Top Tips for Selling Vintage on Etsy: Branding Advice and More

Here's how to take your vintage shop on Etsy to the next level.

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selling vintage items on etsy

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.

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. 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.

Meet the Expert

Lauren Thomann picked up important tips and lessons through several years of selling antiques online. At one point, she managed three Etsy shops while also selling and sourcing antique jewelry in person. Her biggest takeaway from selling antiques and starting a brand is that you need to be a jack of all trades.
Etsy stickers
Lauren was a top vintage seller on Etsy in 2011.

Pick a 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:

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.

Get to Know the Platform

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.

Develop a Brand

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 as an antique dealer 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

Plan for Bookkeeping and Inventory Management

When it comes to running an antique shop on Etsy, bookkeeping and inventory management are crucial but often overlooked aspects. Unlike regular retail, antique shops deal with unique, often one-of-a-kind items, each with its own history, value, and selling points. This makes inventory management a bit more complex (and time consuming).


One popular tool for this specialized need is Sortly. It’s a visual inventory management software that allows you to take photos of each antique item and tag them with details like age, provenance, and condition. This visual approach is particularly useful for antique shops where each item is unique and requires specific information.


For bookkeeping, consider using QuickBooks for Small Business. It offers a feature where you can categorize expenses specifically for antiques, such as restoration costs, auction fees, or shipping for bulky items. This makes it easier to track your expenses and profits in a way that’s tailored to the antique business.

Quick Tip

No budget for specialized tools? No problem! Google Sheets can be an effective, free alternative for basic bookkeeping and inventory management. Simply create spreadsheets to track item details and financial transactions. It’s a great starting point that you can access from anywhere.

Build Out Store Policies

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.

Launch With 10 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.

Quick Tip

High-quality photos can make a significant difference in attracting buyers. Ensure that your product images are clear, well-lit, and showcase the item from multiple angles. You can either invest in a good camera or hire a professional photographer. Remember, your photos are the first impression buyers get of your products, so make them count.

Utilize Social Media for Marketing

One of the most effective ways to drive traffic to your Etsy shop is through social media marketing. Platforms like Instagram and Pinterest are particularly useful for showcasing vintage items. Create visually appealing posts that highlight your products and use relevant hashtags to increase visibility. You can also collaborate with influencers in the vintage niche to reach a broader audience.

Leverage Popular Etsy Tools to Accelerate Growth

Specialized tools and plugins have become increasingly popular among Etsy sellers looking to streamline their operations and boost sales. One such tool that’s gaining traction is EtsyRank. This platform offers keyword research, competition analysis, and SEO tips tailored specifically for Etsy sellers. It’s a go-to resource for those aiming to optimize their product listings and understand market trends.

Another tool that’s been making waves is Marmalead. This Etsy-focused SEO tool helps sellers find the best keywords for their listings, understand their competition, and even provides a grade on how well listings are optimized. It’s essentially like having a personal SEO consultant for your Etsy shop.

Don’t underestimate the power of these popular tools. They can automate tedious tasks, provide valuable insights, and ultimately, help you run a more successful antique shop on Etsy.

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