Your purchase avoids these discarded treasures being buried in a landfill, conserves a small piece of history, and reduces the amount of virgin materials, energy, water, chemicals and other inputs required to produce new goods.
Sure they may present dangers such as lead-based paints, termites and wood-boring insects. You may also need to deal with some ethical and legal issues, such as whether it is okay to buy old ivory or a cultural relic that should never have left its country of origin (and may even have been stolen).*
But assuming you pay a fair price and have checked their credentials, these items are likely to hold their value better than most new furniture and clothes that depreciate faster than a new car when you drive it out of the sales yard. You might even find a real bargain and make some money if/when you can bear to part with it.
On the other hand, you might be totally ripped off. Perhaps you will buy at the height of the market? For example, if you buy ‘trendy’ deco furniture just after a film like The Great Gatsby is released. Maybe this ‘too good to be true’ find is a ‘too good to be true fake’? Or the owner expected you to haggle and added some bargaining room – but you accepted the price straight away?
[Monty Python’s haggling scene in the Life of Brian springs to mind.]
You can reduce the risk of overpaying if you are willing to walk away or if you love the item so much that you will never want to sell it. You can also avoid potential disappointment by not buying secondhand clothes that are too small (that you will fit into when you lose some weight), resisting broken items (that won’t be too hard to fix), and walking straight past furniture that is too big for the space you have (but might fit if you move this and adjust that).
Unfortunately we have all been caught up in the thrill of the hunt and made decisions we regret. Those times when you dared not hesitate as the vendor couldn’t order another one in a different size anyway or replace the item if it was sold while you measured up the space or had a coffee to think about it. Sometimes you just have to trust your instincts and hope for the best.
We keep going because every so often we strike gold!
Searching through junk shops, garage sales and dark corners of antique stores is like being an explorer in Raiders of the Lost Ark or a knight in Monty Python’s Holy Grail – but the chance of success is much better, you are less likely to encounter snake pits, deep ravines and killer rabbits, and no-one chases you with guns (unless you take something without paying for it).
*Check out Nancy L. Fischer’s post about the ethics of vintage – I had never heard of ‘rag graders’ before (people who sort the clothes we give away and decide the next phase of their life).
Photo credit: © Vwvwvwvwv | Dreamstime.com
[Ed. This post was inspired by the Canberra Antiques Centre motto ‘Recycling in style’. Happy 10th birthday!]
Categories: Sustainable procurement