Repurposing: When Old Is New Again

Finds at flea markets, thrift stores, or backyard sales don’t have to be antiques to have value.  Designers today have found that there is money in thinking out-of-the-box when it comes to old things.  HGTV is replete with repurposing, achieving that quirky artisan look, that corner that lends interest to a room, the je ne sais quoi item that draws attention by using “old junk.”

A new development in finding these objects is the rise of retailers to include these one-of-a-kind items for sale online.  For example,, Haute Look, an outlet for Nordstrom, has  new category labeled “Authentic Vintage Curiosities & Beyond.”  Here you will find old shipping boxes with faded manufacturers names or advertising that lend themselves for storage & organization, colored bowling pins to keep stacks of books in line, or a french gymnast bar for your exercise room, just to name a few.

Another retailer dedicated to a certain style, Napastyle, has a new spin-off Barn Door, advertised as a site for  one-of-a- kind finds & deals, so you know you are dealing with limited supplies of any item.  Napastyle first started bringing in collectibles from Europe a couple of years ago where there was a plentiful supply, and now this new site has expanded to include vintage, rare, deals, and even a “Final Markdown” category that span American eras such as early homestead, depression, to mid-century. Vintage tins, furniture, and home accessories such as scales and more are part of their inventory.

You must know your antiques and collectibles to find a bargain, but these sites are good to find a particular item to complete your collection or for us bargain hunters, this is another reference point to find what is popular, or the retail prices of what we currently own.

Tip Of The Week #68: Refinishing & Refurbishing Vintage Furniture

You’ve found this wonderful old piece with painted decals and decorations, but it is need of major restoration.  To retain the decals or decorations prior to painting the entire piece, you can protect them with painting over each one with petroleum jelly 24 hrs. prior to the paint job.  This will soak into the wood and repel any paint that it comes in contact with.

Napa Style 50% Off

Ever wonder what Napa Style is?  Is it California’s version of Tuscany?  Perhaps it’s a rustic layback approach to style, or functional simplicity tied to Mother Earth.   MarkdownMom has observed that this style is timeless,  marrying age with simplicity. 

Napa Style is holding its’ Annual Home Sale with up to 50% off selected items.  Peruse their culinary choices, repurposed vintage items, and easy entertaining items.  A source of inspiration and decorating ideas! 

Deal Or No Deal? #2 Art-Prints

Every bargain hunter looks for that piece of art that will someday put them on The Antiques Roadshow, preferably getting an appraisal for a “find” that makes you jump up and  down with joy, rather than the ones that unfortunately discovered as over-valued and over-paid.  Art is especially tricky, unless you are an art expert and even then there are fields of expertise within the various forms of art and periods.  However, this does not stop looking and going to those estate sales, thrift stores, flea markets, rummage sales, auctions and, online auctions.

Online auctions are especially risky since the other bargain hunting forms allow  you to inspect the item in-person to see if it is an original, reproduction, or fake.  Some easy ways of identifying an original from a fake among drawings or prints is to look for raised lines from ink such as in an ink and pen drawing, an etching, or a wood block  print.  Many famous prints can be reproduced by a computer and printer; however, you will be able to tell that with closer observation–you will see the pixels or dots,  a clear indication that the print was reproduced on a computer.  Again, online auctions prevent such verification unless the entity or person putting the piece of art up for bid describes it in detail, and then again, trust comes into play. Additionally, you can see if the print has an artist signature or  any documentation or stamps, provenance, as to its’ authenticity.  Given all that, sometimes it is worth the risk if the item is within your means, and you have done as much research as possible.  The current bid will determine the extent of your research and whether or not you will want or need to seek the advice of an expert.  There are blogs that can assist you in finding answers on value, one is Antiques and The Arts Online a forum for bloggers.  However, if the item is not terribly expensive, you just may want to take a chance–sometimes hunches, preferably educated hunches pay off.

Recently, two drawings were put up for bid at an online auction site.  They were listed as two antique etchings, one of Shakespeare’s house and one of Ann Hathaway’s Cottage signed by C. Dickens.  The description was as follows:

1st etching is titled: Shakespeare House and 2nd etching is titled: Ann Hathaway’s Cottage. Both are titled and signed below the art piece above the matting. The sticker on the back indicated these are original etching by C. Dickens. There is no pixilation and when looking closely the lines appear to be raised. They were received in a wooden frame with glass over it. The frame measures: 9 ½” x 12 ½” and the art itself measures: 5 ¼” x 3 ½”. The matting has yellowed, the frames finish is worn, the paper backing on both frames are torn and appear to be delicate.

The starting bid was $5.99.  Take a look at these etchings, what would you bid for two etchings possibly by Charles Dickens?

Etchings C.Dickens

Check Back This Week at this post to see what The Final Bid was and whether it was a Deal Or No Deal.

Final Bid: The winning bid was $601.00 plus $40.44 sh, 41 online bids at  It is difficult to determine whether or not this is a deal since an object such as this should be inspected in person; however, having said that with a cursory investigation online although Charles Dickens was not known as an artist, he did direct artists and had input into the drawings for his serial novels.  It is up to the individual to determine if the amount risked here was justified .

MarkdownMom On A Mission

The Arts and Craft Movement first started in Great Britain growing out of a desire to shed the ornate style of the Victorians.  Not as successful in G.B., it was embraced in the U.S. by Elbert Hubbard, founder of RoyCroft Press, who wanted to reproduce his book , Little Journeys, in the rich skilled style of William Morris’  Kelmscot Press.  He established an artist colony in East Aurora New York of craftspeople.  The Roycroft trademark was emblazoned on leather. metalwork. and furniture.  Later it produced furniture for Sears & Roebuck. making it available to the middle class. 

Later Mission Style and Prairie Stylewould identify arts and crafts design styles in architecture like Frank Lloyd Wright, furniture with the Stickley Brothers, and a number of potters, etc.  Mission to Victoriana is very much the first minimalist style with clean lines, utilitarian purpose.  MarkdownMom loves this style since it can be incorporated into several design themes, and one way to gain knowledge on this artisan inspired movement is to attend special showings similar to craft shows.  In St. Paul, Minnesota recently a gathering of merchants of vintage mission style and reproduced mission style furniture and accessories was held on the St. Paul Fairgrounds.   An entrance fee of $7 not only let you in to see the merchandise and talk with the vendors, but there was a free dog show with it!  Bargain hunters should avail themselves of opportunities such as these special events to learn more on the history, identifying authentic from reproductions, and pricing.

See what you missed at the Mission Style Show, Click Here→

Flea Bites!

For most of us the snow has come and gone and warm weather is beginning to show its’ face and sometimes colors.  For bargain hunters we await Spring in great anticipation of tag sales, garage sales, rummage sales and flea markets.  This doesn’t mean that there haven’t been these sales throughout the rest of the year, but come on, some of the fun is taken out of the bargain hunt when you have to climb mountains of snow or slog through the slush!  On the whole, there is more to pick from in warmer weather especially with flea markets since these outdoor events depend  heavily on the weather conditions.   MarkdownMom has come across a new publication thatwill enhance our quest this year:


Flea Market Style is a new magazine  making its’ debut this Spring.  It promises to be jam packed with tips, repurposing flea market finds, and decorating.  It’s such a new fledgling enterprise that you will be on the ground floor with its’ first issue!  Check your favorite WalMart, Barnes & Noble, CVS, Target and other outlets, or check  its’ website, $9.95.

Bargain Banter: News From The Front

KMart or the Big K is having a great instore and online clearance sale.  Take an additional 40% off the markdown priceMarkdownMom found stylish tees in men’s and women’s departments for under $3!  Also, MarkdownMom picked up a Giorgio bath kit, reg.$12.99, for 99¢.

Pottery Barn’s latest catalog has added another dimension to its’ decorating line–antiques.  They have picked up antiques in Europe like  glass pickle canning jars, glass oil bottles, etc.  Prices are not cheap, but does give us DIYers more decorating ideas.

Antique Spectacular New Year's Weekend!

Okay, you’re tired of shopping,   This malady happens to the best of us bargain shoppers caused by sticker shock, media overkill, and the hoardes of fellow shoppers.  Take a break, replenish your desire by a visit to yesteryear.  Discover the treasures that you already own.  Converse with bargain hunters like yourself.

Where, you ask?

How about at an antique show, specifically an Antique Spectacular being held today through January 3rd at the Warner Coliseum on the Minnesota State Fair Grounds in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Over 200 dealers show their wares which include furniture, collectibles, flea market finds and more.  Admission is $6 for adults–but you can get that reduced online by signing up for Minnesota Antique Show newsletter–and is free for children 12 and under.

Don’t Live In Minnesota?  Check with your local events publisher for similar events.

What's Old Is New Again #2!

A bygone frontier era included a self-sufficiency seldom experienced in our present mechanized society.  However, either because of a desire to become green or a desire to create our own homemade gourmet products, a demand for the manual machines of yesteryear has increased. 

Markdown Mom has been watching auction sites, thrift stores, and antique stores and one item that goes for a hefty price , no matter the condition, is a hand butter churner. 

Now, the butter churner has been reproduced at QVC.  The Paderno World Cuisine Butter Maker has the same mechanism updated and made out of metal rather than wood.  Simple to use, just add cream and you can have your own delicious butter.  With additional ingredients such as herbs, you can give your guests and family a gourmet treat–a potential addition to homemade gifts.   QVC offers this at $109.97+sh.  Made in Italy.

Craigslist Sellers: Learn the 10 Tips Insiders Say Will Double Your Sales

Although Markdown Mom is relatively a new fan of Craigslist, having not had this service available in her area until recently, nonetheless there are a few insights she has garnered from using this service.

  • A great site for selling items locally or statewide. This allows for flexibility in your customer base. Oftentimes, smaller cities or towns do not have the pool of customers to get the response you want. Depending on the size of your state, a seller can list an item(s) locally or in the nearest largest city that can increase the amount of money realized from its sale.
  • As a seller you must be prepared to answer phone calls or emails, this can produce a deluge of inquiries depending upon the popularity of the item and the asking price. Unlike Ebay, this will take up your time and most, not all, inquiries may not be productive, and even with more serious inquiries, “no shows.” Remember there is no buffer between the seller and buyer, these are one-to-one deals. To limit the number of calls, be sure to give as much description as possible.
  • As a buyer, if you are looking for a specific item you can either list a “wanted item” in the category that item would be placed or in the “Wanted” category on Craigslist. Markdown Mom recommends doing both.
  • Check items for sale once a day and if interested respond quickly, time is of the essence, if you really want to get to the bargain before others. Craigslist for the bargain hunter is much like attending an estate sale or a good garage or yard sale, the early bird catches the worm.
  • If you are a seller, list everything like size, be specific and if necessary take measurements, condition, flaws especially if you don’t provide a photo–you can never give the buyer too much information. Include your email or phone number (times available to take calls). Markdown Mom prefers email since it allows seller more control as to his/her time allocation to this endeavor.
  • PROVIDE PHOTOS. Although you can still try to sell item without it, a picture as they say is worth a thousand words especially since you are competing with auction sites, online sellers, all of whom provide photos. Don’t have a digital camera? Ask a friend, remember sites like Craigslist are taking the place of Ebay online stores that use to do this for you at a percentage of the sale.
  • Seller be sure to specify means of payment, cash and money orders preferable, local checks with ID is up to you.
  • Find an item that you wanted, but missed out on? Don’t hesitate to inquire on Craiglist as to possibly of purchasing it from the party that bought it off of Craigslist. You won’t get the bargain he/she did, but if you really want it you can negotiate the price provided that buyer is open to reselling. Some bargains are picked up by dealers with the sole intention of reselling. Since you know what they bought it for you know where to start the bidding price, but allow for a decent profit. Unless this is one of a kind, expect that the most to pay for it is 2½ times what they paid.
  • This is also a good place to find FREE items, or to list items for FREE. Sometimes the owner just wants to get rid of the item for a number of reasons: downsizing, redecorating, or declutter. FREE does not always mean junk. If you are handy at refinishing, repairing, reupholstering, or trying to help out a friend who is in need, don’t pass this by.
  • Make sure that you can get the item home. Some sellers will offer to deliver for an extra fee and Craigslist does list fee-based delivery sources in your area. If you live in a small town and have a friend or relative in the city where you find an item you’ve been looking for ages for, see if they will act as your proxy and check it out, pick it up for you, or store it for you until you can retrieve it. Don’t have them store it for very long as this is one sure way to lose a friend or tick off that family member.
  • When you sell the item, REMOVE THE LISTING FROM CRAIGSLIST IMMEDIATELY. If you haven’t sold it, consider looking at the price you are asking, lower it and relist. A decent item should only need to be advertised twice at the most, so be sure to look hard at the price you want, compare it to others being sold, and initially price the item right. A fair price is not necessarily the amount of money you currently need to get, but what the market will bear.

Related Blogs

  • Related Blogs on Online Auctions