There are quite a few ways that you can sell your vintage costume jewelry. We are presenting some of the options here and explaining the basic procedures for each. Regardless of how you decide to sell your jewelry, however, there are some steps that you can take to improve your chances of being successful.
- When you are pricing your jewelry, do not factor in its sentimental value to you. It will not hold that value for your average stranger on the street (your potential buyer).
- Do not factor in what the jewelry cost new. This can go either way for you. Some jewelry appreciates, other depreciates.
- It is rarely worth the expense to have costume jewelry professionally appraised. But if you have some pieces that you suspect may be especially valuable, that’s an option for you.
- Jewelry will sell faster and for a higher price if it is in very good to excellent condition, e.g., undamaged, no missing parts, sparkling clean.
- Be careful when cleaning your jewelry. There are cleaning materials that can damage or even permanently ruin some pieces. Ask a local jeweler for the proper cleaning procedures or read our article on how to clean your vintage costume jewelry.
- Cleaning with a dry microfiber cloth is safe and effective, and a very soft brush (e.g., baby’s toothbrush) is a good way to clear out dust from crevices.
- It’s good to have some talking points regarding your jewelry, such as the era it represents; some interesting information about the era or the materials, especially if it is not widely known; or even what it has meant to you. Being able to chat about the items engages a potential buyer and makes both you and your jewelry more interesting.
I’m not talking Christie’s and Sotheby’s, of course. There are local/regional auction houses that auction off more affordable goods. Yes, it’s a gamble. You are betting your items will sell high and they might sell low. The good part is that they are almost certain to sell. Find an auction house with a stellar reputation and one that is experienced in selling costume jewelry. Also, make sure you are clear (and comfortable) with the how the house charges. In general, you can expect to pay at least 15% of the selling price.
These shops display your jewelry and take care of selling it for a percentage, usually between 20% and 30% of the price. You and the shop’s proprietor will have a contract for the selling price, what the commission is, how long the shop will keep the items, who is liable should the jewelry be lost, stolen or damaged. The shop will call you when an item sells. Don’t be a pest, but keep in touch with the shop so that your items do not get relegated to the back of the shelf. You want a consignment shop with goods that fit in with your jewelry. For instance, a shop that specializes in children’s merchandise will not draw the type of clientele you want.
Vintage Boutiques, Upscale Hair Salons and Spas
While not officially consignment shops, there are vintage boutiques and upscale hair salons and spas that will provide a small space for you to display your jewelry for a percentage of the sales. It may take you a while to search out the ones who will.
Art and Craft Fairs
These fairs are especially popular during November and early December as people shop for holiday gifts. Some fairs allow only handmade goods, so first thing, you need to confirm that you can sell your jewelry there. You rent a space, which usually costs $10 - $20 for the day. They may supply the table or you may have to bring your own. Because the patrons of these fairs tend to have an appreciation for design and/or an interest in art, you will get a good amount of interest in your jewelry.
Flea Markets and Antique Malls
Flea markets and antique malls are similar but have distinct differences. Flea markets are typically held outdoors, and you commit to one day at a time. Antiques malls are in a large building, and you contract for a specified period of time—possibly up to one year.
To sell at a flea market, you show up early in the morning and rent a space for the day, maybe $15 (cash) for a 10’ by 20’ space. These markets are held on weekends, some every weekend, some monthly, some periodically. The advantage is that it is inexpensive to try various venues. Another is that flea markets attract crowds of people with varied interests.
To sell at an antique mall, you pay at least by the month, often for a longer period, for a stall, which you can turn into your own little “shop.” If you do not have enough jewelry for a stall, you might have a friend who will share it. To increase your chances of success,
- have a clean stall with your jewelry beautifully arranged and elevated at different heights;
- have a range of prices to attract all types of shoppers;
- do not devalue your items (as you might for a yard sale);
- have nothing less than $5;
- have nothing that is damaged—not one thing, you want to establish a reputation for quality.
A great advantage to selling in an antique mall is that you enjoy a camaraderie with the other vendors (who may also be buyers) and with the shoppers as you get to know them.
Mobile-driven Local Marketplaces
Huh? That’s a big name for a little app! I call them “online yard sales,” because I’m selling to local people in person and in cash. There are many of these marketplaces, including Letgo, 5 Miles, and Offer Up. They cost nothing to join, and it’s easy to sign up and to sell on them. Also, you can join as many as you like. You do not pay a commission or a percentage of sales. Each marketplace may have its own procedures, but they are all similar.
Download the free app onto your smart phone. When you open it, you will fill out your profile: name, address, etc. Then you are ready to sell by tapping on the camera icon or “Done.” Take a photo of your item from different angles with a nicely contrasting background and good lighting. Then you enter in the field provided what the item is, e.g., “Art Deco Ring” and a detailed description of it. Set the price and you are in business!
When someone is interested, you will get a message on your smart phone. The person may want additional info or to negotiate the price or find out where the two of you can meet—a place convenient for both of you or it sometimes works out to be equally inconvenient.
Always meet the buyer in a public place. Never ever have an unknown buyer come to your home. Good places to meet would be a busy shopping center, gas station, library—definitely a place where there are other people around. Do not renegotiate the price at that time. Accept only cash. The buyer is also a member of the marketplace and aware of the rules, so none of these things should become an issue.
I hope this article helps you in selling your vintage jewelry. Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below, I will do my best to help!