Monday, April 4, 2011

Thrill of the treasure hunt

For me, a true treasure hunt means estate and moving sale hopping with a friend who knows what she is doing. On a recent Saturday, we seemed to hit the jackpot in SW Portland at several sales. Since I often use vintage items in my artwork, I am looking for specific things but one trick is to keep an open mind and eye for surprises-  like these beautiful floral hankies that will be used for something fabulous.

Costume jewelry can be quite inexpensive and can be used in all sorts of ways including being jewelry! The hardest thing is not to keep things like this for myself. None of these items and sets cost more than $3!

I use old books and encyclopedias for cards and collages. Sometimes it's hard to cut them up, but if they've been well read and loved, they are usually in pretty rough shape and they are ready to be reborn or "upcycled" into something new to treasure. I avoid Disney, Muppets or any such commercial images and stick to nostalgic ones.

One thing that will be collaged are vintage train cases. Why these went out of fashion I don't know- so much more glamorous yet sturdier than a dufflebag or backpack! Look for these on etsy soon.....

Old postcards are also great for collage or framing. Ones that have personal notes and stamps on them are even better! I also found an rusty owl trivet and a faux tortoiseshell tray. Again, will try hard and not keep but pass along upcycled....

Ah the days when restaurants, bars and hotels advertised with swizzle sticks and free matchbooks! They look beautiful in a frame, and were a steal. They are displayed in a silver footed bowl that was $2.

Some more maps, atlases and old Life magazines (too raggedy to archive) for collage or....?
And much more. It was truly a treasure hunt to remember.

A few tips for successful sale hunting:
  • Concentrate on estate and moving sales. Garage sales can be fruitful but will require way more work for many less treasures.
  • Hit sales in prosperous areas of town, areas where people moved in when they had young families and then grew older and never moved, or areas that are culturally rich with lots of creative people living in them. 
  • Bring cash.
  • Pay attention to the specific items that are listed in ads in the newspaper classifieds, Craig's List, or online. Phrases such as "collector" "artist" "crafter" "treasures" "vintage" or "antique" can be good, but sellers know this and may mislead you. Although "grandma's attic" "house full of stuff" or "gotta see to believe" might mean wonderful finds, they may mean hoarded junk too, so be careful.
  • To to find sales that are reasonably close to each other, but don't hesitate to drive to a barn sale or something else that lists fabulous things you love.  
  • Even if you don't find much, it can be fun to tour the homes and spend time with a friend who loves to treasure as much as you do.
  • If something seems too expensive, divide the price in half. Is it still too expensive? Forget it. Does it seem reasonable? Ask the people running the sale if things will be half price on Sunday, take a chance and go back then or make a bid. If you REALLY love it and don't want to lose it, pick it up and carry it around with you until you decide, then bite the bullet and buy it or the lost opportunity could haunt you. 
Happy hunting....and to see a fresh etsy shop called Mama Pacha that incorporates upcycled items including cassette cases and old books, go here:

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