This blog is sponsored by AuctionNinja, but all opinions and statements are my own.
What really is no secret at all is the fact that I have an incurable addiction to shopping secondhand. While physically attending resale sources such as flea markets, estate sales and thrift stores is for sure a favorite pastime of mine, I am finding less and less time to get out there and “thrift.” Busy work schedules, combined with running my kids around to a million activities, leaves very little time for me to escape to physical secondhand resale locations. But that hasn’t stopped me from secondhand shopping. In fact, it’s only led to my discovering more convenient, faster and better ways to thrift.
Today, I want to let you in on maybe my best-kept secondhand secret. Pre-pandemic, I didn’t know a ton ways to shop secondhand online outside of good ole’ Facebook Marketplace. But when thrift stores closed and estate sales disappeared, I had to get creative in order to get my much-needed secondhand fix. Keep in mind, I am not one to readily press “add to cart” on highly-curated, sticker-shocking sites such as Chairish, 1stDibs, OneKingsLane, etc. My version of secondhand vintage shopping has always been the budget version. Even before my days as a vintage seller, I was always determined to find my vintage pieces the same way the dealers do.
So, in the early days of the pandemic, I had been hoping to find some outdoor estate sales where I could mask up, social distance, but still thrift hunt. Estate sales have always been my favorite way to purchase secondhand, so I was perusing EstateSales.net and discovered that a whole lot of my favorite estate sale companies had turned to online auctions. They were still running all of their usual estate sales, only now they were offering them through AuctionNinja. So, what is AuctionNinja? Well, for starters, it’s an online estate sale marketplace that’s a wayyyy more convenient, less time-intensive way to shop estate sales.
WHAT IS AuctionNinja?
The very first day I discovered this treasure-trove-of-a-site, I happened upon Perry Como’s estate sale on Long Island (you know, the really super famous old-school singer). I perused the entire estate and put in some really almost insultingly low bids on a few things, one being a hand-carved bronze bust in mint condition. I bid $6 on it, closed my computer, and honestly forgot about it because, well, how on earth was I going to get a hand-carved bronze bust from Perry Como’s estate for $6?!
Sure, enough, two days later I get an email:
You have won the following items:
Item: DuBarry Vintage Dress
Winning Bid: $15.00
Item: Clay Bust Of A Man
Winning Bid: $6.00
The “clay” bust, as it turned out, was not clay at all but solid bronze. And all I had to do was drive my car to Perry Como’s INCREDIBLE estate, wait outside in my car for a few minutes, and the estate sale company simply delivered my winnings to me.
The Perry Como bust I scored for $6 on AuctionNinja, pictured to the right of the yellow grow light box.
It’s probably not too difficult to imagine how quickly I became addicted to AuctionNinja. Now, I was able to shop estate sales at 1am on a Sunday from my bed, while waiting in the parking lot to pick up my kids… and all those other times we all pick up our phones to fill those small (otherwise boring) moments throughout the day. It was mere days before I scored my second lot:
You have won the following items:
Item: (#88) From Morocco Brass Chandelier 14.5″ Round
Winning Bid: $20.00Item: (#185) Huge Lot Of National Geographic Magazines 1924 And Up
Winning Bid: $2.00
About 1/4 of the lot of Nat Geos on display that I won on AuctionNinja for $2.
Now, I was not only scoring incredible vintage for ridiculously low prices, I also became a WINNER!? I mean, never in all my long days at the thrift store did I ever think my addiction to secondhand could make me a WINNER. And, damn, it felt good.
When the summer came around, I was able to buy thousands of dollars worth of garden statuary for just a couple hundred:
You have won the following items:
Item: Vintage Outdoor Garden Cement Planter
Winning Bid: $21.00
Item: Vintage Aluminum Birdhouse On Stand
Winning Bid: $75.00
Item: Vintage Outdoor Garden Cement Frog Fountain Head Statue
Winning Bid: $37.00
Item: Vintage Cement Outdoor Garden Birdbath
Winning Bid: $95.00
I would often find my design-mind ignited when perusing AuctionNinja, too. There is nothing I love more than using pieces in non-traditional ways, and browsing through AuctionNinja has been, for years now, the best way to get my creative juices flowing. I am often asked where I scored that “headboard” in our guest room. Well, I WON it on AuctionNinja, of course:
You have won the following items:
Item: Vintage Oriental Black Lacquer Screen With Fabulous Carved & Hand Painted Scenes
Winning Bid: $17.00
The “Vintage Black Lacquered Screen” I won on AuctionNinja being used as a headboard in our guest room.
HOW DOES AUCTIONNINJA WORK?
AuctionNinja is truly an impressively organized site. The home page has a search bar where you can simply input your zip code to find local sales.. There is also a section on the home page that allows you to search by item type. Looking for lighting? Well, there’s an icon for that. Just click it to shop lighting across different estate sales..
Once you click on sale, you’ll see the starting bid for each item to give you a general idea of the minimum you must be willing to spend in order to bid (in other words, this isn’t a price, but instead a starting point for the bidding of the item). You’ll need to have an AuctionNinja account in order to place a bid, but a pop-up will appear after you click “Bid Now” and you will either need to sign-in or sign up!
Most items on the site start at just $1, with no reserve that needs to be met!
Once you place a bid, you can either walk away entirely (you will be notified via email if you win), or you can set your alarm for when the auction closes (if that’s too much work, AuctionNinja offers a text alert option so you’re notified before the sale begins to close)). The reasons for returning as the auction is closing are detailed below, but regardless, you are going to want to be aware of whether your winnings will ship, or if you’ll have to pick them up. Most Estate Sale companies are very strict about pick-up times and locations, so it’s best to know you’ll be able to pick up at the stated time and date before bidding. I will add that if you know you can’t pick something up, but would still like to bid, some estate sale companies are willing to accommodate you, but this would need to be arranged PRIOR to the close of the auction and the estate sale company should be your point-of-contact (not AuctionNinja).
TIPS TO NAVIGATE
It’s been years now since I first discovered AuctionNinja and I have definitely discovered some tips along the way:
- Be present in the last moments of the auction. Or, don’t be, if you don’t want to spend too much. My mom was recently bidding on a rug on AuctionNinja that she absolutely loved, but really didn’t need. She called me for advice. I said, “Mom, you don’t need this rug, so put in your highest reasonable bid and walk away.” The rug was a 10 x 13 feet, wool, antique Persian rug and just the kind I knew dealers would be fighting over. Sure enough, she was outbid by quite a bit (but, of course, the winning bidder still got a helluva a deal on that beauty). If it IS something you need or something you’re willing to get into a bidding war over, do make sure you have AuctionNinja pulled up in those last seconds to counter-bid. It’s not uncommon to be outbid in those last seconds.
- Don’t be intimidated. When I was in college, I interned at a Manhattan auction house. Before that experience, I thought auctions were only for the very rich (ok, maybe that Sotheby’s Damien Hirst auction really IS only for the very rich). But, the vast majority of auctions occurring at any given time are very approachable (even fun!) affairs that are intended to get rid of a large lot of items quickly. In other words, most auctions are an opportunity to acquire some incredible pieces for very low prices. The best part about AuctionNinja? You don’t even have to show face! No need to understand auctioneer jargon, auction etiquette, or even to get out of your pajamas. Haven’t showered or left the house in two days? AuctionNinja is where it’s at!
- Search auctions outside of your area. If you’ve done a local zip code search and there aren’t estate sales based in your area, it doesn’t mean you can’t shop sales on the site. All of the auctions are run by different estate sale companies, so shipping guidelines vary across sellers. When you first visit an auction, be sure to read the special instructions. Why? Because a lot of these companies are willing to ship. Look for the “Limited Shipping Available” callout in the auction details. Keep in mind, many will only ship small items and it’s often not a bad idea to reach out directly to the estate sale company to confirm they will, indeed ship, and will ship to your zip code. The other way to uncover shippable items is to search by item, and use the “shipping available” filter. This will uncover items that are part of estate auctions that the estate company has indicated they’ll ship (even if most of the items in the sale are local pickup only). Using a combination of both methods is best!
Most importantly, have fun! AuctionNinja is an easy-to-use, very approachable site that is a veritable treasure trove of secondhand scores. It allows everyday people to get in on scores the same way the dealers do and, for all of us vintage-lovers, isn’t that what it’s all about?
Be sure to sign up for AuctionNinja email notifications, too, to make sure you’re tuned in to all the great sales and AuctionNinja happenings.
One comment on “Designer Secrets: Letting you in on one of my favorite online sources for secondhand treasures”
Very helpful article! I agree, Auction Ninja has been a great way to shop second-hand, vintage and