Monday, 4 October 2010

Mark up Queens

And Kings. This is not a gender biased post. It is, however, a little ranty and a tad long. Get a cuppa.

I shop at charity shops, car boots and ebay. Mostly second hand, that to me, looks on the money for the 1940's time traveller I aspire to be. I rarely buy vintage  - unless I am knocked unconscious by its loveliness -  like my green 1950's handbag that I found at Vintage at Goodwood. £35 to me was on the "HOW MUCH???!" side -  but, when I came to, it was mine. Opps.

I trust myself to know the value of something. And I usually do it by trying to imagine how much something like the thing I am oggling would cost me new. And that usually makes my decision for me. It has saved me a lot of money, and nabbed me some bargains. Vintage & retro has become popular, nay, fashionable over the last couple of years. Which is great on one hand, because there is a lot more to chose from out there by way of, for example, shoes and coats for this chilly season.


But... but ... but. It also means that alot of places that used to be full of bargains galore have thought ..."hang on a cotton picking... we could make MORE out of this?!" Charity shops I sit on the fence about. I think I feel bad for not wanting to pay more for something,  my heart whispering to me that the money is going towards helping people, but my brain is screeching at me "ITS SECOND HAND!!! YOU COULD BUY A NEW ONE FROM MARKS FOR LESS!!!" And all because its 80's and had some cute beading on it. These things were donated -  not sourced. Surely-  in a charity shop -  it being older should mean its cheaper? And don't put it on a special marked up rail or shelf. That just yells "get your old overpriced goods here"

Now -  as a previous member of the self employed melee, I am all for making profit. If I had made more if it -  I would still have my membership card. So -  I waiver on proper vintage shops, virtual and on the high street. Such as Tuppance Ha'Penny's  ,  Penny Dreadful's  or Baroness Von Vintages's etsy shops (I am in no way affiliated with these ladies -  I just happened to notice that they have a good range of vintage wears for sale at realistic prices) These lovelies know their stock. They live and breathe it. I don't believe them out to dupe or cheat anyone. I have also found more than fair prices on Ebay (various shops available) and also at the plethora of vintage and retro places in the likes of Camden.

Again. BUT. There are those that mark up for marking ups sake. They find a bargain in a charity shop, take it home, clean it and then put a stupid price on it. And I mean stupid. And how do I know its from a charity shop? Because it still has the St-whatevers-Hospice tag on it, advising me that the now £65 mirror actually cost the seller £12. That mark up is so much -  I cannot even calculate it. And invariably walk away.
But its the likes of the "shabby-chic-vintage-retro" stalls and shops that sell any old toot and expect the red lippy, pin curl brigade to bludgeon their fellow vintage sisters (or misters) with their handbags (or man bag satchels) to get to their stock, that really grip my shit. Or worse. 

You are at the car boot and you overhear someone asking "how much for this cardigan" The reply is a more than reasonable "£1". You close you eyes, hold your breath and repeat the mantra "walk away from it... you don't need it... I do!" It works!!! She leaves and you pounce. You get out your gold nugget and take it over to the seller. You say "£1, yes?" and the reply is "No -  that one is £4" She smiles sweetly and says "I love your look, that cardigan would really suit you".  You realise she is being savvy because of the way you dress, and that, as a vintage gal, she thinks you will adjust your headscarf and hand over the money .You punch her and go in search of The Beard for a roll up.
Why do people assume that, because we dress the way we do, that we are unaware of the value of things? Or when we are being rear-ended? Am I to dress in joggers and a hoody just so that I am treated fairly when purchasing something? (that thought has just made me feel a little sick)

Then again, maybe it is all fair game? I was recently in a shop in a rather hoypaloy type area. For sale was an "antique patchwork blanket". So I thought "why isn't that behind glass?" and promptly strolled over to have a closer stroke. I stopped in my tracks when I saw the clearly 1970's material. And lots of it. I nearly fainted when I saw the price tag, that informed me that it was made in 1870 something and it would set me back over a grand. I was outraged at, effectively, being lied to. And then I remembered where I was and the type of money that the average customer would have at their disposal. If people don't know what they are looking at and have cash to splash, and more to the point want something purely because it is labelled "antique" or "vintage" -  is it right for them to have the patchwork pulled over their eyes?

What say you? Have you had a similar experience? What drives you crazy about  searching for a vintage life in a modern world?


  1. As a vintage seller AND buyer/collector, I have to say that there are some rotten apples that have spoiled the barrel, but those rotten apples are thriving because people are paying their exhorbitant prices! I'm thinking of one Etsy shop in particular that sells vintage dresses for $300 + dollars that are really not worth even close to that pricing...all because they have dazzled buyers with lovely photos/lighting/staging. To be fair, SOME vintage dresses (i.e., those from the 1920s and earlier that are in amazing wearable condition) might be worth that amount. But others? Nahhh. I should also not that the reality is that, in many countries, vintage from the 1940s and earlier is incredibly scarce (esp. in wearable condition). This is due to the movie industry hoarding items, people chopping up 30s dresses to make minis, etc etc. One way or another, dwindling supply coupled with higher demand will inevitably drive up prices. I've been reading a vintage seller/collector book from the late 80s that bemoans the end of the golden era of vintage, when a person could scoop up bags of 20s dresses for pennies. However, now that people are beginning to see the TRUE value of vintage (its uniqueness, the craftsmanship, etc), the supply is dwindling, so when you can snag a bargain, hurrah! Final note: I must admit that as much as I dislike sellers who are clearly getting greedy with their markups and gouging people, I get peeved at vintage sellers who undervalue their garments as well. We good vintage sellers pay money and expend time sleuthing for items, then doing repairs, cleaning, restoring, and listing items so that they can be enjoyed and cherished by buyers who might not otherwise be able to ever find such treasures. Since not many people these days have the time or skills necessary to acquire many vintage lovelies, our work does have value and should be recognized as such through prices that are fair to both buyers AND sellers. In the end, as in other industries, the cheapest way to source something is to buy direct if you can. If you can't buy direct from estate sales, markets, etc, then buyers need to do their homework, know their vintage eras, be aware of price inflation AND the fact that a 30s dress is going to be more expensive than a 1960s one, due to scarcity, etc.

  2. Oh, I should mention I was sorry to read about how some vendors were trying to dupe you because of your vintage attire. I must note I have gotten the opposite treatment when appearing in vintage garb at vintage fairs, etc. For some reason, the local vendors here see that as a sign that I know my stuff and will therefore not easily be tricked. Funny how that works, eh?

  3. Thanks for the essay - I mean post (ha ha!)I hear ya! And I am not adverse, in ANY way, shape, or form, in paying for something in fab condition and for a fair price - depending on my bank balance and how much it knocks me out with its dazzling age. The items you have for sale and wear yourself are FANTASTIC! I can only comment on the experiences I have had in my vintage/second hand searches. I loathe the feeling like sellers have seen me coming and jack up the price accordingly. I do know what I am looking at - and, in fairness, its mostly second hand, not even vintage.
    Thanks for posting :)

  4. It must be a British thing as I have received the same treatment.A while back at a car boot sale a man tried to sell me a clock,now don't get me wrong I adore timepieces.He signaled me out for the way I looked.Repeatedly argued with me on the price and TOLD me that I was mistaken on the clocks history.Now I do know my clocks and I think he soon realised this after he had made an ass of himself not even giving the correct date which I told him would be in a certain place,on looking his manner changed dramatically.I knew he was praying for a hole to open and swallow him!

  5. Ginge - I think you are possibly right. I do so love it when people know their stuff and cannot be had!

  6. I rarely go to Boot Fairs or antique markets dressed in vintage as I also get the bumped up prices treatment! My tip, jeans and a hoodie for Boot Fair trips!

    I sell second hand and vintage clothes on eBay which I source from a variety of places. Most of my stuff is newer and I try very hard to price fairly, but so I can make a profit. I work hard not only finding the stuff, but making sure it's in a saleable condition, cleaning, repairing, researching, photographing and storing the stuff isn't free.

    I do find myself furious sometimes in charity shops that write "vintage" or even just "Laura Ashley" or "Monsoon" on labels and then triple the price, yet the piece is covered in stains or full of holes. It might be something that for £5 I could have bought, repaired, and sold on. But for £15 in a charity shop, unrepaired, it means that my resale value would have to be so high as to be more than the piece is worth. So I walk away and both and I and the Charity Shop lose out. It's not even worth risking the money if it's something to keep for myself, as there's never any guarantee those stains will come out!

    There is one particular seller at a local Boot Fair who drives me mad. He had a 1940s dress for sale once, it was full of holes, ripped, and essentially completely beyond saving. You'd have thought he was selling the crown jewels! A ripped, stained and torn unwearable dress is just that, regardless how old it is. *sigh*

    My wardrobe is almost entirely purchased from eBay or charity shops, and whilst I love a vintage look I'm generally not that worried about the clothes I wear being "genuine" vintage. It's the style I like. The vintage pieces I do have I treasure and care for!

    Sorry, rant over!

  7. Hey Gemma! Rant away! I started it :) It wasn't intended to be a ranting post (not so early in my blogging anyway!) but it progressed in writting to be just that.
    I feel much better about my own views when I read of others similar experiences!
    Thanks for posting :)

  8. I second everything you, the Baroness, and Retro Chick have said. It is a bit of a poisoned chalice really - for those of us that love vintage, it is fantastic to see it becoming more mainstream so that lots of people can appreciate and enjoy it. Unfortunately, what goes along with that is a whole heap of cowboys coming in and trying to make money by duping people. It makes me furious to see people selling things on ebay which they mark as 50s but is clearly 80s! And I don't think buyers should need to be experts in order to avoid those tricks. As for overprices charity shops - don't get me started! My local has a fairly drab 50s dress in VERY poor condtion recently... I thought it might be worth the effort if the price was right, but it was £100!! Anyway, glad you liike my shop - I'm always worried about whether I am pricing fairly or not, it can be hard to be a ruthless businessperson when you are dealing in something you love!

  9. Oh lord, apologies for my numerous typing errors above

  10. Hmm. I don't seem to have had the bad experiences most people have had, although I haven't bought much vintage clothing in years 'cos I'm now too fat. Perhaps sending a car booting relative along is the answer.

    My local charity shops don't tend to get vintage, so I hadn't realised they priced things so high - I've been trawling unsuccessfully for handbags and brooches lately (I clean up on cheap current M&S for work, though). We do have an awesome Heart Foundation secondhand furniture shop which has 1930s wardrobes and the like in, restored, for decent prices. It always makes me wish I had a bigger house.

  11. Loving the rant! I've experienced much of the above. Charity shops putting £10 on the price and writing 'Monsoon' or 'Topshop' on the label frustrates the hell out of me. It wouldn't even be so bad if they only did it for Prada items, but mid level high street? Same goes for Primark items at close to normal Primark prices. WTF? We have one old fashioned charity shop left in Bristol, it smells like old people and everything is crammed in on top of everything else. I love it and I'm terrified of it ever getting a face lift!
    Equally, when it comes to traders, I am often horrified by the outrageous prices. I usually have a price in mind for each item, depending on age, condtion etc. and I try to be firm that if I can't get a vendor to come close to it, I won't pay. I wear vintage items regularly during the week, so I'm happy to pay a reasonable price for something in good condition. Too many people take the piss though and it can get depressing!

  12. You are right. I love that vintage clothing and home wares have become more popular and 'accessible'. It means i have more people to talk to about my loves!!! But I was....ok still am, a charity shop fiend!!!! I have my favourite places, one where I had to educate the ladies that they had to STOP sending anything older than 1990 to Africa :-O
    But some shops, car boots etc have not become wise (which is inevitable) they have become greedy. My bug bear is ugly things.

    Just because something has a bit of age to it, does not make it instantly desirable!! Nor should it mean that you instantly add a zero to what would have been its reasonable price.

    These are not antique items we are talking about. they are difficult to wash, second hand clothes that will probably need some adjustments to nice to us vintage lovers please :-( We aren't all rich!


I'd love to hear what you think so feel free to comment away!


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