Are you ready to sell vintage?

I remember my first vintage show. All of it, the good and the bad. It was a great experience, but I made some big money mistakes. To help new vintage vendors avoid them, here's a few things to keep in mind. 

1. Keep it simple

I couldn't wait to do my first show! It's the experience that led me to where I am today.  Can't go wrong being over prepared, right? Wrong. Less is more.

So I:

  • Brought too much stuff to manage for a two-day show.
  • Drove two vehicles, four hours each way. Ouch on the gas.
  • Went far from home adding hotel expenses and food.
  • Spent too much on full price retail display type items because I thought I had to have them.

I wish I would have:

    • Picked a local market where I could learn without travel expenses.
    • Taken my time on buying costly display things until I knew exactly what I needed.
    • Realized that booth rent is not the only expense.
    • Observed and noticed layouts and booths that were busy and taken notes.
    • Started with only a few tables of stuff so I could observe other booths and customers.
    • Talked to the promoter and other vendors and asked questions.

2. Set Realistic Expectations

My first show I thought customers would crowd around me, everything would be sold and customers would be so excited by my stuff they would carry me out on their shoulders chanting my name.

That's not what happened. Success takes time. So...

  • Be committed to learn.
  • Be humble and pay attention to what applies to your business.
  • Smile and build relationships.
  • Make your own decisions on what shows you want to do.
  • Don't blame others.

Not every market is right for all vintage vendors. Just like online, you may be better at selling on Ebay than Etsy. What did it take for you to reach that conclusion?

  • When in doubt talk to the promoter. Your success is their success. Ask their advice on how to get started. Ask to be placed near dealers with a lot of successful show experience so you can get some pointers.
  • Remember: When you ask other vintage dealers their opinions on a show you haven't done, their opinion can be skewed for many reasons. So while building relationships with your peers is a great idea, it's a business and you can't base it on opinion unless you are ready to ask them factual questions. This dealer may have more expenses, different merchandise or different price points than you. Do your research and figure out what's the right fit for you and your business.

3. Give Your Brand Identity a Little Time To Evolve

You started this because you have a great eye for vintage and knew you could make a business out of it. Buffy's Cool Collectible Rose Shabby Chipped Cottage seemed memorable, but now you hate it.

Take your time in finding your niche and brand. Don't think you must name your business immediately; have cards made with your first and last name. Call yourself a vintage enthusiast and make sure your style shines through when customers come into your booth. Work towards the branding you want and when you are ready to unveil it, you will already have a following that will be excited for you!

Vintage Garage Chicago business card
Start Simple
Bad Vintage Business card
Just Don't


Here are a few posts I wrote about my own experiences as a vintage seller:

My First Show Ever

What's the Least You Need to Know to Sell Vintage? 

For the seller with experience:

The Secret to Competition in the Vintage Industry

I hope this helps, and if you decide to take the plunge and decide to be a vintage vendor at the Vintage Garage, check out our  dealer application.

If we haven't met, I'm Melissa Sands, owner of Vintage Garage Chicago and vintage seller and buyer. I've loved the business of buying and selling vintage for a long time.

If you've never been to the Garage, check out the Vintage Garage on WGN. If you have a passion for vintage, learn about selling at the Vintage Garage Chicago.

Vintage Garage Chicago flea market, located Uptown.


Vintage Garage Sale Chicago is perfect for vintage vendors.  Sell great vintage on the 3rd Sunday April through October in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood.
Vintage Garage Sale Chicago happens each month.  Vintage vendors sell great vintage on the 3rd Sunday April through October in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood.
Vintage Garage Sale Chicago happens each month on Broadway.  Vintage vendors hook up on the 3rd Sunday April through October in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood.