How to find cheap vintage on ebay

In a follow on from my blog on maximising your vintage success at charity shops I simply had to write one about online shopping. More specifically eBay. If Disneyland is the happiest place on earth then eBay is a close contender for second in my house. 

The vintage market has changed online as well as in the charity shops but that's not to say you cannot find vintage and find it within your budget. 

Here are some of my tactics for finding budget vintage on eBay...

Look regularly - it's no use complaining that you cannot find anything on eBay if, like Mummy Era Go Again, you use it so infrequently that you cannot remember your password! Have a little look when you’re on a long journey or in an ad break (or on the loo!). You don't have to change your whole life for eBay by any means (in fact I'd recommend you don't!) but you do need to commit a bit of time to searching for vintage because it won’t fall in your lap.

Decide on priorities – It’s so easy to get carried away with eBay so decide your budget and top price for items and stick to it. If you are looking to keep costs down you can avoid paying additional customs charges by searching for items within the UK only. Of course this will limit the vintage you find as a lot of good vintage does come from the US.

Search smart - I have several ways of searching for vintage bargains 

Simple £1 search

I regularly search for items in this way and it throws up treasure.

1. Put the word vintage into the search field 2. Filter by ending soonest  3. Add a filter for 99p to 1.00 

4. Add the UK only filter

Here are some of the more interesting items which came up at the time of writing this blog from searching in this way. This method is more like an online browse around a flea market, there is just no telling what might turn up.

Now that is not to say these items will sell for a pound but it does increase your chances of picking up a vintage bargain especially when looking at the items which are ending soon but have no bids. 

Search misspellings  As with all things these days there is "an app for that" and will take the pain out of searching misspellings for you, just type in your preferred search terms and it will search for all of the most common misspellings. As people use their phones to upload their items more and more these days and typo’s are common.  

For example I love Lulu Guinness bags (note the 2 n’s) but most of my purchases have come from people misspelling the word as guiness and therefore there is little or no competition for the item.

Here are some misspellings I found through using FatFingers, some vintage, some reproduction and some vintage appropriate. 

Knowing your favourite brands  Go through the clothes you own and select your favourite pieces, it doesn't matter if they are vintage or reproduction. If they have labels search for that brand - this Richard stump dress is one of my favourites and I wear it to 1940's events.  Because I know I love the fit and the quality I am reassured in buying these dresses and they come up quite often. 

Some sellers will use a very simple descriptor of the brand name without using the most common words like “vintage”. This lessons the chance of someone searching for “Vintage dress” finding it. You’re relying on the laziness of the seller here to categorise and describe their items properly.

Here are some items that came up as listed without the word vintage or with poor descriptors which could help you snap up a bargain. Sometimes it pays to leave the word vintage out of the equation all together when searching.

My Top 10 search terms

Outside of searching for “vintage dress" here are some of the search terms I use to find vintage online. It's worth remembering that sellers will often use these terms to attract the buyer so it's not necessarily authentic. For example if selling a 1980's polyester day dress you might see it listed with a whole host of descriptors such as: 


Make sure to check the item description though,  just because someone has used WW2 as a descriptor it doesn't mean it's from that era. 

Example: Search “Vintage (insert one of the below here) dress. Apply filters as per your preferences.

1. Volup – More common on Etsy but this comes in handy if, like me, you do not have the kind of bust that accommodates vintage without scaffolding, it’s commonly used by vintage sellers to describe something that is bigger than the average vintage item.

2. VLV – Viva Las Vegas – This search terms is also used, sometimes more by US based sellers, this is often used for items that are more rockabilly in style or glitzy evening wear.

4. Goodwood or 5. Twinwood – These event names are often used by UK sellers so are good for true vintage and often forties in style without having to pay customs charges. 

6. Wartime/WW2 – Sellers often use this for utility clothing or true vintage from the 40’s so it’s a handy one to bear in mind.

7. Granny dress/Granny chic – Yes some people do use these! You will find you get fancy dress costumes with this term as well but if you are filtering by “used” this should limit them.

8. Madmen/secretary chic – What it says on the tin really, these items can be more 60’s in style so if that’s your cup of tea it’s a good one to try

9. Downton Abbey – Any TV series which of an “era” will creep into eBay listings, especially one as popular as Downton Abbey. I’m also starting to see “home fires” but is not very popular at the moment (bear this in mind in six months)

10. Landgirl – This may also throw up lots of fancy dress results so make sure your “used” filter is on, people use this term for all kinds of items, not just the stereotypical jumpsuit or dungarees the term denotes.

11. vtg – simple really, this is used as a shorthand for “vintage” by many sellers.

Check out the seller

Once you have found a vintage item that is of interest to you do go and check out the sellers other items, they may have similar items or more vintage clothing that is the same size. If you find a seller you really love then save them to your sellers list so you can go back to them later.

Handing over the cash

Buy it now – Obviously this is a great option if you are in love with an item and simply must have it but make sure you are not doing yourself a disservice. Sometimes I see two different listings of the same items with wildly different price start points so if the item is branded then search for that brand in the size you want and make sure no one else is selling the same thing but cheaper.

Auctions – don’t get carried away here, it’s so tempting but don’t let the thrill of the chase overshadow your budget. You can input your maximum bid and eBay will do the work for you. Your bids will increase until you hit the top of the budget you have set. If you get outbid at the top of your budget breathe deeply and take a real assessment of the item, should you really up your budget? 

Make an offer – Weirdly I had felt an awkwardness about making offers on eBay. I am not sure why but I have never enjoyed haggling really. But I have made offers on eBay before and been successful so bite the bullet and tell the seller what you want to pay. They may reject the offer, they may counter offer but all of this is part of the back and fourth of vintage clothing transactions. I made an offer on a vintage dress and when I realised the seller was only two miles away we agreed that I would come and collect it and she refunded me the postage saving me even more money so it's always worth asking. 

Pay now – don’t let your eBay account end up in a sea of things you need to pay for, it’s poor form to keep the seller waiting for payment. I sell on eBay occasionally and it’s really irritating that the person I recently sold a lovely bag to hasn’t paid, despite two payment reminders. Your seller will be able to get your item in the post a lot quicker if you pay as soon as possible after the auction.

I hope this inspires some new ways of searching for vintage online for some of you.

Until next time





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