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Vintage Pays Off

Etsy seller preserves 'design culture' from past decades, finds success.

There’s just something about yard sales that online sellers of vintage items connect to.

Often, it’s a childhood memory of weekend family outings and finding wonderful treasures at great prices. That’s exactly what Rebecca Price’s store, DrowsySwords, is rooted in.

“We would go to a yard sale, and I would find something good, get a good deal because I was a kid, and then sometimes turn around and sell the item to my dad,” Price recalls.

And since she never wanted to miss a deal and a money-making opportunity, she began collecting “great stuff, ” says the mom selling on Etsy .

“We would go to a yard sale, and I would find something good, get a good deal because I was a kid, and then sometimes turn around and sell the item to my dad”

Worldwide potential

Price began selling online in 1997, when she worked at a rare-books store.

She would scan, catalogue and list the texts on eBay, which at the time only had about 10,000 listings, she notes. Then she opened her own eBay account to try her hand at selling some of the collectibles she’d acquired.

“I quickly realized the potential of the worldwide market, that in my small town of 5,000 people I wasn’t going to be able to sell my vintage scores, but given the vast World Wide Web, I realized I could really get top dollar for my items,” she says.

Price based the name of her store on a palindrome because she’s always loved those tricky equations.

“My favorite is ‘Go hang a salami; I am a lasagna hog,’ but that is a little too long for a shop name, so I settled on DrowsySword[s],” the merchant continues.

DrowsySwords eventually moved to Etsy, where Price believes the community is friendlier and the site is more visually appealing. Plus, the marketplace offers a boutique atmosphere that allows buyers to better imagine the items in a home setting, she says.

“I think Etsy appeals to a more decorator aesthetic, rather than the collector-buyers of eBay,” Price adds.

And she uses that distinction to her advantage by taking professional-looking photographs and offering attractive items in a professional style.

“I quickly realized the potential of the worldwide market, that I could really get top dollar for my items”

Preserving a design culture

Price describes her store as eclectic.

She sells—among other things—a variety of vintage afghans, home décor and fashion pieces you would think you’ll never see again. There are items reflecting every decade starting with the 1920s, and her inventory is so big that her home is a virtual showcase of what she offers, she reports.

Besides enjoying a job that allows her to seek out old treasures at yard sales and thrift stores, Price appreciates the green art of reuse. She recognizes how quickly home and fashion trends change, so it’s meaningful to her to preserve designs from days gone by and give her customers the opportunity to add to their personal style.

“In this world of mass production, I think it’s really meaningful to have unique options for self-expression,” Price notes.

Many of her customers say they found things that are an exact fit for their home in her store. There really is still a place in this world for orange crocheted square afghans, macramé plant hangers and disco pantsuit jumpers.

Fit for her life

“In this world of mass production, I think it’s really meaningful to have unique options for self-expression”

On the more personal side of things, Price is a single mother. Spending time with her kids is the most important thing for her, so it was a big deal when she was able to quit her job last year to work full time on her Etsy shop.

Now she doesn’t have to find child care and won’t miss work when her kids are home from school or sick. Plus, it’s a good model for the kids to actually see what their mom does, Price adds.

Selling on Etsy full time has allowed this mom to make her own schedule and break out of the monotony of strict work hours.

“I have sculpted this work to fit my life, rather than me fitting it,” she says.

Although there are challenges to working from home—like feeling pressured by that huge load of laundry or wanting to curl up with a book on a cold day—it seems DrowsySwords has allowed Price to do everything she loves.

“It can be lonely work,” Price adds. “But as time passes, I am finding more and more peers doing the same thing as me.”

To combat this sense of isolation, Price says she gets more involved in the community by attending shows and events.

Visit DrowsySwords on Etsy.

About the author

Sarah Brown
Sarah Brown is a freelance writer who writes about e-commerce and small businesses. She recently graduated from Chico State with a journalism degree and is also a budding online entrepreneur, having launched two Web businesses and her own line of handmade products. Opinions expressed here may not be shared by The Online Seller and/or its principals.

  • OBVAVirtualAssistant

    This is so true. Sometimes we collect something which is unique and can actually sell it off at an amazing price. Very inspiring article.



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