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How To Learn Treasure Hunting Instinct For Antiques

Updated on November 21, 2012

Recent Thrift Shop Haul

Here is a really cool knife I got because I could tell it looked finely crafted and unique. Picking instinct helps you to learn which items are best to buy!
Here is a really cool knife I got because I could tell it looked finely crafted and unique. Picking instinct helps you to learn which items are best to buy! | Source
Thrift shops are the best place to learn picking and buying things to resell. The prices are cheap and there is always something nice.
Thrift shops are the best place to learn picking and buying things to resell. The prices are cheap and there is always something nice. | Source

What separates a picker from an amateur? Knowing if you should buy an item for resale without relying on anyone else or anything else. We live in the age of smartphones and computers, where data travels at light speed, but a good picker will always have the upper hand on a tech wizard.

I am always learning about the value of antiques and collectibles and learning how to recognize them. Thanks to the internet, I have been able to learn so much faster than otherwise. I always have my smartphone with me at all times so I can double check on an item I am not sure on, or perhaps look up an item that I know nothing about. What happens if you don't have any service and can't access the internet? What should you do?

Recently I came across this situation at a church rummage sale. While I feel comfortable most of the time, there were a few items I was curious about. If I knew more about more items, perhaps I would have felt more comfortable, but there is just no way that you can know everything there is to know about everything! Still, this is where picking instinct must come in. Picking instinct is critical for anyone who is serious about the business. You won't last long without it, and if you don't work on developing it, then you are in the wrong line of work!

Here are a few things to remember if you are new to the world of picking antiques and collectibles. These are general guidelines that should help you to develop an instinct for recognizing quality when you see it!


Here are some comic books from the 70's and 80's. In this case, i got these very cheap, but picking instinct told me that they were a good deal because they were so cheap and in excellent condition, so I took a gamble on them and did fairly well.
Here are some comic books from the 70's and 80's. In this case, i got these very cheap, but picking instinct told me that they were a good deal because they were so cheap and in excellent condition, so I took a gamble on them and did fairly well. | Source
Very old books are usually worth picking up for $1 or less. Either way you have a nice decorative book and you can learn about them very easily this way. Who knows, you might even find something amazing!
Very old books are usually worth picking up for $1 or less. Either way you have a nice decorative book and you can learn about them very easily this way. Who knows, you might even find something amazing!

1) Does the item look finely crafted? This is usually very important when dealing with collectibles, but can be much less important than dealing specifically with antiques. For example, Copco is generally regarded as junk aluminum cookware, but Wearever is generally a much more desirable collectible brand for aluminum cookware. For most pieces that are not antique, you generally will want quality because to put it bluntly, they don't make stuff nowadays like they used to. For an example of this, go ahead and look at the lasting power of vintage kitchen appliances. You'll find that many vintage appliances still sell well simply because they are very durable and reliable.

This rule can totally go out the window for antiques however! Some antiques are worth a lot just because they are finely crafted and very durable, but others are worth more because they are so rare because they often broke, or were known to break very easily. You can rarely go wrong buying a very durable, finely crafted antique though.

2) Is the item all original? Does it have damage or scuff marks or signs of abuse? Quality is king. If you are unsure about an item, always consider its condition. Even a less desirable item can be worth something in excellent condition. While collectible items in poor condition can still be worth money, if you are unsure about an item just remember that quality counts. I wouldn't buy an item in poor shape if I didn't know anything about it. Check for original paint, cracks in plastic, and damage to cords or hinges.


Here are a bunch of old tools that I bought and it even came with the toolbox!
Here are a bunch of old tools that I bought and it even came with the toolbox! | Source

3) Does the item have identifying marks on it? Most items unless they are very old or hand made will have identifying marks on them. Cheap items may not have marks at all. You will usually do better to buy an item with marks on it, or better yet an item that has advertising or regional marks on it. For example, you can buy some very nice milk bottles that say "Hood Milk" on them, or you can buy an equally old bottle that is blank. Of course generally speaking, the one with markings on it will go for a lot more. It should also be noted that you don't have to even know a specific brand or maker to know an item is worth buying. For example, If a wrench has a name of a city on it, it will probably be worth more money than a wrench with only the brand name on it.

4) Is it really weird? Weird stuff almost always sells. Do you see a wooden carving of a fish eating a cat? It will probably be worth something to someone! You don't need to be a master picker to figure this out. This is one of the things that I always look for. If an item looks really weird, I can usually be safe to buy it without knowing anything about it. For example, I have bought folk art before that was very intricate. It was damaged a bit, but because it was so strange and unique, it sold quickly, and for more than i expected.

Bars of gold! I have yet to find any...
Bars of gold! I have yet to find any... | Source

5) Is it cheap to buy? This should be the best indicator of whether or not you should buy it. You can certainly take more chances on items that are cheap. Often times when I can't look up an item, but it looks like it could be something worth getting, i will always get it if the price is cheap. Considering that most items I sell are purchased for less than $5 and sold for over $20, i could be wrong 3/4 of the time and still break even. There are many items out there that you can buy for $1 or even get for free that sell for over $50.

6) Don't fall for stories. If someone is trying to tell you a really good story about an item, you usually don't want to fall for it. Talking to people is the most underrated skill in the profession. You really need to be charismatic and friendly if you really want to succeed in the business. Being able to understand people, their words, and their actions is one of the most important parts of being a picker. I have made some buys I regret after listening to a story, but I have also made some killer deals after listening to a story! It really just takes a lot of getting burned before you can tell the difference between a truth and a lie. Here's a tip about that though, don't trust someone you wouldn't feel comfortable having a round of drinks with. Sometimes a story isn't too good to be true. This is really tough to learn, but very important!

7) Don't be afraid to take a chance. Everyone gets burned from time to time and that's just part of the business. This is how you learn, develop, and build your picker instinct. The more mistakes you make, the faster you learn!

I hope you enjoyed this hub! If you liked it would you subscribe for more? Do you love treasure hunting, selling on Ebay, or just learning about cool vintage stuff? Check out my youtube channel for tons of videos about my adventures and hauls as well as tips, tricks, and countless bits of information!

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