A vintage sweatshirt or T-shirt with a hefty price tag might be hard to believe for some shoppers, but for passionate buyers and sellers, it would come as no surprise.
Thrifting has become more popular over the years, and so has the demand for older items. As brands like Carhartt, Nike, and Champion fluctuate in popularity, so do themes like Disney that make some things more desirable to buyers, resulting in a higher price.
Wyatt Weir and his business partner Abraham Herst own Peoples Champ Vintage, a Toronto apparel store. Buying from wholesale sellers, they source items that are in popular demand.
Although buying from wholesale may cost a bit more, Weir is confident that this gives them the upper hand in the community. “We’ve been able to develop close relationships with a few of the wholesalers that we go to that kind of know almost exactly what we’re looking for,” he said.
Once they pick out the items to feature in their store, pricing them is their next obstacle. The condition of the item is one of the main factors in coming up with a price. “There’s good stains, and then there’s bad stains,” Weir said. The age of items also affects their value, and Weir has seen his customers treat their purchase as an investment. “The older it is, the more valuable that makes it.”
Early in the pandemic, Weir recalls, there was a rising interest for Disney items. An Aladdin shirt printed for the 1992 release of Disney’s Aladdin, was put up for auction for $1 and sold for $6,000. “That really rose the price because then everyone was trying to look for Disney stuff and everyone was starting to pay high, high amounts,” said Weir. This created a high demand for older items. But those items, he says, can cost significantly more.
Weir and Herst say they hear criticism about the high price of some items, usually because would-be buyers assume they got the items for free, as donations, and are just overcharging for second-hand goods. They say they are always happy to explain the way in which their store functions and how they purchase their items from wholesale sellers. But to cater to all kinds of customers, they have left space for those who are not willing to spend as much as others. This section has substantially cheaper items, ranging from $5 to $25.
Kez Garber, the owner of Papa Love Vintage in Toronto, also sells some items at head-turning prices.
Garber researches comparable items based on the era, brand, style, and popularity, in order to help determine the price of her products. She has gained a general knowledge of how to price merchandise based on her experience with similar pieces.
Sourcing clothes for her collection, Garber looks at different places. She also works with someone who sources weekly at a local warehouse, participates in estate sales and auctions, buys from private vintage dealers and even has her mother help her out with places outside of the city.
Garber says she tends to hear complaints when participating in larger outdoor markets and pop-ups. With multiple vendors available selling at a range of prices, it can make higher-priced items seem even more extreme. She notes that some customers may not understand these discrepancies in pricing at in-person markets.
Despite her pricing system changing due to the pandemic, Garber says she keeps her customers in mind when setting a cost. “I try my best to keep my shop as affordable and accessible as possible,” she said.
Liz Lau is the owner of Granny Puckett Vintage. In her work, she factors in the price she got the item for, her time for sourcing or mending a product, as well as the demand, rarity, and condition of a piece.
Like Garber and Weir, Lau receives complaints but sees her pricing as fair. “Some people don’t understand just because I got them at an estate sale for $10, I cannot sell the item to them for the same amount,” said Lau.