience you’re selling to. But generally, something really old that’s been well maintained over the years will be worth more — especially to a collector.


Some shoppers like their vintage tees with signs of wear and tear, while other items (like glassware) need to be near-pristine to be sold.


You might hear vintage sellers talking about their “holy grail’ items: pieces that are hard to come by that they get a thrill out of finding.

The rarity of a given item can raise the price because you won’t find it just anywhere, which adds to its desirability. Likely, the seller has put a lot of time and work into finding it.

Prices on vintage ashtrays from the writer's shop, Curious Times Vintage. Photo: Curious Times Vintage


Walk into any modern day clothing or home decor store and look around. If you’re familiar with vintage, you’ll recognize the inspiration for many of the designs, prints, patterns and colours.

Trends are cyclical, they always pull from the past, and this has a big impact on what’s selling in the vintage world.

If you can’t keep something in stock, the price is probably going to be higher.

This aspect of vintage reminds me of the scene from The Devil Wears Prada where Andy (Anne Hathaway) is wearing a cerulean sweater, and Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep) lectures her about the design origin of that specific shade of blue. That kind of historical knowledge is what allows you to command a higher price.

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Your own work! The only way to build a good collection of vintage to sell is to constantly be looking — and looking everywhere takes time. Many sellers also do a lot of work to clean, repair, refurbish and restore the vintage they sell.

Take this into account when considering your overall price point. If you sink hours into repairing one item, you might not be able to get that time reflected in the price of that one piece.

But you can justify a higher price point to account for the fact that you do spend time doing repairs.

Also consider the time and money you spend on things like marketing, photographing and listing your items, packing and unpacking at pop-up markets, or the amount of work that goes into maintaining your shop as a desirable place for customers to be.

This is all work, and you wouldn’t pay an employee less than minimum wage to do any of it.

Overhead costs

This includes things like rent, market fees, website fees, Etsy fees, shipping costs; it’s all built into your business and it can’t come out of your own pocket.

Someone running a garage sale has next to no overhead fees, so you would expect the prices there to be lower.

The money you spend on making sure your customers have a professional, pleasant shopping experience is absolutely worth building into your price point.

Prices should reflect age, condition, scarcity and trends, among other factors. Photo: Curious Times Vintage

Your market

Are you mostly selling online, where you need to build shipping costs and materials into the price? Are you selling at flea markets, where consumers expect to find a deal? Are you located in a big city or a small town? What’s the average income of your target audience?

Everyone is selling in a different context.

You might have the most amazing item that you know other people have sold for $500, but in your area, you know you won’t get more than $250 or $300 for it. Do you do the extra work to sell outside of your market, or is faster turnover more important to you?

Pricing takes time

It takes time to hit the right mark and build confidence in the logic behind your prices.

In the meantime, though, the fastest way to build your expertise is through research that goes beyond Google.

Talk to fellow vendors, customers and the people you source from. You also have to familiarize yourself with the market you’re working in. Customers expect different price points when they walk into a vintage shop, versus a flea market, versus an online store.

All of these factors impact what you might be able to successfully sell an item for.

At the end of the day, expressing confidence in the prices you present will get you far. And don’t be afraid of the power of a good sale when items have been languishing for longer than you’d like. We all share a love of a good deal.

Chelsea Nash is a freelance writer and owner of Curious Times Vintage.

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