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Looking for that perfect vintage lamp or coffee table can be a daunting task, especially if your search is limited to IKEA. But let’s face it, most new lighting isn’t made as well as older items that have stood the test of time. Let’s cover the basics of finding some good deals.

Post updated on December 4th, 2016

Scouting out locations online

A great place to start searching for antique stores is Google Maps . Just type “antiques” and the city you are in or visiting.  for example: “antiques new york”, “vintage lighting chicago” .  The results will be displayed as pin marks on their map.  It’s as easy as that!

Google Map showing Antique Store locations

Checking for defects can save you $$$


So you just found a lamp that would look great on your desk. Check the wiring:  is it frayed, cracked and broken? Also, take the light-bulb out and check inside of the socket, it is very easy to tell if a socket is blown or may need replacing. The inside will look black or somewhat black. Also, check the base of the light or fixture, make sure there are no cracks or missing pieces. I have been very disappointed after buying a supposed “find” only to realize that there was a small hairline crack or a missing piece. Those factors diminish the value of an item greatly. Some problems such as wiring are easily repaired, but anything cracked or broken is not.

Bad Socket

Bad Socket

Good Socket

Good Socket

Tip: Ask the store owner to plug in the lamp to see if it works.  Rewiring a lamp can cost $40 or higher.  If it doesn’t work, See if you can get it Cheaper.

Restored antique lighting is different from just having a chandelier or lamp rewired. When rewiring a lamp, the repairman only replaces the socket and wiring. Restoring an antique could include repairing metal, polishing, replacing broken pieces, fabricating parts, etc. A professional restorer can not only rewire, but can restore a piece to it’s original beauty.

Look around for the best person to restore your antiques, not just a “fix” it shop. It makes a difference.


When looking at furniture make sure that all the legs of a piece are stable and have no splits. Check for repairs that might have been done over the years. Also, make sure the piece is not warped or coming apart. Furniture repair can end up being very pricey.

Find books on Antiques

Always keep in mind when looking for antiques, vintage items, you may want to do some research into the item you are interested in. There are several places to find information, specifically, Amazon; or your local book store.

Here’s a list of a few books I found on Amazon:

  1. Kovel’s Antique and Collectibles Price Guide – 2017
  2. Antiques Roadshow Primer
  3. Antiques on the Cheap: A Savvy Dealer’s Tips: Buying, Restoring, Selling


You can’t learn how to spot a true antique overnight and there really isn’t any way you can remember all there is to know. That’s why it is usually best to focus on one or two items of interest and get the best information available. Usually as the journey takes you, you will learn about other items as well. It does take a while and there are people who have been in this business a long time and still don’t have the knack or know how. Don’t ask me why but some people just have it and some don’t. However, with research and true interest you can do well.

The best advice though, is if you are not sure, don’t buy it. If you are on the fence and it is inexpensive to buy, jump on it. That’s the only way you can learn is by some mistakes. And sometimes, those mistakes can be worth it! Especially if the price is right. Happy Hunting!

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