I remember the Etsy package that came in 2012 with a thank you note and a sticker that said, “I quit my day job.” It felt like a pinnacle milestone in my career, and I was honored to be one of the top vintage sellers that year. For context, I started selling vintage on Etsy in 2006 and did this full time until 2015 when I pivoted to freelance writing.
The vintage marketplace has changed a lot in the last several years, but you can still make money selling antiques and collectibles online. Starting a vintage Etsy shop from scratch can be daunting, but hard work usually pays off. You just need to know where to spend your time and energy.
I picked up a ton of tips and important lessons through all the sweat and tears. At one point, I managed three Etsy shops while also selling and sourcing antique jewelry in person. My biggest takeaway from selling antiques and starting a brand is that you need to be a jack of all trades.
Since I’m no longer actively selling (and enjoy promoting other shops), there’s no harm in sharing some industry secrets that led directly to my success.
How to Sell Vintage on Etsy Successfully
If you’ve made it this far, you’re either officially starting a vintage Etsy shop or you’re still on the fence. Before you hit that sign up button, consider the following advice.
1. Discover your antique or vintage niche.
What is considered vintage, exactly? Etsy considers an item vintage when it is at least 20 years old. Other marketplaces might have different criteria. For more specifics on this, check out this guide on what is antique and what is not.
Now that that’s out of the way let’s talk about your niche. The most successful vintage sellers on Etsy have one thing in common: they have a specialty. It’s tempting to open up an antique mall-style shop that carries a little bit of everything. These shops can do well, but they lack the credibility and focus of a niche brand.
Pick a niche that makes sense. You could consider opening up more than one Etsy shop if the things you collect and want to sell are completely unrelated vintage items (like clothing and dolls).
Some examples of vintage niches:
- Antique toys
- Vintage jewelry
- Victorian furniture
- Old glassware
- Antique photographs
- Vintage clothing
- Porcelain dolls
Once you pick an antique niche that you’re passionate about, research it! Become an expert. Buy books, look online, talk to other dealers, etc.
2. Get to know the Etsy platform before you sell on it.
Now that you have a niche idea, you need to scope out the competition. The best vintage niches on Etsy are the ones that have a reliable buyer pool but aren’t oversaturated. However, if you love a highly competitive niche, that’s okay too.
Look at the competition and take note of their pricing, policies, and listing tendencies. How many sales are there? Do they make a full-time living from Etsy alone? This information isn’t so that you can copy these sellers, but you can brainstorm ways you can create a better shop. This research will help you create a realistic pricing strategy and get a feel for popular search terms.
3. Develop a brand and be confident about it.
A niche and brand are two different things. Your niche speaks to the types of items you’re going to sell. Your brand is the overall story that will keep buyers loyal and engaged. At this point, start thinking about a name, logo, and mission statement. It’s important to do this legwork in advance because your brand story will be the only credibility-building device you have before you gain buyer feedback.
In some senses, you’re going to have to fake it until you make it. Treat your brand and Etsy shop as a full-fledged business even before you make your first sale. If you take yourself seriously as a business, your potential buyers will, too. Create a buyer experience that will pretty much guarantee positive feedback. As your feedback grows, so will your sales.
Steps to take to build your brand:
- Come up with a brand name a tagline
- Write the first draft of your mission statement
- Create a logo on Canva
- Write an Etsy about section
- Launch social networks and engage
4. Build out your store policies before you open the shop.
You can also project buyer confidence by having rock-solid shop policies before you open your digital doors. Remember, buyers aren’t going to have any feedback to read when you’re new. Make your shipping and return policies as professional sounding as possible. Ensure that every section is filled, and all the details are explained, so buyers know what to expect.
5. Launch your vintage Etsy shop with at least ten well-priced items.
Collect an initial inventory before you launch. Some people launch on Etsy with two or three items and expect to build from there. However, having limited inventory can give the impression that your Etsy shop is going to be a fly-by-night store. Many buyers purposely avoid shops like this.
I recommend waiting until you have at least ten quality vintage items to list. With more listings, you’ll have more opportunities to show up in searches, and you’ll get more quality traffic to your store. If you have a couple of random items to sell, you might be better off selling them on eBay (or directly to a dealer for cash). Etsy caters to shops that are full and well-maintained.
I could write a book about Etsy selling tips, but this article is a good primer to get you thinking about your business plan. Let me know if you want more information about selling vintage on Etsy. If enough of you reach out, I’ll start a series. Good luck!