Without thinking, we usually buy new gifts for people. It’s partly cultural—we’re used to the ease of going to a department store and picking something up right before a birthday or a holiday. Plus, everyone else does it too.
Although, when you step back, you realize that there are a plethora of old-timey vintage items that would bring someone much more joy. They require more work to find and potentially fix, but the reward is oh-so-worth the time and effort. For a guide to vintage gift-giving, read through these detailed pointers.
Consider the Recipient
Before you go gift-hunting, take a second and think about your recipient’s style and interests past and present.
File away what you know about their style to zero in on a gift that fits. People who deck out their home in wood pieces would appreciate a stressed wood door or a vintage end table. Others who prefer a modern feel would jump at the chance to incorporate your cast iron metal décor find. The cool thing about 2010s and 2020s style, in general, is that everything that was old is new and in style again.
Perhaps most central to your search, don’t forget to consider the gift recipient’s past. Every person grew up formed by their time—clothing fads, cultural icons, popular toys, and period-specific music makes the man or woman. As they aged out of these interests, they never really left them because they represent pieces of their precious childhoods. Don’t hesitate to tap into this past as you shop, but also talk to someone close to your recipient so you don’t get your vintage gift wrong.
Their Current Interests
Regardless of what time period formed them, vintage presents that cater to an existing hobby or activity they love work wonders. A younger baseball aficionado would find old baseball cards super interesting, and record collectors of all ages would flip at old original print vinyl records. If your mom doesn’t leave the kitchen, vintage bowls, silverware, and cookware will become fixtures there. The examples go on and on.
Where To Find Vintage Gifts
When you know what to look for, the next step is knowing where to poke your gifting nose. There are all kinds of options; we’ll look at antique and vintage shops, online marketplaces, flea markets, thrift stores, and garage sales.
Vintage and Antique Shops
Antique and vintage are two can’t-miss spots, while all the others involve considerable hunting. First, a note on the difference between these terms: all antique items are vintage, but not all vintage things are antiques. Put another way, antique finds are older—100 years or more—while the vintage category pertains to pieces at least 20 years or about one generation old.
An antique shop, then, predominantly stocks things from the 1920s and before, while a vintage shop carries decidedly newer pieces, though that’s anything but a hard-and-fast rule. Knowing this helps you predict what you’ll find.
Shops like Quinn’s Mercantile, on the other hand, stock unique vintage gifts that are “vintage-inspired.” This means wares are new but mirror a vintage look. You get the best of both worlds here—the unmistakable vintage look without any structural or aesthetic imperfections.
To cast a wide net, surf the web. This works well when you have a gift in mind but cannot find it through any other means. With a couple searches, you can find a corner of the vintage world that’s miles away from you that has it. Though your options can swallow you up and paralyze you at times, the breadth the internet provides is invaluable. Beyond finding gifts, there are also many forum communities that are more than willing to answer your questions.
With the modern drive towards sustainability, flea markets are popping up all over the states. In basic terms, these are temporary booths that sell secondhand pieces. In some places, their popularity leads to permanent setups.
When approaching a flea market with vintage gifts on your mind, you need a trained eye. Sifting the trash from the treasures is harder said than done. Get out early in the day and comb through each booth thoughtfully. When you’re ready to walk away with a piece, you get the unique chance to bargain them down. If you’re successful, you’ll save a bunch of money.
Meanwhile, garage sales are very similar to flea markets. They are temporary setups operating out of someone’s garage or driveway, though people without either can get creative.
One key distinction to a garage sale is the seller wants to get rid of their stuff, and won’t be shy about giving you the story behind a piece. This helps you find a high-quality present while imbuing it with value and history. Make sure to recount it to the gift’s recipient so the item comes alive in their imagination.
Last on our list of places to find a vintage gift, thrift stores sell owners’ donations to new homes. Each store seems to stock different things, and one store’s wares will even change as what they take in evolves. Like flea markets, shop early for a chance to discover the perfect vintage artifact. For even better results, ask thrift store staff you have a relationship with about when they restock their shelves.
A Decades Guide
To round out this guide to vintage gift-giving, here is some decade-specific inspiration for your vintage shopping.
The 50s had a Raygun Gothic feel that looked towards the future while taking from Art Deco and other established styles. It thrived on pastels as well as bright diner reds, blacks, and whites. Your gift options include:
- A vintage ice box
- Red Scare advertisements
- Pastel-colored rotary phone
- A poodle skirt
The style of the 60s departed from this bigtime. People know it for its floral patterns, tie-dye, and brighter-than-the-sun or checkered outfits. To target these years, buy:
- Beatles records or memorabilia
- Psychedelic wall art
- Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots
After that, the 70s took on a groovy but more understated look. Browns and beige were common, even though they retained a hippy-inspired vibrancy. To allow for disco-ing, clothes got flowy-er than ever. To match this era, get them:
- A disco ball or disco décor
- A retro skateboard
Moving on to the 80s, hair was big, neon colors dominated, and biker jackets were the norm. Awesome 80s-inspired vintage gifts include:
- A vintage Rubik’s Cube
- An NES system
- Acid-washed jeans
- Leg warmers