How to Successfully buy Vintage Online…


It’s been 3 months now since I gave up my job in TV to work in Interiors. It’s been a slow [subtitle: major understatement] process, shall we say, finding work but an interesting experiment in how to keep yourself from going bonkers with nothing but your own company for entertainment.

I’ve never had so much time on my hands. Things I’ve done to while away the hours include: making pretty much every recipe in the Hummingbird Bakery book; feeling so close to having a heart attack after eating aforementioned cakes I took a fitness DVD out of its wrapping and actually put it in the DVD player; rearranged my cookery books in height AND colour order; worked out just how little money I now have to play with and de-cluttered the kitchen cupboards…all in my extremely comfortable leisurewear.

This makes for uncomfortable reading. What’s happened to my life? I used to be a hip young dudette about town but lately I seem to have swapped falling out of bars in the early hours for a good read with a homemade cupcake. I’m in danger of becoming a 1950s housewife.

Short of popping ‘mothers little helper’ and slobbing out Waynetta style with the tragedy that is Jeremy Kyle I thought I’d keep myself out of trouble and stir up the creative juices with my very own market stall. I’ve decided to sell vintage teacups potted with pansies and antique saucers with French soap tied up in ribbon.

Inspired by Tim Burton’s brilliant Alice in Wonderland film [see it in 3D, if only for the Ray-Ban style glasses], the stall will be called ‘Mad as a Hatter’. I’m going to dress the table [which in my mind is huge but in reality is the size of Alice after she drank the magic potion] in the style of a Mad Hatter’s tea party. Think antique tablecloths, oversized playing cards and pastel coloured french fancies on vintage cake stands.  I saw this amazing window display for the film at Selfridges recently and feel very inspired.


I’ve also bought these sweet rubber stamps from Cox and Cox so that I can make gift cards as well as gift tags to tie on the cups with ribbon:


As for the small matter of the crockery, for the last two weeks I’ve discovered a competitive streak I never knew I had…on Ebay. I’ve also found out that to get the real bargains, you need to play the game.  So for all you Ebay virgins, here are my top tips:

1. Pour yourself a large glass of vino. It’s an essential part of the process.

2. It’s becoming increasingly tricky to get good antiques at bargain basement prices so to find the best steals think laterally. You’re looking for items owned by people who have no idea of the value of the items they’re selling. Many sellers know that if they describe something as ‘vintage’ or ‘shabby chic’ it’ll attract more bids. Some of my best buys were found by avoiding these words and typing in more general descriptions like ‘china tea service’ or even ‘joblot china’. You can also search by location. For example, I like all things French so rather than type in ‘french mirror’, I’ll type in ‘mirror’ and then select ‘European Union’ under location preferences. Warning – it takes much, much longer to search this way but, trust me, on the 19th page your bargain will await you. Patience.

3. Play hard to get. Much like spotting a gorgeous, single and, if you’re even luckier, straight man, you don’t want to act too keen. Rather than bidding straightaway, click on ‘watch this item’.  Keep an eye on your watch list and don’t forget when the bid ends. Remember, cool yet actively interested.

4. Seize the moment. When the auction’s down to the last minute, go in for the kill and make your first bid. The countdown is a huge adrenaline rush [or am I just spending too much time on my own?]. If you’re outbid, engage your killer instinct and type in your maximum bid. Basically this is the highest amount you’re prepared to pay for the item so Ebay will then automatically bid on your behalf. This takes extreme self-control. If, like me, bidding brings out your competitive side, try to stick the amount you originally wanted to pay. Otherwise you’ll end up with lots of tat that you’ve paid way too much for. Again, stay cool. Don’t take all your clothes off at once. Or something like that.

You dated, you got a little carried away with the Pino Grigio and now it’s The Moment of Truth. What have you woken up with? Here are my results. I’ve omitted the dodgy crochet blanket described as ‘granny chic’ [see, stay away from trendy words] but the rest were pretty good.


The best buy was this Royal Albert tea service with sweet little  blue birds on – 28 pieces of gorgeous crockery for £14.99. Bargain.


My flatmate Nick and boyfriend Matt don’t get the vintage thing at all and reckon the kitchen now resembles an old people’s home. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea but I love it. After all, it’s vintage daaaahlings. As a compromse, I let Matt put his weird ‘King Ken’ toy thing on the cake stand. Men are such strange beings.

Next stop, Columbia Road flower market to fill them up…

Happy hunting – Valerie x

Author: Rohini Wahi

Rohini is a London based freelance journalist and trend forecaster for the design industries. She has worked for Elle Decoration, Living Etc, Houzz and Design Sponge amongst others.

She loves a period drama and keeps a tidy home. Launched in 2007 The Beat That My Heart Skipped focuses on home inspirations, design trends, lifestyle and food – coupled with an insight into Rohini’s work and home life – from key picks at trade shows to styled weekend soirees. To contact Rohini for queries, work for hire or just to say hi drop her a line at

6 Comments on How to Successfully buy Vintage Online…

  1. kat
    Monday, April 12th, 2010 14:41 at 2:41 pm (8 years ago)

    It is worth looking at sniper tools. Save you time and stop you going over your maximum.

  2. Angela
    Tuesday, April 13th, 2010 14:46 at 2:46 pm (8 years ago)

    Just a little thank you for the tips on searching for china. I’m after lots of teacups for our wedding next year and found that most on ebay were overpriced. I’ll be following your advice and avoiding words like “shabby chic”!

  3. Heather
    Thursday, April 15th, 2010 14:01 at 2:01 pm (8 years ago)

    I’ve been checking you out and having read this really good post (one of many), I thought it was time I popped in to say ‘hello!’ I love the name of your blog – it grabbed me immediately.

    My name is Heather and I too collect tea sets, There, I said it! I may have to do a post on my collection if only to show you what I’ve found. I’ll let you know when I do, but in the meantime, I’m looking forward to more greatness from you…

  4. Rohini
    Thursday, April 15th, 2010 18:38 at 6:38 pm (8 years ago)

    Hi Heather! Glad you liked the post – this particular one is by our new Lifestyle Editor Valerie. Please do a post, your blog is lovely, so glad you commented so I could discover it! Rohini x

  5. Valerie
    Monday, April 19th, 2010 09:19 at 9:19 am (8 years ago)

    Thanks to you all for your lovely comments! Angela – please send us photos of your wedding next year as I’d love to see how you got on. Heather – please do let us see your collection and glad you like the blog. I really enjoyed looking at your gorgeous blog too. Valerie

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  1. […] now I know what it’s like to put your soul on the line and flog your wares at a market stall. After several long days making candles, tying ribbons in fiddly bows, choosing plants that had perfect petals, sourcing […]

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