Years ago, with my friend Jenny Komenda’s help, we found my beloved desk on eBay. Since then, we’ve been hooked on using eBay to find beautiful things, like Anton’s world map and Alex’s beloved cast iron pan. If you’re on the hunt for some gems, here are eight tips for how to shop eBay…
1. LET THE SEARCH BEGIN
When browsing on eBay — a store where you can find almost anything — search terms are your best friends. When it comes to looking for home furnishings, these are some of our favorite search terms: Danish Modern, Scandinavian, Herman Miller, Charles Eames, Marimekko, Mid Century, Saarinen, Paul McCobb, Hollywood Regency, lucite, rattan, Kilim rug, Moroccan rug, Dansk Enamel, Vera napkins, graniteware, spatterware and vintage brass. What would you add?
2. KEEP IT LOCAL
To find the desk, we searched “campaign style writing desk,” and discovered a beautiful vintage one. When shopping for furniture, lighting or other large pieces, set the item location to your zip code. (That’s what we did for our desk.) This may allow you to pick up the item in person.
3. START BROAD, THEN LIMIT
My friend Abbey Nova loves to search for vintage paintings on eBay. But since browsing art can be overwhelming, she uses the limiting categories, on the left side of the page, to help her narrow down exactly what she wants. Says Abbey, “I might start off in the ‘Art‘ category and then select ‘Art from Dealers & Resellers,’ and then limit this to ‘paintings’ and then ‘between 1900-1949’ and then ‘oils.’ I’m partial to landscapes, so I often limit my search to ‘landscapes’ as well.”
4. USE DOUBLE SEARCH TERMS
Interior designer Hollister Hovey uses Boolean search terms (which is when you combine a search term with AND, NOT or OR to produce more specific results). “I might search ‘folding chair (Italian, Swedish, Danish)’ — you get all the options of Italian, Swedish AND Danish folding chairs in one go,” Hollister explains. “Or I’ll search ‘1970* Italian (chair, lamp)’ and using the * would show you all the options that are manipulations of 1970 (1970, 1970s, 1970’s).”
5. REMEMBER THAT SOME ITEMS ARE BETTER VINTAGE
“Everyone should try a cast iron pan,” says Alex, who found his vintage 1940s pan on eBay. “It’s so much better for cooking steak. The older ones were made by hand and get a patina,” he explains. “They’re way better than the new ones.” These vintage dutch ovens are another great staple.
6. BUT SOME ITEMS ARE BETTER NEW
While eBay is an amazing resource for vintage finds, there are plenty of new things, too. Says Abby Low, “When shopping, I usually think about the thing for a while before buying. There was a great Madewell perforated leather tote, but I waited too long to buy it from the store and missed my chance. So, I searched for it on eBay and found a new one with tags. I even got a slight discount!” If you’ve been on the hunt for a new dress, bag or shoes, search for them on eBay. You may be surprised by what you find.
7. ADD TO YOUR COLLECTION
Use eBay to build an existing collection. As Rustam Mehta told us, “I go on eBay and search ‘mushroom lamps,’ and now I have a small collection. Of course, you’ll find ridiculous lamps that look like toadstools, so you have to sort through those. But there are also thousands for $20 to $50.”
8. JUST HAVE FUN
While you’re watching TV, listening to a podcast, or winding down at the end of the day, there’s something strangely soothing about scouring through eBay listings. “I love to search a term and then look at every single item,” says Abby. “I sometimes do this when I’m having trouble sleeping. Eventually, I’ll get tired and fall asleep.” Browsing on eBay can be like wandering through a flea market or estate sale, from the comfort of your bed or sofa.
Anton’s Vintage school map was found on eBay
eBay is currently having their end of season sale, so if you’re looking for anything for your home or wardrobe, now is a great time. Check out the full range of sale items here.
Have you found any favorite items on eBay over the years? Or have any search advice? We’d love to hear…
(This post is sponsored by eBay, a site we’ve loved and used for years. Thanks for supporting the brands that keep Cup of Jo running. Top photo by Alpha Smoot for Cup of Jo, styling by Kate Jordan; bottom photo by Nicki Sebastian for Cup of Jo.)