The Buying Game: Online Auction Tips for Vintage Newbies

You’ve searched the entire world-wide-web over and found that must-have vintage treasure. With the growth of online auction sites and the nature of vintage buying and selling, there’s a good chance the item you found is up for grabs to the highest bidder.

children-computerThe nice thing about online auctions is that the bidding typically takes place over a period of days, which means you have plenty of time to gather information about the auction site and item before you begin bidding.

Here are some online auction tips for beginners.


Auction Sites
You can find many authentic vintage items on, and other smaller auction sites like, www.heritageauctions, and Regardless of which site you choose, start by familiarizing yourself with the site’s rules, FAQs, auction styles, return policies, and costs before making a bid.

Vintage Items
The term “vintage” has become increasingly popular and more widely used. With so many reproductions, and some seller’s use the word vintage out of its context, you need to examine auction listings carefully.

Read the descriptions – Items described as retro or “vintage style,” are probably not truly vintage – which is classified as an item that is at least 20 years or older. Most genuine vintage listings include dates and historical information.

Pay close attention to the pictures – There should be multiple pictures which are clear and show different views of the item. Be wary of professional stock photos – you want to see the condition of the actual item you’re buying.

Ask questions – If an item’s condition is described as “average vintage wear” or if you’re not comfortable with the description, ask for more information and/or pictures. You don’t want to find out that the vintages swag lamp you purchased has a crack in the glass after it arrives on your doorstep. Most vintage sellers are proud of their items and happy to answer any questions you may have.

The Sky’s the Limit! But Maybe Your Budget Is Not.
There’s a competitive nature in all of us, so before you get caught up in the frenzy of bidding, figure out a fair price for the auction item, determine the most you’ll pay for the item and stick to it. Remember, placing a bid is like a contract and you don’t want to end up with buyer’s remorse if you don’t pay attention to the overall cost.

Search online for similar vintage items – what are they selling for?

Add the shipping costs, these can sometimes be more than the item itself!

Does the site or seller offer returns? If so, under what conditions?

Are there any additional fees?

Better Safe than Sorry
Once you beat out the competition and have won your coveted item, be sure to choose a safe payment and shipping method. Never send cash or payments to a P.O. Box. Payments by PayPal and credit card can be disputed if the seller never delivers or misrepresents the item. And, it’s always a good idea to use a traceable shipping method such as FedEx or UPS.

Now that you have the facts, go out there and have fun! If it still makes you nervous, start by bidding on relatively inexpensive items to reduce your risk while you learn how the auction site works. You’ll be a pro in no time.

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