Shopping for Mid Century Modern vintage goods online can be daunting. There’s so much to consider, from authenticity, shipping method and care to customer-service policies. If you’re looking to start collecting, search no more: We’ve partnered with Ruby Lane to put together this handy guide on tips for vintage MCM shopping. 

vintage French poster

vintage MCM Leonore Doskow Sterling silver
Part of the fun of vintage shopping is the knowledge that items like this serving set and vintage French poster (above) are rare, often one-of-a-kind finds.

 

1. Start small.

If you’re considering purchasing a vintage or antique piece for the first time, it’s a good idea to test the waters with a small item, rather than going all-in on a large furniture purchase. Try your hand at sourcing a rug, lamp, light fixture, shelf-size décor item or piece of semiprecious jewelry. Doing so will allow you to develop experience with transacting in the online space and help you get to know dealers you trust, and whose processes you are most comfortable with. Most importantly, you’ll be able to acclimate yourself to the buying process without spending up to your maximum budget allowance in the beginning. 

  

vintage MCM blonde wood flatware case

 

blue enamel sugar bowl vintage MCM
Items like this blue enamel bowl and blonde wood flatware container (above) are great small items to start with when considering your first vintage purchase. They offer fun color pops at reasonable prices.  

2. Check and recheck measurements. 

Reputable vintage and antique resale sites know how important it is to include as much detailed information as possible on each item – and that includes size and scale. Be sure accurate measurements are readily accessible for any item you’re considering for purchase. Once you find something you love (and you have its measurements on-hand), get out your trusty tape measure and test your space for size appropriateness. 

Measuring Tip: If you’re still having trouble visualizing the item in your space, use your tape measure to mark the footprint and use painter’s tape to tape it off. Leave the taped footprint up for several days and return to it, as you would a paint color swatch, at different times of day for a day or two. Re-evaluate each time until you’re confident the piece fits well into your overall design scheme. 

 

vintage MCM Mid century Meredew Teak Coffee Table
With minimal detail (less to discern) and plentiful photos, this Mid Mod teak coffee table is a great entry-level option for new vintage shoppers. We love the $390 price tag, too.

3. Don’t feel pressured to make a quick purchase.

It’s true: Vintage and antique sites rarely have more than one of a specific item on-hand. This fact can often cause buyers to feel as if they need to win the race and purchase an item of desire right away. However, just as it is with anything you purchase, it’s important to take the time to consider your decisions carefully. If this means the item might not be there tomorrow, that’s o.k. – while the sting of loss of “what might have been” will be present for a bit, there will always be something new to check out. You’ll find what you want with patience. 

MCM industrial green table lamp
Items like this industrial green table lamp regularly come and go on vintage resale sites. If your object of desire is spoken for, don’t despair. Come back tomorrow and see what’s new.

 

4. Ask all the questions.

“Our dealers expect questions from discerning buyers and welcome them with open arms,” says Ruby Lane Chief Marketing Officer Gisele Barrau-Freeman. Before you purchase a piece, it’s important to be confident you know everything about it. Is the chair you want comfortable to sit on now, or does the stuffing need to be replaced? Are the drawers of that incredible Mid Mod dresser perfectly functional, or will they need some modifications? Resale sites should make it easy to contact dealers. For that reason, Ruby Lane sets itself apart by featuring an “Email Shop Owner” button on every listing.  

industrial style vintage glass pendant light

 

 

vintage tube pendant lamp
Any time you’re buying vintage lighting (like this pendant or the one above) online, it’s important to bring any questions about electrical wiring and/or compatibility to the dealer.

5. Understand how a site operates. 

Each vintage and antique resale site operates a little differently, so make sure you’re comfortable with its policies and procedures. Transparency is key, especially when it comes to vintage and antiques, and it’s paramount when you’re working with third-party dealers. Familiarize yourself with a potential resale site by checking its Frequently Asked Questions section. Ruby Lane’s FAQ Knowledge Base is searchable by topic and explains everything about their process, from purchase and payment to shipping and delivery. 

space patrol vintage children's handkerchief
How cool would these vintage space patrol handkerchiefs look framed and hung in a child’s bedroom?

6. Find out how authenticity is ensured.

If you’re going to be buying a vintage MCM good, it’s important to ensure the piece is authentic. A reputable vintage resale site should be able to articulate how they verify pieces sold on their platform. In the case of Ruby Lane, it’s vintage and antiques only–no new goods or reproductions allowed. Ruby Lane also adheres to strict dealer listing requirements that govern authenticity for each category. Finally, the site employs its own staff of specialist curators whose job it is to ensure dealers supply the correct verification info, and who can independently verify goods when necessary. 

Sam Andel MCM painting
Items with a rich and detailed history, such as this Sam Andel fine art painting, are available at Ruby Lane.

7. Look for provenance when possible.

Certain goods will come with documentation, markings or other telltale indicators of their authenticity and history. It’s ok to ask a dealer to provide any information they may have to verify an individual piece, including reputable appraisal documents if available. 

Karel Apparel proof artwork
This vivid and gorgeous proof by Karel Appel features the artist’s signature.  

8. Look for a guarantee or send-back policy.

Sometimes, you may receive an item that’s “just not quite right.” Resale sites should have clear and customer-friendly return policies and the terms of the policies should be readily available to read online. Ruby Lane requires its dealers to adhere to its return policy, so you’re covered in case a return is needed.   

9. Read the customer reviews.

Customers these days are savvy no matter what they’re searching for, and thanks to online marketplaces, it’s easy to see reviews of the product you want. Before purchasing from a dealer online, read the reviews so you can make an informed decision. “We use Trustpilot, a third-party verification system, to collect customer reviews,” says Barrau-Freeman. “This really helps customers to feel confident about their transaction.” 

10. Visit industry rating sites. 

Industry rating sites, such as Ecommerce Bytes, can tell you a lot about how well a reputable resale site performs compared to its peers. On a regular basis, Ecommerce Bytes undergoes a rigorous process of evaluating, reporting and ranking sites according to various categories. 

Looking for more tips on vintage MCM shopping? Check out MCM Fireplace Brands: Is It Really a Malm? Of course, don’t forget to follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest for more Mid Century Modern inspiration!