Selling Vintage on Etsy

Years ago, I was gifted a large box of old costume jewelry. Of course, much of it was broken and after a lot of tinkering and pondering, I turned to the Internet for inspiration and queried “how to fix old costume jewelry.” This navigated me through various articles to a website I hadn’t heard of before: Etsy. On Etsy, I found many examples of costume jewelry for sale and even broken pieces that were being sold for crafting purposes. This intrigued me wholeheartedly, as I had always enjoyed making jewelry out of gemstones and beads and wanted to incorporate my new-found love into a hobby that might even become a source of income. In 2009, I opened my first Etsy shop, Fox Paw Designs. At the time, Etsy was mainly a platform for handmade artisan items and the vintage category was only beginning to scratch the surface.

After trying my hand at handmade, up-cycled jewelry, I realized the craft platform on Etsy was oversaturated and this category would not be successful for me to pursue. I had only had a handful of sales in a few months and was quite discouraged from that aspect. What kept me engaged were the design features and layout of Etsy. I liked that there were forums and groups you could join within your niche to help further your education in selling. I also enjoyed the graphic presentation; my listings appeared clean and professional with a cohesive and genuine look. Hmmm. My creative mind had not yet shut off – what if I tried selling other vintage on Etsy, along with the upcycled jewelry, to help add variety and traffic to my site?

In 2015, I decided it was worth a shot and took a crack at it. The first item I put up was a beautiful ‘STW Germany, Bavarian Demitasse Cup and Saucer.’ It sold for $75.00. I was in the game. Since then, I have expanded to almost all categories of vintage, specializing in jewelry, as well as, porcelain, glassware, home décor and holiday items. It had become a profitable hobby, and I was truly enjoying sourcing, researching, cleaning, presenting, photographing, and describing each piece. I changed my shop name to Chasing Relics, LLC, and thought I had figured it all out.

After one failed attempt at going full time, I made a promise to myself to keep working my shop at night and on the weekends until I consistently made equal or more money than my day job for at least three months in a row. That ended up becoming a reality for me in 2020, and the year 2021 started the journey of running my Etsy shop full time. Etsy is a world-wide marketplace with millions of shoppers. I noticed that if I started to list at least one ‘new’ item daily, I would get more shop views. If I ran a sale, I would get quite a few more views and visits. Activity was the key. Etsy rewards participation by moving your listings higher in their search rankings which, in turn, makes it more likely your vintage glassware will be seen by a buyer amid the other 61,242 vintage glassware listings.

I find the actual work of maintaining my shop easy and fun. I like to write, so descriptions aren’t too much trouble and I love to style photography, so that’s not too bad. Etsy does encourage ten photos per listing, which can be tedious at times. Each listing has thirteen tags for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) purposes. I think of these as little keys to help unlock more viewers/customers. The fees for selling must be taken into consideration (.20/per listing, 5% transaction fee and advertising, which varies), as well as packaging supplies and whether to charge the customer for shipping. And of course, compensation for my valuable time and efforts must be accounted for. All-in-all, it’s a lot of work! The true satisfaction comes with my tag line, “placing items where they belong,” as I delight in receiving personal notes from customers about what and why they ordered from my shop. My absolute favorite story to date is from a father who bought a vintage Swiss cow bell for his son’s calf, Petey, for the animal’s first Christmas – he even sent along a picture!

Some other unique and fun sales have been a 1940’s Hull Little Red Riding Hood Cookie Jar (open basket, single poppy design), which sold for $175.00, an early 1900’s First Aid Kit, complete with supplies, which sold for $95.00 and a Cushman’s Menthol Inhaler from Three Rivers Michigan, Patented 1886, which sold for $24.00 (still smelling incredibly strongly one hundred and thirty-five years later)! It’s so satisfying to me to be able to save these items from landfills and share in preserving their history.

Jen Fox’s Etsy shop is called Chasing Relics and can be found at http://etsy.com/shop/chasingrelicsllc


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