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.

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.

Antique Bargains Are Regional

I once sat around looking at a 1950’s retro daybed/sofa for sale at a local thrift store debating the merits of the piece with several antique dealers who buy merchandise and then resell it in the metropolitan areas of the state. Although the piece was missing the back metal support, it did have triangular bolster pillows that could be supported by a wall. It was a beautiful shade of turquoise vinyl or naugehyde with one large seat the size of a twin bed tufted with matching large buttons. It was in perfect condition and the conversation centered on its prospective resale value. Everyone agreed that it was a super buy at $19.99, but it came down to whether or not a tidy profit could be made that would validate its buying, removal, and transport. “I could easily get $750 for it in California,” one dealer said, “but, how do I get it out there?” The cost of taking it to that market would be prohibitive. I wondered why they didn’t think of buying it and selling it locally. When I asked, they explained how in our region if you bought something that was oak, for the right price a nice profit could be made. That is not to say that I live in an area with pedestrian tastes, but in my locale which is quasi-metropolitan the economy is tight and local residents value solid pieces of traditional furniture. Retro or kitsch pieces are valued by the college kids here, but price matters more than style to them. Which brings us to a steadfast rule in the buying and selling of antiques: Know Your Market. Ask yourself, can I sell it here? Check with the local designers. Sometimes interior designers will have more affluent customers who are redecorating with a certain style or theme in mind. See what style they are looking for, or pieces that are popular in furniture and accessories. Consignment Shops. Some consignment shops deal in furniture and accessories. Especially useful are local art galleries that get a lot of traffic from tourists. Antique Shops. First check with the owner to see if they take consignments. If not, a bargain can be struck whereby you can make a worthwhile profit, but at a price that allows a decent profit for the antique shop. Art Fairs or Antique Fairs provide an opportunity to resell merchandise without the middle person. These are similar to flea markets and the cost of the table and/or booth must be figured into the equation. Needless to say the more merchandise you have for sale, the greater the amortization of those costs. Newspapers. Most papers have a section in the classifieds for Antiques and Collectibles. But remember when pricing the item, be sure to take into consideration what the local market will bear. You won’t get California prices unless you live in California. Don’t be afraid to buy the item. Some of the best buys are valuable pieces that may not be popular resale items in your area. If you have room to store it, sooner or later you will find a buyer. You may be wondering whatever happened to the turquoise sofa. Well, I called up my sister-in-law, since they have a contemporary home and a trailer, and convinced her that she couldn’t do without this item for their basement rec room. I would have bought it for my home, but like most there was no room and I just couldn’t have this bargain be passed up!