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A Beginners's Guide To Collecting: How And Where To Find Items For A Vintage Collection

Updated on January 23, 2013
DC Comics Collection
DC Comics Collection
Vintage My Little Pony Collection
Vintage My Little Pony Collection

If you enjoy collecting items that are no longer found in stores, chances are you need to be more than a little creative to get the items you are looking for. There are a lot of ways you can go about collecting these items but bear in my mind that with any collection, there are probably a lot of people who are looking for the same things as you.

Online Auctions

One of the most popular and obvious ways to collect is to find items with online auctions like Ebay. Ebay is one of the most popular places to buy and sell a variety of items. If you are buying online, a lot of people enjoy Ebay because of the feedback system and because Paypal protects buyers from being taken advantage of. There is also a downside to Ebay: it is hard to find bargains on Ebay, a lot of sellers will sell their items for a lot of money either because they know the value of the item, or to cover the costs associated with using the site. Ebay is a good place to find what you are looking for, but it can also be a very costly venture.

Online Classifieds

Online classifieds like Craigslist are another great way to find objects to fill your collection. A lot of people will post ads in their local Craigslist classifieds when they are selling items. These places are great because you can select your local area, and you save on shipping costs if you are able to pick the item up yourself. They are also free to use in most areas. A lot of times, people selling items on craigslist don’t bother to sell individual items but will bundle a group of the same item together, so you might get a better deal on a larger group of collectibles.

You can also place wanted ads on these online classifieds describing what you are looking for. Sometimes if someone in your area happens to want to sell an item, they might check craigslist first: You never know: instead of listing the item, they might see your wanted ad and contact you directly, giving you first dibs on the items that they are getting rid of.

Join A Club

In many areas clubs and groups exist for like-minded people to meetup and trade collections. If no group exists in your area: form a group of people who collect the same things as you. Having a group to turn to for your collection needs can be one of the most valuable resources that you can have at your disposal. It benefits you to keep in touch with people that collect the same things as you because if they find something that they don’t want and you happen to want it for your collection, you have the possibility to trade or buy it from them. Having a collector group also helps because they might know about locations or contacts that you don’t know about, and a larger group of people will be able to find a lot more things. Hopefully the people in your group are willing to part with some of the items they come across. In certain cases some collectors do not want to share: I have met several collectors who have had trouble parting with items they owned, even if they had a dozen duplicates of the same item.

Forming a group can be difficult if you don’t know where to start. Chances are that there are online communities and forums that share the same passions that you do, join these communities, and find out if anyone is from your area and willing to form a group. But be careful, There are lots of potentially dangerous people who might be willing to pose as anything to take advantage of an unsuspecting victim.

Garage Sales

Garage Sales are one of the easiest and most obvious ways to find the type of things that you collect. Of course whenever you go to a garage sale, you never know what you are going to find at each one, so it takes a lot of patience and time. The benefit of going to garage sales is that it’s a great place to find bargains: people don’t generally sell things there that they want to make A LOT of money off of, people mostly sell things at garage sales to make a little money on a lot of things and get rid of their excess clutter fast.

A good tip to keep in mind when going to garage sales is that if you see that people have similar items to the ones you are looking for, then it’s very possible that they have the items you are looking for as well. Ask the seller if by chance they have what you are looking for. It’s possible they just never thought about selling it, or didn't have time to bring those items to their sale. It doesn’t hurt to ask, and if they do you have what you want and they are willing to sell it, then all the better for you.

Flea Markets

Flea Markets are like garage sales in the sense that you never know what you will find there. Most areas have more than a few flea markets that operate in the summer months, and sometimes flea markets operate all year long. If you have the time it’s important to keep going back to them, and I would suggest talking to some of the vendors about what you collect: give them your phone number so that they can call you if they come across what you are looking for.

Thrift Stores

Once again, you really require patience when you shop at a thrift store. The great thing about thrift stores is that a lot of them are raising money for a charity of some kind, so shopping there is a great way to help out local charity groups and fill your collecting needs all in one shot. Keep in mind that some thrift stores have strange laws about what they are allowed to sell. For example I have heard that the Salvation Army doesn’t sell hard plastic toys in the US anymore because they might contain lead in them. So it’s important to keep in mind what your local thrift does and does not carry, in order to save your time.

With Thrift stores, Flea markets and garage sales, you need a lot of patience and need to have a keen eye for looking for things. Bear in mind the items you are looking for might not be in plain sight and on display: it might be at the bottom of a box full of unrelated items. Be prepared to look around and dig deep.


Actively collecting something means you are likely going to be meeting a lot of new people while you are on the hunt for your personal treasures. Be friendly and upfront with the people you meet. Ask them about the items you are looking for and let people know that you collect them. It’s been my experience that if you are looking for something, people are willing to help out. Networking is an important tool to help you find what you are looking for. Above all else make sure you have fun while you are looking. Happy Hunting!


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    • profile image

      Jazz 5 years ago

      Great guide!Reads like the work of a veteran collector/pro writer!

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 5 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Great tips for finding items to add to a collection. I think a lot of collections start by accident. You find that you have several related objects and presto! A collection. While cleaning house, and rearranging things stored away in drawers, I realized that I had a nice collection of vintage fabrics! I keep adding to the collection every time I organize!