Today we have a guest post courtesy of Ellen from Vintage Flair. Some really good advice here and it reminds me of when I used to buy and hire vintage bits when Margot’s Wedding was Doily Days… oh the nostalgia (and yes, the dolls house teapot thing happened to me too)!
Over to Ellen:
From teacups to candlesticks and props, shopping for vintage pieces to style your wedding is great fun and really adds a personal touch to your venue. For the past 9 years I’ve been buying vintage crockery, cutlery and glassware for my hire business, Vintage Flair, and I’m going to share with you what I’ve learnt. Here are my top tips for sourcing antiques.
1. Large antique fairs are a great day out and you can buy everything from cutlery to furniture. Get there nice and early on the first day to get the best bargains. Yes, early bird tickets are more expensive but that’s because it’s when you get the best bits. Don’t forget your wellies and warm clothes as they can often be chilly and muddy.
2. At antique fairs the outdoor pitches are where the best bargains can be found but be prepared to have a rummage to find the treasures. Most vendors will hold on to your purchases for you so you don’t have to carry them around all day. Just don’t forget to collect them all at the end of the day!
3. If silverware looks black don’t worry, it’s just natural tarnish which will come off with silver cleaner or bicarbonate of soda. Silver plate items can be identified by the marks EPNS or AI.
4. Ask for discount. Antique fairs, carboot sales and antique shops expect this. Haggling can be fun and if you aim for a 10% discount you will usually get it. Start low and then come back up to meet in the middle – yes you will feel cheeky but it’s all part of the fun and its expected.
5. An A/F sticker means ‘as found’ this indicates there is a problem with the product – it is faulty or damaged.
6. With bone china items, take a look at the underneath and if there is a mark through the makers stamp this means the product is of second quality. Have a good look to see where the fault is. Often it’s just a slight imperfection but it could be a piece of the design is missing. You can expect to pay less for ‘seconds’.
7. Car boot sales can be a great way to bag a bargain. Do some research to find those sales local to you where they limit the types of sellers e.g. not rows of market stalls selling toot. The early bird really does catch the worm so get there nice and early. Don’t forget your shopping bags and lots of cash.
8. Auctions are full of vintage treasures and if the buyer turnout is low you can get some great bargains. You can view items before the auction date either in person or online. When attending an auction you need to register as a buyer which is when you get given you bidding paddle. Know your maximum bid before the auction starts or you might just get a bit carried away when it gets going.
9. If you can’t make an auction date but really want items in the sale, you can pre-register your bids and the auction will bid for you. There will be a fee for this service but it could be worth it if you really want the items.
10. Online purchases (Ebay/Facebay etc) are such easy purchases to make, however it’s a big gamble to make as you can’t see the items and have to trust the sellers description. Before placing a bid ask for a condition report. For crockery items I always ask for a report on the glazing (I don’t want crazing – when it looks all crackled), gilt (I don’t want it all faded and worn away) and whether it has any damage (chips or cracks).
11. To find the best bargains on e-bay set the filter to ‘Auction’ or ‘Collection Only’ and search your local area using the radius setting.
12. A description of ‘In Good Vintage Condition’ usually means it’s NOT in good condition and might be damaged/faded/looking old. If you are looking for shabby chic then maybe it will be ok but if you want good quality I’d ask a few more questions about any damage.
13. With online purchases ask for the dimensions as it can often be misleading on the screen. Teapot and jug sizes can be asked for in pints which will give you a good idea and eliminate the risk of you receiving a dolls house miniature – yes that’s happened to me before.
I hope you enjoy your antiquing adventures and if you don’t manage to source all of the items you require then you can always hire in the remaining. Just don’t forget to mark yours with a sticker so they don’t get muddled up.