How to Score the Best Vintage Furniture

Your Guide to Navigating Estate Sales

There are few possessions which we often deem worthy enough to pass down from generation to generation. For some, it’s antique furniture, for others, it might be vintage jewelry or classic collectables. Every family has a history and so too, do the possessions with which we fill our lives. Antique furniture, especially, can add warmth, character, and elegance to any home, which is why so many of us search long and hard for the perfect piece to bring into our home and life. When we haven’t had the luxury of possessing old family heirlooms, we have to look elsewhere for such unique pieces. Some of the best places to start looking are estate sales which are the sale or auction of the majority of a person’s belongings. However, knowing how to look and what to look for when going through an estate sale can be quite a task and can be difficult for those of us who have little to no experience when it comes to the buying or selling of antique and vintage goods. So to help us out, I called upon estate sale expert, Robin Psota of Retro Robin Estate Sales here in Southern California, to give us the inside scoop when it comes to shopping at estate sales.


Robin has been in the business of buying and selling vintage and antique goods for over thirty years, with the past twenty years spent in Southern California. The estate sale industry in Southern California, as Robin describes it, is rampant, with only around 100 estate sale companies four to five years ago to almost a thousand today, there is no shortage of estate sale possibilities in the area. Estate sales in this region can be especially packed full of unique treasures as our abundance of wealthy communities give way to expensive finds.

While online websites such as eBay, Amazon, and Craigslist may make purchasing and ordering furniture a bit easier, the only way to really know if the piece you are buying is of any value is to see and feel it in person. One of Robin’s tips to know if a piece of furniture is of high quality and value is to feel if it is made of solid, heavy wood, a quality which can only be felt in person. Another way to see if a piece of wooden furniture is possibly an antique is to see if the pieces of wood are meshed together with the practice of dovetailing. Newer furniture will have the slabs of wood glued together to form a perfect line, whereas older pieces often used the technique of dovetailing, which is when the pieces are fitted together forming a sort of a puzzle edge. You can also tell the age of a piece of furniture by its hardware. If the piece is an antique, often, the original screws will have oxidized while the hardware on a newer reproduction piece will have shiny screws. It’s these little details, which you can only identify in person, that will help you buy smarter.

One of the benefits of these online retailers that Robin notes is the ease of accessibility when it comes to researching other pieces on the market. While some trust must be formed with the estate sale agent and his or her pricing, it is always prudent to browse for similar items on eBay, let’s say, to see what those pieces are selling for. If the price is way off, then perhaps you are not getting such a great deal.

In California, the style words of the moment are: mid-century modern. From the newly renovated  Eichler Homes of the 1940s to the widespread popularity of AMC’s Mad Men, we are in the midst of a mid-century revival. So when you go hunting for the perfect vintage pieces to achieve this coveted style, try giving estate sales a chance, it’ll do your grandmother proud.

To find Retro Robin’s estate sales in your area or to book your own estate sale, click here or call directly at 310.308.5540.

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