Growing up, I was never one to go to garage sales, flea markets, antique stores, or anything like that. I knew several people who hated the idea of buying something second-hand, thinking that it would be faulty, dirty, or cheap. On the other hand, I knew people who loved finding things second-hand because they felt that they could find hidden treasures inexpensively. Growing up, I was neither. It just wasn't something I had experienced, and I didn't have an opinion one way or another. As I got older, especially in college, I was always looking for a good deal, no matter where it may be.

Based on my recent buying practices, I wasn't surprised to hear that antique and vintage sales have been soaring lately. There are a lot of factors that play into this, and it is quite fascinating. Before we get into the reasons why things are selling, let's better understand some of the terms. This was something that confused me for a while:

  • Items under 30 years old are most often considered "pre-owned."
  • Items between 30 and 100 years old are most often considered "vintage."
  • Items that are older than 100 years are most often considered antiques.

A lot of the big ticket items are sofas/couches, tables/desks, dressers, chairs, patio furniture, enamel cookware, clothes, jewelry, and anything bar-related. Paty Quynn, who is one of our DJ's on The Wolf, also works at Antiques Barn At Water Street Market in New Paltz. I asked her what trends she has noticed, and she said, "We are discovering that most people find purchasing a preowned / upcycled / or even a vintage piece - is more economical, adds more character to their home, and right now is easier to access than new furniture due to the supply and demand issues." Boy, has she made a number of good points, so let's dive into it more.

Sustainability

In the Washington Post article that I linked above, they say:

According to Environmental Protection Agency statistics, 12.1 million tons of furniture and furnishings waste was generated in 2018, up from 2.2 million tons in 1960. The EPA also reports that 80.1 percent of what was discarded ended up in landfills or disposal centers.

Many people have been turning towards thinking green in recent years, and are trying new ways in order to assist in that. Just as it is important to buy locally grown and fresh produce at a supermarket, it's also a big deal to buy locally used furniture. Plus, these furniture pieces have proven to be durable. Things aren't built to last like they used to. I marvel at the fact that my college refrigerator was the same refrigerator my mom used in college. I still use it for drinks downstairs in my family room! Yes, that is more of an appliance than furniture, but the couch that sits right by that refrigerator, I believe, is from the 80s, and it is still in great shape! People want things that will last, not something that will fall apart a couple of years after purchasing it.

Cost Efficiency

Buying things second hand tends to be cheaper. Growing up, it felt like antiquing, thrifting and things along those lines were for "old people." By the time I hit college, I learned how wrong I was. It is for everyone, especially a college-aged crowd that has little to no money in their pockets. We didn't have any money! I've helped friends haul couches we would find on street corners into their dorms and apartments! Many of my girl friends would love going to thrift stores to buy new outfits. My roommates and close friends would buy kitchenware from antique and second-hand stores because it was cheaper. If you're looking for something on a budget, this is a good way to go about it.

Accessibility

As Paty mentioned before, along with the Washington Post article, the supply chain issues have been a major factor in the uptick in antique and vintage sales. There is inaccessibility to new products, so people are turning elsewhere. Buying secondhand online is nothing new. People have been using eBay and CraigsList for years, and now with the addition of Facebook Marketplace, it is even easier to sell pre-owned, vintage, and antique wares.

Again, remember how I said that when growing up, it felt that this kind of stuff was for old people? This is another reason to think again! Younger generations who have grown up with the internet find ease and comfort in buying online. Perhaps not as many young people are going into stores directly (honestly, we are still in a pandemic, I don't blame anyone for not wanting to go anywhere), but their online savvy has encouraged and bolstered online sales. For instance, searches for vintage or antique couches on Etsy increased by 126% in 2021 compared with 2019. Social media has helped antique shops reach a new market of customers. Shops can post items online on Instagram to get people interested in their products. Plus, most places have some kind of website these days. Local antique stores are now able to sell to people not just in their local community, but to people states away even!

Nostalgia

The pandemic has not been easy on anyone, and during this time, we gravitated towards things that made us feel safe and comfortable. Many people binged their favorite shows over and over. Others got more into gaming. Many people turned to picking up a good book, perhaps an old series they loved as a kid. The mantra that "nostalgia sells" has been around for years. We see that constantly with film and media. Disney has been making live-action versions of their biggest hits to make money off of nostalgia. Reboots and sequels are all the rage! I remember reading a post close to New Year's that had the Top 10 Most Anticipated movies of 2022, and I believe all of them were either a sequel, a reboot, or a sequel to a reboot. The same can be said about the pre-owned/vintage/antique market.

Renovating was huge during the pandemic. It still is. It gave people something they could control during a time that has been out of control. It offers a change of pace and gives something new to the buyer. Even still, it all plays into nostalgia. We find sophistication in things that we find that are older. We are drawn to things that remind us of better days, whether we realize it or not. Consciously or subconsciously, we are drawn to things that we are used to. "A lot of people are getting back to basics, and a lot of what antique and thrift stores have are items that remind people of a good memory. Granny's cookies - mom's house," said Paty. One of my favorite things that I bought from an antique store was a painting of a sunset at sea. I have always been obsessed with the water because of my love of growing up on the Hudson River and the many hours I spent chilling on a dock watching the sunset while listening to Jimmy Buffett music. Jimmy Buffett music is something that I attribute to time with my dad. It currently hangs in my bedroom.

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