This weekend was very rainy in Austin, TX. So my plan to hit a string of garage sales was thwarted…but that didn’t stop me from heading over to one of my favorite antique malls in search of 1980s finds! This month, Mirror80 is featuring a series of posts on shopping for retro decor. First we tackled the tent-filled world of antique shows. Next we talked estate sales. Today we’re focusing on the booth-studded wonder of antique malls! Who doesn’t love the comfort of air conditioning and the thrill of row after row of well-stocked spaces? Read on for more details…
Due to time constraints, I spent less than an hour walking the aisles of one of Austin’s largest antique malls. My mission: to find retro treasures! Let’s just say that it was a very fruitful shopping trip! That brings me to my first tip…
1. Be prepared to really dig.
It’s a rare antique mall that features even one dealer devoted entirely to ’70s and ’80s finds. In fact, some antique malls discourage dealers from including newer merchandise, preferring Mid-Century modern pieces and older. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find retro items… You just have to know where to look for them. For example, during my outing on Saturday, I noticed that even the most elaborate booth at the antique mall had an E.T. lunchbox on a shelf in the corner. Most antique dealers will be hard pressed to ignore an item when they know they’ve come across something collectible. So scan each space, and if you see a mix of items that points to possibility, take a closer look.
You may not find a shelf devoted entirely to ’80s pieces, but if the dealer sells dishware, perhaps you’ll find a retro dish or cup. My first find of the day: a Working Girl mug. Remember that movie starring Melanie Griffith, Harrison Ford and Sigourney Weaver? I can hear the Carly Simon soundtrack now… Since I’m kicking things up a notch this year on the Mirror80 front, this mug is PERFECT for my desk. Side note: on the back of the mug it reads “There’s more to life than smiling, filing and dialing.”
2. If it grabs you, grab it.
Yes, you’re in an antique space, but that doesn’t mean the dealer will clearly mark each item with its decade of origin. You may be able to pull up some basic information on your phone. But more important than knowing exactly what year an item is from is the ability to honor your response to a piece. For example, my second find of the day was an Oleg Cassini crystal ring holder, shown above. I wasn’t sure if it was old or new. But I knew that I loved it, and that it would nicely blend with my collection of ’80s crystal pieces. Sure enough, when I got home, I found a similar new item on Amazon.com for around $25. I payed $10 for mine, and I love it! Mission accomplished!
On a similar note, I was instantly drawn to the black plastic Copco spice rack above, especially since it features a grid-style layout if you choose to mount it linearly, rather than horizontally or at a diagonal. I have a small crystal dome that would fit perfectly into one of the squares, so I decided to use this piece to display compact ’80s collectibles and miniatures. When I got home and researched this little gem that I scored for a mere $10, I discovered that it’s an iconic ’70s kitchen staple selling on Etsy for as much as $45. Not bad! Here’s my final tip:
3. Shop at antique malls to get great deals on retro merchandise.
Yes, folks–New Retro items from the ’70s and ’80s aren’t considered highly collectible by every antique dealer. Which means they may be scarce but are often priced very fairly. Plus, you can’t beat the antique mall experience of shopping indoors, with booth after booth of merchandise at your disposal. There are bound to be some treasures! It’s not for the faint of heart, but there’s no rule saying you have to visit every booth and scan each shelf with meticulous detail. If you can’t find a booth devoted to your favorite decade, go for spaces that seem to have an eclectic mix and see what they hold…