September 21, 2010

My Antiques Booth What Sells and what doesn't

I recently did a post on "Everything about renting space at an antiques mall".  

I thought it might be interesting to write about what sells and what doesn't, along with pricing.  Thank You, I had so many comments and emails from people that rent space and people that had been contemplating renting and took the plunge after the post.  I was surprised at how many of us  need an outlet for our creativity (Our houses can only hold so much).

I have rented a space for 7 years in Florida. Since we are all in different markets, malls, and states, what sells is going to vary greatly. 

 In no particular order, this is what sells for me.  These are the items that when I see them at a thrift store or estate sale my heart skips a beat and I whisper "SCORE" under my breath.  

Any linen, napkins, hankies, pillow cases, aprons, or tablecloths.  Here is what I have learned about linen.  Vendors that have just a couple of towels or 1 set of napkins may not sell them for a long time.  If you want to sell linen have a good amount, you will be the "Go to" dealer for linens.  You could do well by just specializing in one linen item, you could have many napkin sets or a large selection aprons.  Pricing is so important, I have found I need to keep the price at $20.00 or less with very few exceptions.  My rule of thumb is I have to be able to price at 3X what I paid in order to cover my expenses and make a profit. 

Picture Frames

It took me about 5 years to figure this out.  I sold 9 frames at the Labor Day Sale.  Pictures would occasionally sell, but far and few between.   A picture is such a personal preference, the right size, subject, and color, so it is not a surprise that they are a hard sell.  But frames, EUREKA, people buy frames.  I get almost as much money for an empty frame as I did for a picture.  I look for ornate frames, but can sell those that are not.  I spray them Heirloom white and price the little 2 X 3's for $3 - $4, and the 8 X 10's  for $12-$18 or more if they are really ornate. 


I never pass up a stool, this one sold in 2 days.  I have not had any luck selling just ugly brown stools.  I give them a coat of paint and then reupholster in a really nice fabric, this one is barkcloth.  With very few exceptions I price them between $20 - $25 for the little stools and $30 - $40 for an upholstered piano bench.

Hand Mirrors and Brushes

They may not sell in 2 days, but they will always sell.  I like to find the 2 sided mirrors and mosaic one side.

This one sold in a week for $16.  I price a brush and mirror set around $22.  When purchasing keep in mind the 3X mark up.

Mirror Trays

If I find a tray where the mirror is removable, I like to spray it white, leaving them gold also sells well.  I like to have a variety.  I price them between $12 - $18.

Little Tables

These along with linen are my bread and butter.  All but one of these little tables are sold.  The one that has not sold is the brown one.  Sometimes I just hate to paint a table if it is perfect, but I know if I painted this table white it would sell right away.  The larger white table in the back sold for $42, the 4 tier plant stand in front sold for $40 (Only because it was unusual)  the little table on the right sold for $28.

What does not sell for me is so many things!  

Many more things don't sell than do sell.  If you have a booth long enough you will see trends, things that use to sell and don't right now.  I am not saying the following won't sell, but it will not be a quick sale for me.

Little trinket boxes, they use to sell, but not any more.
Teacups and saucers they are not selling right now.
Figurines - Ladies/ animals etc.
Florida souvenirs use to sell, but not now.
Clear glassware of any kind (Colored glassware sells better)
Books (Cookbooks are the exception, they sell well, especially cookbooks by church or civic groups)
Avon bottles

Well, this is what is, and isn't, selling in my neck of the woods.  If you would like to share, we would love to know you're  top sellers in your booth or online store.

Please see the updated post on what is selling in 2013 HERE
To read what is selling in other parts of the country click HERE for a complete list

Thank you for your kind comments, they are soooo appreciated!


  1. Thanks for the fabulous post. I have never had a booth/space at an antique mall (I shop at them all the time though) so it was very interesting for me to get your perspective on what sells. I would be your perfect customer because I always look at linens, I have a collection of hand mirrors, I love frames and I'm a sucker for any little stool or bench. I think I should make a trip to Florida.

    1. I have so many antiques i know you would love

  2. Great post! Isn't it funny how things change all the time?! I don't do antique shops, but I do sell at craft bazaars occassionally, it's really hit or miss and often depends on the weather! :)

  3. Such great information. I appreciate your sharing all this with us!

  4. Hi Carol, Great post and yes it varies a lot depending on your location. When I had a shop in Destin, Fl the painted furniture and beachy items sold well. Now in Va the more traditional, dark wood furniture sells better. Next time I am in Orlando I am going to plan a visit to your booth. Looks like you have some great things.
    xo, Sherry

  5. Thanks again for sharing your knowledge, very interesting I sure do hope you keep us informed on all the changes throughout the year, I love these Post's. Tnaks again oxox, Diane

  6. It is funny how over time trends change. I am always on the look out for those old frames and mirrored trays too when I'm at the flea market. They look so pretty when sprayed in white. Crazy what a little spray paint can do.

  7. Interesting. Everything that you said would sell is something that I would INDEED buy! I love the mosaics on the mirror. Now, that's just beautiful and romantic. My daughter has a lovely set (mirror, brush, comb) and wants a mirror like that for them. I know that my mom had one, but she can't find it. I'm determine to.

    Oy! We could make a mega booth out of Mom's old stuff. Well... YOU could. You're so creative. Some day, I'm coming to Florida.

  8. I was just thinking about you this morning. I hope all is well with you.

    I am making a quick trip to Florida in a couple of weeks. I hope to have good weather.

    Your little space looks beautiful. The stool is wonderful.

    Have a fabulous day! La

  9. Not much is selling around here ... but then we are in the middle of nowhere! I wondered why I was saving all those darn frames, now I know :))
    As for the email hijack, I emailed yahoo ... will let you know if they have an answer with any substance.

  10. Thanks for that great post Carol and anything else you have learned please do share.
    I have not had a booth anywhere yet. I live in an area where people are VERY frugal with their money and I also have to be careful with my cash, so any hints and clues about the best way to sell and market is really appreciated!
    Have a wonderful day!
    Tina xo

  11. Interesting post! I live in Minnestoa and I see the same trends. I have three occasional sales a year with a couple of friends. Each sale usually lasts a day and a half. Linens are our "biggie" and we try to gather up tons. We price things so reasonably ( and still make money ) that our best customers are antique dealers. At our last sale a dealer purchased $400 worth of linens! Interesting to hear how" booths" do also. We considered that but this way we make it more of a party!

  12. Carol, you are an angel for telling us your secrets. I think what sells and what doesn't is pretty much the same here too. Funny how the trends go. I have some gorgeous trinket boxes that aren't selling right now. Will they go on sale? no! They will look very nice in my own boudoir...thank you very much. Why? because, I don't, but I should, follow your 3x rule. Sometimes I price not that much above what I paid. But I only buy what I like and adore so it will fit in my own home nicely.

  13. Once again Carol, thank you for sharing your insiders knowledge!

    After your post on booths, I finally got up the nerve to ask about space!!! They are full right now (which is great news, because not long ago they were losing vendors). I decided not to go on the waiting the list just yet, I'm building up my stash right now and will finally take the plunge in the very near future, go on the waiting list and open my booth!! You definitely helped me take that plunge!! :)

  14. good post Carol! I always love a linen booth, and when I see one, my hubby goes "uh oh" cause he knows I am going to be there a while. But when I am looking for bargains on linens, the booths that have very few linens tend to have the best prices:) Thanks for sharing all the great info!

  15. Such an interesting post! Thanks for all the info. and tips. Not that I have a booth, but maybe some day!


  16. Cool, love to hear from other vendors!
    I have good luck with vintage hats, quilts, lamps candlesticks,vintage toys, some dolls if you can get them cheap enough and my husband sells old WWII memorabilia on his "man side"
    I also have small furniture as my bread and butter. Love your booth. Wish I could do all shabby but I mix in some military, primitive and country in small doses!

  17. thank you for posting this information, I have found on the west coast these things sell when nothing else does. I love art so I try and make my bread and butter on stools, small tables, and useful things, then display art pieces and they will eventually sell, but usually have to sit on them for 3-4 months. I love unusual items and try and price for other dealers to purchase, this helps keep a steady dose of customers coming back for more, needless to say, I am always shopping, if not for purchases then for ideas, marketing, and fun. Just started working on my website. Thanks!

  18. I don't have a booth, but I have been shopping at antique stores lately as I've been updating my home.

    Actually, I have purchased a few figurines and have wondered why those are so impossible to find these days. For me to buy them, they need to be somewhat unusual and pretty. Nothing that screams "made in China". For me, I get tired of seeing the same linens, frames, and plates in one booth to the next, so that's why I'm always on the look out for different type pretty things to sit around.

    I do love linens, but I turn down anything that is stained. The other day I found the prettiest embroidered kitchen towels, but opted not to buy them because one had rust stains on it. Since I don't know if I can get the stains out, I only buy non stained ones unless I plan to cut the linens down anyway.

    I love cups and saucers, but they look more like for kitchens to me. However, if you have those antique plates with flowers on them, I love those!

    I buy furniture at the antique store. There are people who like to paint stuff themselves or if it's in good condition they like unpainted stuff. I wouldn't paint everything.

    For my last room, I was buying a lot of cherubs. Everything I found was gold leaf. Every single person who saw them including the cashier at the antique store looked at me like I was insane. Can I say UGLY again? I painted all of that myself using different colors of paint to make them aged but with white on top for a shbby look. I suspect those type things would sell better if more people painted them.

    My mom has more traditional tastes, but she loves colored glass anything and more elegant type stuff. Also, she likes big pieces of furniture. DARK wood, not painted.

    The fastest thing that turns me off of a booth is for what you have to look like yard sale junk. If what you have doesn't look like antiques, I move along to the next booth or if too many booths in the store are like this, I don't return. Sadly, I am seeing less and less true antiques at antique stores as they are turning more into resell stuff and yard sale finds that are not old.

    Also, if you are selling old stuff you buy at a yard sale, please take a few minutes and dust it and get the dirt and spider webs off, inside and out. It's rather unappealing as a buyer to know that a vendor is too lazy to even clean something. Not to mention, I am allergic to dust and do not want to have to drive home with all that dust in my car or have spiders running around the vehicle.

    Honestly, I do not pay a lot for individual items, but I do tend to buy multiple things at one time (usually from the same vendor) if the prices are good. In general, I only pay approx. $15 or under per item unless something is really unusual and I can't live without it. Would love to spend more, but I have budget issues to contend with. However, at those prices, I tend to buy a few things at a time on that shopping trip.

    My mom on the other hand buys larger pieces of furniture and for those, she has paid a few hundred for things that are well made and still looking good.

  19. It's funny what sells and doesn't sell. I have a booth full of books. Novels with dust jackets fairly new sell. Cookbooks sell for me but not the church or organization type. I cannot sell linens or stools or little tables. It has to be very unusual for it to sell in my booth. I usually look for anything different and customers always remark at how they love the unusual things in my booth.

  20. Hi Carol,
    Could you email me your address...I lost it!!! Thanks!
    Great Post and it appears that the same things sell here. At the monthly sale shop...they LOVE painted furniture...which I do, but don't like to paint! I love the old wood...and hankies sell at both places.
    deb :)

  21. I have sold lots of cups and saucers and handpainted plates are a real hit. Linens, napkins lately and hankies are popular. I have been selling more pieces of furniture lately- and we have a clearance table in the way back of the store that we can put things on. I will mark something down a few dollars that has been around awhile and it will fly out the door. think people want to feel like they have gotten a bargain!
    enjoyed your posts on your booth!

  22. Just posting again cause I love your blog....

    I have given you the Versatile Blogger Award and would love for you to come by and pick it up when you have time.

    Here is the direct link:

  23. Hi Carol,
    I FOUND your address!!! I'm SO forgetful!!!
    Have a great weekend...
    Deb :)

  24. So great to know...what a wealth of knowledge! My sister aka "saturday finds" sent me over yesterday and I am so glad she did. Love your blog...thanks for stopping by mine too! :)

  25. Very interesting, I never would have thought some of the things you mirrors and stools...I knew linens. We go crazy for that stuff us gals. You look like you have a great thing going...after 7 years and still going, you must be doing something right. Sorry it took me so long to get here....too much catching up in bloggville:)

  26. Hi Carol,

    It's such a treat to visit you. You have such wonderful information to share and so many beautiful things too. I live in Florida and would love to set up a booth at the South Florida Fair in January. We'll see. Have a wonderful weekend,
    Janet Bernasconi
    Janet's Creative Pillows

  27. Great post and interesting comments. You have the right idea on the pricing and you obviously keep your space looking great and are always adding to it. That would give you alot of regulars!
    One mall that I visit in Arizona while I'm there has some booths that look the same year after year!
    Your linens look great! EVerything looks great!

  28. I found this post fascinating even though I don't sell antiques. It was good to take a peek behind the scenes.

  29. Hi Carol,
    Thanks for this wonderful post. I find that I sell pretty much the same things that you do.
    I also sell larger pieces of furniture(painted, of course)such as chests of drawers and dressers. If it fits in the back of my SUV, then I will haul it home and paint it! LOL.

    Painted furniture is really big here on the coast. There are many beach home owners here so furniture is a good seller. I also love finding little stools and redoing them because they are a hot item.

    I agree with you about pictures. Frames sell much better and I'm always looking for ornate ones.

    Little chairs used to sell good, but not like last year.

    Primitive pieces sell well in our shop. But, I am really not into that much. Quilts are big and NC pottery.

    Funny you mentioned that about the trinket boxes. I've had several sitting in my booth for quite some time.

    As far as the burlap pillows selling it's very slow. I think the burlap thing might be over with for awhile. I'm going to start making more with cottage fabrics and see what happens.

    You just never know what people will buy. I have seen things go out of the shop that I wouldn't think of buying, but hey "different strokes, for different folks!"

    Again, thank you for all this wonderful information.


  30. Hi from South Australia! I was led to your blog by the name of it - wow! what a gorgeous blog, and sooo interesting. I would be your perfect customer, as I love all the things in the photo of your shop (except maybe the brown table!).. lol.. Lots of gorgeous stuff, just what I am looking for, for my new house! My blog is

  31. Hi Carol
    Thanks for stopping by, I really enjoyed your post on what sells in your booth. Very interesting and it was nice that you included your prices.
    I am considering a post on brick and mortor since I just closed my shop and have some thoughts on it.
    The show sold well for the attendance which was down, many reasons for that which were beyond thier control.
    Have a great weekend

  32. Carol, I just had to tell you...

    I was reading the newspaper yesterday morning when an article about shabby chic caught my eye.

    I began to read it & imagine my surprise when I realized they were talking about you! I told my husband, "This is amazing, I read her blog all the time!"

    Just thought you might like to know that you've made the newspaper up here in Central New York.

    I saved that section of the paper & will gladly send it down to you if you would like. :)

  33. Hi Carol,
    This is a great post and I can so relate to the what sells and not.
    I had selling space in several malls for 10 years and while my items were hand painted, I had to learn quickly what my customer was looking for. It could vary from year to year, but painting on vintage was always a hit as well as my hand painted ornaments. Furniture painting was my biggest seller and chairs were always gone in a flash. Lots of small items were always a good seller, but like you said, pictures were always a question mark.

    After 10 years I made the switch to online selling and within 6 months I left the malls and never looked back. I am doing more with less now and not on the road all the time driving to redecorate my vignettes leaving me more time in the studio. However, I have to say, I truly loved being there in person and meeting so many customers. I also did many home shows for years and that was an experience too.

    All in all, the need to create remains strong and somehow it all works for the best when we love the process. Lots of work at times, but the rewards are so great when you make such wonderful friends. For me, I have made great friendships all because I swing a paint brush!!
    It is a blessing.

    Thank you for sharing your insights and expertise. Your blog is a treasure.

    Good luck in my giveaway.
    Have a great week.
    Hugs, Celesitna Marie

  34. What a great post, thank you for always being so generous with your knowledge! Theresa xoxo

  35. You are a wealth of knowledge. I like to hang around all you crafty chicks! Thanks much! Anne

  36. Carol, thanks for this post. I have been wondering about pricing. I read the other day on Miss Mustard Seed that you make your money when you buy, so your tip of 3x mark up is very helpful to me.

  37. Carol, thanks for the great tips! White is not a big seller here. Most people here look at you like you have 2 heads when you say "shabby Chic". Anitique items in original condition will sell better here and that brown table would have sold here quickly. You are in Florida so I think that is why everything in white sells well for you.
    I wish I could carry larger items in my space instead of just my craft items but time doesn't allow me to do all of the make over projects that I would just LOVE to do!


  38. Can I just say that I like you? You share freely. You don't hold back. It is obvious that you are honest. Top that off with some lovely things and an easy writing style. I am glad I happened by.

  39. Help educate a new-bee to this industry. What does primitive style mean?

  40. I am a newbie to having my own space, but when offered a space in an antique store had to say yes!!! This site is so helpful , can't wait to put these ideas into practice , have a great day and Happy Fourth of July!!!

  41. I was wondering what type of paint do you use when you pait it to look "Shabby chic". Do you use flat, simi gloss, white white or off white? I havve several old pieces and thought that if I gave them a quick paint job they might do better when I have my yard sale. I love you blog and check on it real often. Thank You. JoeNell

  42. JoeNell, you did not leave an email so I will leave your answer here. I use heirloom white paint by Rustoleum, it comes in a spray and I like the satin finish. I also have a gallon of the same paint that I had tinted to match the cap of the heirloom white spray paint.


  43. I'd be interested to know where your booths are. I'm in Central afL so it can't be far!

  44. Good article about what sells. I see the same thing with colored glass in Eustis {up the road a piece from you in Lake County}

  45. This was an interesting post for me. I have two booths in Kansas. I find about the same thing you did. I can always sell a hankie but I always have a selection. I usually just have a few tablecloths and napkins and it takes much longer to sell them. Figures do seem to have slowed down. We can't keep in little stools, little tables or little shelves, they sell well. It seems now people want items painted, not left brown wood, which is so different from when I had a booth 9 years ago. The, it was "leave it natural." If something is in great condition I don't want to paint it, but preserve it. However, it will take longer to sell. Can't keep in whisk brooms either.

  46. This must be the norm right now-at least in Middle Georgia the same is true on all points. Thanks for the pointers on mark up. I've been double mark up and have been losing my butt with the % that my boss gets. So, I'll try to buy lower so I can do that. I have to keep my prices lower in small town rural Georgia.

  47. Its about the same in Oklahoma.mid century things are selling. Shabby french glass wear of any kind is not selling

  48. Its about the same in Oklahoma.mid century things are selling. Shabby french glass wear of any kind is not selling

  49. Michigan. Thank you for posting such detailed information about what sells. The items that are selling in my antique booth are. Linens, unusual duvet covers and pillow shams and Christmas tablecloths. I was surprised. Larger ladies sweaters name brands Chicos, Liz. Sweater coats & long stylish sweaters like Gap. Crocks have sold, footstools, toss pillows, chairs and lamps. Cookbooks have also sold. I will try the picture frames. Thanks again

  50. This comment has been removed by the author.

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