A Vintage Buyers Guide

I’ve had a lot of funny questions and eBay horror stories over the years, and I thought maybe a little FAQ and buyers guide might be helpful, humorous, or enlightening to some of you.

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Truly, my most frequently asked questions. Not the most useful, but the ones I get most often.

Q:”Do you have this 80 year old hat in another (size, color)?
A: Sorry, no.

Q:”Your measurement says this is a size 38 jacket, I’m a size 46, will if fit me?”
A: Sorry, no.

Q:”What color is it?”
A: The color it looks in the pictures and says in the description.

Q:”How do you know the (sweatband/liner/hatband/brim width etc.) is original? Could this be a fake?”
A: No way of knowing for sure, but everything matches and it would be an awful lot of trouble to go to.

Q:”What would you estimate the X value of the felt as?”
A: The X rating system is meaningless and varies maker to maker and year to year.

Q: “If you end it now, I will give you $15 for it.”
A: “There are two hours left, six bids, and it’s already going for $35.

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And now a short buyers guide – sort of a response to all the eBay transactions gone wrong that I’ve had.

Sizing: Tagged size varies. A lot. It did then, it does now. I wear a size 38 jacket- I have clothes tagged 36 to 44 in my closet, all fit about the same. And that’s modern stuff. In the 50, 60, 70, 80 year s that have passed since the garment I’m selling was new- who knows what could have happened? Rain, humidity, heat, wear- they all do their part to shrink or stretch. And this is why I provide measurements. Please do not look at a size tag and ignore the measurements. And don’t assume the measurements are wrong. Wishful thinking won’t make your coat or jacket fit.

Condition: Everything I sell is vintage. Unless I’ve stated otherwise, if it’s 70 years old, it’s going to have an issue or two. Don’t just look at the first two pictures. Actually read the entire description. Actually look at all the pictures. If you’re going to be dropping $175 on a hat, take the thirty seconds it takes. If you’re going to be dropping over $200 on an overcoat, read the sentence the describes the damage. Because I do my best to describe what’s wrong. And sometimes I miss things. But in years of selling only one complaint was actually due to something I missed. And the guy was cool about it and everything worked out.

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My expectations have changed in dealing vintage. I wouldn’t say I’ve lowered them, but they have changed. When I get clothes and hats in, I expect them to be in the shape described and packaged well. That’s not always the case, I get my fair share of crushed hats and wadded jackets, but even that is fixable. (I hate to think what people would say if I represented and delivered product in the way it’s been done to me.) But I expect the item to be vintage. I expect to sometimes get something with a bit of a smell, or a moth bite or two. I expect something that has been traveling for half a century or more.

I get these things in, and I do my best to make them look their best. Steam for the wrinkles, Steam and sun for the smells. I reshape, recrease, brush, clean and otherwise make the items more presentable. When I list, I make sure my pictures are good and that my descriptions are accurate.

But I still get people who buy things that have been around for 70 years, and their complaint is that it’s old. I still get people who buy things with damage and then complain that they have the exact damage that was clearly mentioned. I still get people who buy things that are clearly measured and complain that they didn’t read them and that it doesn’t fit. And in dealing with unreasonable people in a selling system that’s stacked against the seller, there’s unfortunately not a lot I can do.

As a parting shot, to quote Syms, “AN EDUCATED CONSUMER IS OUR BEST CUSTOMER”.

10 thoughts on “A Vintage Buyers Guide

  1. And don;’t forget that UK and US sizes are different. For a US size you move up one notch from the UK. So, a UK size 6 7/8s [22" / 56 cms] is a US size 7, and so on……. Also I always recommend to move up one size from your normal hat size if you are considering a “hard-shell” hat (ie. Top Hat or a Bowler / Derby]….

    • I love trying to explain to US buyers when it’s a UK hat that’s shrunk. So you have a UK 7-1/8, which fits a US 7-1/4, but it’s shrunk a size to a US 7-1/8 or a UK 7. Always confusing.

      And then there are the different oval shapes, which throw things off with hard shell hats, like you say. And then there are the soft felt hats with a lot of “give” or elasticity to the sweatband and felt, so the resting measurement is smaller than the actual fit, but there’s no way to stretch and measure without one of those vintage scissor and spring type measuring tools. And then there’s punti sizing. And German jacket sizing. And high waisted trousers hitting at a different spot than your jeans. And jeans sizes not being actual measurement. And the 4 inch drop between chest measurement and jacket size. So many things to confuse buyers and sellers alike.

  2. One thing you might want to add to your list of things for people to watch out for as well is for alterations! I get many of my vintage dresses altered so they fit better, and I’m sure back in the day a lot of folks had things altered or custom-made for their particular shape. I realized myself that I keep the size tags in these dresses, but know full well that they’re not the size that they claim to be. Measurements are best!
    Good luck with it all, I used to ebay stuff years ago and made good money from it, but now it seems like the bar has been lowered while the fees have increased!

  3. My grandfather and my father were from Germany. I have my grandfathers Fedora or what I think is a Fedora. The inside of the hat says Christys London (has the Christys Seal) but also says Spielmann & Wagener Hamburg Monckerbergstrasse 22. Can you tell me anything about this hat? I would love to know anything you could share with me. Thank you

  4. “Condition: Everything I sell is vintage. Unless I’ve stated otherwise, if it’s 70 years old, it’s going to have an issue or two”. Well said. It drives me batty that people think vintage clothes will somehow be pristine as if they just came off the rack at Nordstrom. Very rarely do I end up with something to sell that is completely perfect as if it had never been worn (even if it’s never been worn).

  5. I am slowly and carefully looking for a vintage black 7 3/8 Borsalino Homburg in great condition – or if you come across a different brand that is in super condition that you would recommend over a Borsalino. Your site is great, and I am visiting it regularly but you may come across something that needs a loving home and if so, feel free to send me an email heads-up with the details. Regardless, thank you for a great web site.

  6. Do you buy? I have Canadian-purchased, 1960′s Hudson Bay Men’s car coat – 44, Camel Colored, leather buttons, with zip-in pile lining. Few small moth (?) holes & pocket-flap satin worn/torn. Interested? or should I just donate @ my local shelter?

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