Any retail business should always learn from their sales (and non-sales) in order to fine-tune future purchases, and of course we do this casually as we go, but for the new year we're looking back at all our sales and purchases of 2013 to do a little more formal review. We're always learning new things about vintage items, and every little bit helps us find more cool stuff and maximize our profits. Sometimes we feel the pull to keep the knowledge we have gained over the past couple years to ourselves, but really we'd rather be a resource for everyone, so we can all become better vintage hunters together!
These items were either bought or sold in 2013, and most fit into both those categories (though there are a few that were bought earlier, and some that sold in the past week). This is just a small selection of our sales, but these are the items that seems to show trends in vintage sales, or were just our favorite high profit pieces. In no particular order, our 2013 vintage bestsellers:
This one's pretty obvious: Cathrineholm sells. "Cathrineholm" was the number one search term leading to our shop on Etsy in 2013, so not only does it sell, but it also brings people to our shop. Last year we sold a bunch of orange lotus bowls we bought on ebay, a blue lotus skillet and a Celebration skillet (ok, not quite Cathrineholm, but basically the same) we bought at Brimfield. These weren't the highest grossing items for us, since we usually end up spending a good amount to buy them in the first place, but they are crowd pleasers! All our Cathrineholm sold with the exception of a pair of little yellow bowls with the smaller lotus pattern, which are still in our shop and have been there for quite awhile now; we're not sure why they aren't selling, but hopefully they'll go eventually.
A new good seller we discovered this year was Danish modern flatware with wood handles. We sold three different kinds in 2013 at a hefty profit for each set. We will definitely keep our eyes out for more in 2014!
An end of the year surprise was how well these telephone stands sell! We picked all three of these up for cheap (the one on the left at a thrift store in Ojai, and the two on the right at the Rose Bowl), and they all sold quickly at $48 each on Etsy, which was a good margin for us.
We've been fans of Dansk enamelware from the beginning, so it makes perfect sense that we sold every piece of Kobenstyle we listed in 2013. It seems that every color, shape, and size sells well, so we always pick Dansk up when we see it, as long as it's in decent shape. On the other hand, the melamine and wood Dansk items can be great or just ok. We've sold some melamine items no problem, but we still have a cool set of tumblers in our shop waiting for a good home; also, we sold one Dansk wood pepper mill immediately after listing, but an identical one we bought after that sale has been languishing for quite awhile now. (Update: whoa! The second peppermill literally just sold within a couple hours of posting this blog. Schwing!)
Vintage phones of all sorts have been a best seller for us since the beginning, and they continue to make good profits. In 2013 we sold all four telephones we listed, but that's nothing compared to the eleven phones we sold in 2012! We always test them to make sure they are working, but we've even sold some partially working phones (usually just broken ringers, and of course we included that info in the listings) as well as a couple cool old phones with unusable cords that we couldn't test. Classic rotary phones are a solid seller, especially in a good color, but we also found that vintage style phones with push buttons sell well.
Pyrex can be hit or miss, and we've tailored our Pyrex purchasing a lot in the last year to reflect what we have learned. In 2013 we pretty much stopped buying most solid colored or common pattern pieces, and that served us well, as we actually made good profits and quick sales with what we did buy, which is basically limited to Butterprint or other particularly nice patterns, full sets in good shape, the cork ball decanters, and particularly unique pieces like the 20's-30's era Pyrex with silver-plated stand in the upper left.
Although many of our sales fit into neat categories, some of our favorites from 2013 stand alone. All five of these sold relatively quickly and gave us excellent profits. Going clockwise from the upper left we have an Arthur Umanoff wine rack with replaced leather straps, a large set of glass stacking kitchen canisters with orange lids, a brass gooseneck lamp (it was on the front of the vintage lighting browse section on Etsy for a little bit and got an obscene amount of favorites!), a set of three Chemex coffee makers with filters, and my favorite Arabia of Finland kitty pitcher.
We downsized dramatically in 2013 for our big cross country move, and after having a huge yard sale to sell off all the vintage items we didn't want to take with us, we've tried to be more deliberate about not buying the types of items that ended up getting kicked down to the yard sale. You can see some of those in the yard sale post, but a quick rundown of vintage items we try to steer clear of now in general: boring Pyrex, fondue sets, mugs and glasses (except for silver band glasses--those are usually good), cheap ice buckets, any dishes or glasses that aren't a full or at least large enough set, most globes (except for particularly cool or old ones), and lots of other small items that can't be sold for much profit.
What sold best for you in 2013? Any surprises? What didn't sell? What do you think of our bestsellers? Do you review your year in sales to find trends and adjust future purchasing?