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What to do with your vintage items: Sell yourself or engage a reseller?
Understanding market value is your first step to selling your items yourself or via a reseller. Photo: Şevval Uluğ/Pexels

What to do with your vintage items: Sell yourself or engage a reseller?


Have vintage or antique items and don’t know what to do with them? Here’s how to get a grip on their market value in order to sell them yourself or via a third party

If you’ve come into possession of some vintage, antique or secondhand pieces, you might want to learn more information about them, whether you are looking to keep or sell.

Maybe you’ve been gifted a special item, or inherited a late family member’s belongings. Or you’re cleaning out your home and realize you no longer use something, or you’re tired of a piece and want to change it out.

Whatever the reason, you’re here because you don’t know what to do with your stuff.

The first step is to establish a basic understanding of market value for secondhand goods. This will help you to make a decision as to whether you want to keep your items, list them yourself, sell through someone else or donate.

If you decide to sell, there are several ways to rehome your unwanted pieces. This article walks through the pros and cons of each in detail.

How to determine market value for your vintage items

Market value is the estimated amount an item can command on the open marketplace, and it’s based on monetary and emotional factors. Just a few of the things that go into determining market value:

  • Supply and demand (how many are available and how much people want the item)
  • Convenience
  • Practicality
  • Quality
  • Condition
  • Perceived value
  • Market position of the seller
  • Cost of goods
  • Direct costs (labour, shipping, etc.)

Slightly different from value, worth (also known as market price) is the monetary amount (price) attached to your item.

You can use popular marketplace platforms like Facebook Marketplace, Etsy and Depop to help you get a rough idea of market value for your vintage item, but know this: just because you see a price listed doesn’t mean your particular item is worth that price.

This is because the value fluctuates based on all of the above factors.

For example, you might see a vintage table listed for $200 on Facebook Marketplace. There are a couple of not-so-great photos, the description is scant and the person selling it doesn’t appear to be an established business, just a person with a table. The condition seems pretty good, but it’s a bit scratched and faded in one spot.

As a buyer, you know that Facebook Marketplace is where you can find a good deal, but you take your chances with the security and reliability of the transaction, which is often conducted offline. Both parties might ghost, the seller often expects a lower offer from the buyer, and there are a lot of scam posts mixed among the legit ones. It comes with the territory of a lower price.

On the other hand, you might see what appears to be the exact same make, model, era of vintage table listed for $700 on Etsy. A $500 difference! But the photos are well-lit and comprehensive, the description includes lots of details, it’s in very good to excellent condition — and the person selling it has a five-star rating with 200 reviews and appears to be running an established business. They also offer local delivery.

All these things signal to a consumer that a transaction is more legitimate and secure. The buyer feels confident they are dealing with a reputable dealer, and the buyer has trust in Etsy as a platform because there are strict policies in place. There's some recourse in case of a problem.

The price on the second table is higher because it represents many of those points listed above in what determines market value — namely direct costs and market position of the seller. Plus, a platform like Etsy is a business-to-consumer marketplace as opposed to a social media-based marketplace, and because of that, there’s a higher level of trust for buyers.

Same product, both with different market values. Neither market value is wrong, but each is for a different audience who value different things and thus are willing to pay accordingly.

Knowing those audiences and which platforms sell what will help you to understand market value.

For example, 1stDibs is a high-end furniture and decor marketplace with very high prices on products. 1stDibs caters to interior designers and high-income individuals, and has a thorough vetting process for sellers using its platform. It also offers authentication, white-glove delivery service and other features that are rolled into the list prices.

Using a 1stDibs listing as a baseline for an item you want to sell isn’t ideal, because it’s highly unlikely you'll be able to fetch anywhere close to that price on the open local market. A reseller won't use 1stDibs as a reference point on pricing for the same reason.

In the same way as the above example, a chair listed for $2,700 on 1stDibs does not mean the chair itself is worth $2,700. The $2,700 includes all of the other aspects of the 1stDibs service. That same table might only ever fetch $1,400 in your local market.

Antique and vintage furniture stacked
What your vintage items are worth is a complex equation. Photo: Oktay Köseoğlu/Pexels

Setting prices is a calculated process for most established shops, as they are adding their time, labour and knowledge into the final price. (For more on what goes into setting the price of an item, visit our article Behind the Price Tag).

And this is why using marketplace platforms to determine fair market value of your item can only take you so far.

If you’re listing an item yourself, your price should reflect that you don’t offer all the same points of service as a vintage shop selling the item.

Say you have a wood jewellery box with an abalone inlay and you see a similar item listed on Etsy for $49. It doesn’t mean your item is worth $49 (or more) on the open marketplace unless you are certain that your listing competes with that one on every level: photography, knowledge, shipping and delivery service, product condition, etc.

You can certainly try to list it at the same price, but a discerning consumer is going to go for the listing that seems more reputable.

If you’re selling your item to a third party, like an antique shop or a vintage store, it’s important to keep in mind they’re not going to pay top market value for your item, because those higher prices reflect the direct costs of acquiring, researching, merchandising and marketing the item. They’re going to need to factor that in, as well as their time and labour, into whatever price they quote you.

Here are the two easiest ways to find a general market value for your secondhand item:

1. Use Google Lens.

If you don’t know any details about your item to do a keyword search on a marketplace platform, you can use Google Lens, which conducts a Google image search using your camera. Get the app, and use the image search via your phone. Snap a photo of your item to see what returns in the search results.

Look for eBay, Etsy and other marketplace listings and view them to see the descriptions of the items and the amounts the items are listed for.

You'll get fairly accurate results if you are using Google Lens, because the AI technology will recognize the exact item you are photographing and try to find exact matches.

It's unlikely, though, that the technology will recognize whether or not you have an authentic piece or a replica, so treat the numbers as balllpark — a general idea of market value, keeping in mind all the factors mentioned above.

2. Get the item appraised by a dealer.

If you don't want to go through the process of checking the items yourself, or if you think you have pieces of reasonably high value, you can get them appraised.

Appraisals range from informal valuations to closely inspecting an item to determine its authenticity, provenance and age. Formal appraisals often come with physical documents. If you have antiques, going through an accredited appraiser is a wise choice.

Note that appraisals require time and knowledge and are a paid service — vintage dealers may perform valuations for a fee, or you can do an online search for estate or jewellery appraisals in your region.

Think of the appraisal as a baseline. As with any other appraisal, it’s not binding and is largely dependent on what the market is doing at any given time. In the same way a house may sell for more or less than its appraised value, so may a piece of antique or vintage provenance. If you do have something of very high value, an appraiser can advise you on best next steps.

Once you are equipped with an idea of your item’s market value, you have a few options (below).

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Option 1: Sell your secondhand items yourself.

Selling vintage or antique items yourself may sound easy. Just hop on Facebook Marketplace or Poshmark, post your items and let the magic happen.

It doesn’t usually work like that unless you have a very in-demand item priced to sell, but many people try this route first in order to maximize profits from their item’s sale.

If a buyer purchases from you directly, you keep all money from the sale less any listing fees.

Listing online is where you will see the most opportunity for getting closer to market value. If you’re selling in person at a garage sale, shoppers will expect garage-sale (read: bargain-basement) prices. (Check out our breakdown of where to buy and sell vintage online, including marketplaces where you can list items, and ballpark listing fees for each).

There are additional hidden costs associated no matter which outlet you choose, even if you’re listing on a free service like Facebook Marketplace.

Your time, for one — dealing with scammers, fielding inquiries that go nowhere, the work of listing and monitoring the listing yourself — gas to do pickups or drop offs, the learning curve to list and possibly re-price if you’ve never done it before.

If you’re organizing an in-person sale, there’s also your time to organize and advertise the event. Or you may need to repair or mend the item you are planning to sell in order to get a better price for it. Damaged or broken pieces have less market value than those in good condition.

You could also hold an estate sale or liquidation. There will be a number of estate sale services in your area — just do an online search for “estate sale” and your city, or use an online-based liquidator like MaxSold or HiBid.

Pros and cons of selling vintage items yourself


  • It’s fairly quick to list if selling online, once you know what you are doing.
  • You keep whatever profit you make.
  • You might be able to get market value or near-market value for your items, depending on the product and your ability to properly market it and showcase it in a way that competes with existing listings.
  • You make all the decisions. You’re in control!


  • Way more time-intensive to sell yourself.
  • Hidden costs associated with listing yourself (listing fees, shipping, delivery, etc.)
  • Need to deal with potential scammers and fielding inquiries.
  • Learning curve and time required to understand value, pricing and the market.
  • It can take a long time to unload everything if you have a large lot.

Selling to a third party can save you time. Photo: MART PRODUCTION/Pexels

Option 2: Sell your vintage items via a third party (e.g. a reseller, vintage shop, consignment store)

Selling or consigning your items to a third party means they will handle the sales process for you. Third parties may be vintage dealers, resellers, antique shop owners, consignment stores, etc.

If you sell to a third party, it means they take on all the risk of having to sell that item themselves — so they’re going to ensure they only buy products they know they have a good chance of selling.

If you consign with a third party, it means they will take on the risk of selling that item for an agreed-upon time (but you may end up with the item again if they don’t).

You may be wondering why you would sell your vintage or antique items to a third party if it means it eats into your profits for the sale.

Some people don’t have the time or the desire to do it themselves. Consider it like tiling your floor yourself versus hiring someone to do it. In the same way you do when you hire a tile setter, when you engage a third party to sell your secondhand stuff, you are paying for their labour and their expertise.

Remember how we discussed market value earlier? A reseller or dealer is going to use market value to determine what they think your item will ultimately sell for, which means they cannot pay you market value for your item.

They need to evaluate the cost of the item, plus all additional fees — platform fees, marketing, and, if a physical store, overhead costs such as rent and labour — to come up with a price to offer you if they choose to take on your item to sell. They also need to include some profit for themselves, otherwise the sale won’t be worth their time if they just break even.

For example, if you see a coat listed on Etsy for $150, a reseller is not going to pay you $150 for the coat in order to list and sell it for you. They are going to offer you likely 40-70 per cent less than the item’s value (or even less, depending on what is involved in reselling the item, its quality and condition, if they need to repair it, etc.).

While you’re getting less for the item when you sell it through a third party, you’re also not taking on the hassle of listing, photographing, marketing, shipping, paying platform fees, etc. You’re paying for the seller’s research expertise to be able to list and sell that item for you.

Perceived value and emotional value

The price a third party offers us can be difficult to digest when we are selling our own items, because we likely have a preconceived idea of value in mind already: market value but also perceived value and emotional value.

Perceived value happens when we observe the benefits of an item we are about to buy and weigh the likelihood of that item fulfilling our needs. With perceived value, we are usually evaluating the item in question against other competing items on the shelf.

When we're the ones selling our own used items, we do so with a bias that the item is beneficial and will meet the needs of any buyer, because it did so for us. And while that may have been the case for us, it may not be the case for other consumers.

Emotional value is the worth we believe an item has based on how it makes us feel. It's what makes us think that a silver necklace gifted to us by our late grandmothers is more special than any other necklace sitting in our jewellery boxes, because it has so many memories attached to it.

But emotional attachment and sentimentality actually have no monetary equivalent on an item, nor any effect on market value, and these things can cloud our judgment when we are parting with a piece.

When selling your item — via a third party or on your own — try to be objective about what constitutes market value.

Bringing items to a third party for evaluation

Some, but not all, sellers buy from the general public and consider that a different service from appraisal. There may or may not be an evaluation fee if they decide to buy some of your items.

Do an online search for vintage shops or antique dealers in your area, and take a quick look at their inventory to see if they sell anything that seems to fit what you have. If you have an antique silverware set, find antiques or vintage shops that sell that kind of thing.

Check to see if the vintage shop, antiques dealer or reseller has posted policies about buying pieces. These might be listed on their social media highlights or on their website. They may do evaluations by appointment, or they may be not currently buying anything new.

What to do if a reseller declines your item

Just because someone sells vintage or antiques doesn’t mean your items are the right fit for their shop. A seller may want to pick through your collection and choose just an item or two, buy lots (groupings of items at a flat rate) or decline altogether.

If a seller declines, it doesn’t mean your items are not good. It just means those items aren’t right for their shop. Again, they have to calculate if they will be able to make a profit on every item they sell, otherwise they won’t be able to stay in business.

Resellers are also savvy about what sells and what doesn’t. So if you take an item to five or six different resellers who seem to sell the kind of item you are looking to get rid of and no one wants to take it, ask yourself why. Is the item damaged? Maybe it’s not sellable because it’s not popular right now.

It might mean you don’t have a great chance of selling it yourself either, in which case keeping or donating may be the better option.

Pros and cons of selling vintage to a dealer or reseller


  • Sellers know what sells and how to position your item to give it the best chance of selling.
  • You will save yourself the headache of selling (time, labour, extra money).


  • It’s not a surefire bet that a seller will take your items to sell.
  • You will receive considerably less than retail value for your item.

A woman at a donation centre examining clothing
Donating is an option if you are unable to sell yourself or via a third party. Photo: Julia M. Cameron/Pexels

Option 3: Donate, upcycle or recycle.

If you decide you don’t want to keep or sell, or you’ve tried selling an item and haven’t been successful, think about donating your item, recycling it or “upcycling” (repurposing) it into something else.

When donating, consider looking beyond the big-box thrift stores to find independent charity shops or local organizations (e.g., an arts centre seeking donated supplies or a group that collects business clothing for low-income job-seeking individuals). Some thrift stores offer coupons for purchases when you bring donations, so that's another way to earn some "cash" (store credit) for your items.

There are also resellers who collect unsellable items to donate or repurpose — ask your local shops if this is something they do.

It takes a little more planning to donate beyond the usual sources than dropping stuff off at the nearest neighbourhood donation bin, but is an excellent way to give back to your community.

Have a question about selling vintage or antiques yourself or via a third party? Let us know in the comments!

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