Ebay and Other Vices

I have a problem. I have a little thing called a prop addiction. I’m constantly finding my next must-have props in vintage and thrift stores, at the grocery store, in sales bins at Pottery Barn or Crate & Barrel, and most recently on ebay. Now, you might think that the problem is the fact that I am buying too much. Some might argue that. Not me. My problem is that I simply don’t have nearly enough room, and the stacks are growing ever more precarious. It’s not too much stuff, it’s simply a lack of storage space. At least, that’s what I tell myself. I’m hoping one day I’ll get to be like this shop in Chicago. My family may not be able to move in our house any more, but man, we’ll have some nice props. The photo above features two of my new ones… the palest-yellow oval dish, on sale at Whole Foods and the shabby chic breakfast tray was from ebay.

As I was just spending a bit of time prop-shopping on ebay, I thought I’d share some tips with you.

First and foremost, know that ebay rarely saves you money. While the prices may be cheap, the shipping charges will kill you. Don’t forget to count everything in when you are bidding, or your $.99 steal may quickly turn into paying $15.99 for a couple of napkins. If you have a local vintage shop, it’s probably a better bargain…

… but, there are things you’ll find on ebay that you just wont find anywhere else. And, most sellers I’ve worked with do a great job of delivering on what is promised, and if you order more than one thing from the same seller, you can save on the shipping costs. Plus, there is that whole being able to shop naked thing. Not that I’d do that or anything.

Always read all the fine print. Esp. sizes. I find that the photos don’t always do the size justice, and I’ve been surprised on more than one occasion with a wooden cutting board that barely fit a slice of toast… which I would have noticed had I read the description carefully. Also, while you are carefully reading, make sure you notice where the item is located. About 50% of the time stuff I fall in love with is located in Australia. Which would be great if I lived there (as I’m sure some of you do), but shipping a dinged up enamel bowl or nut loaf pan from Sidney to Seattle seems a bit excessive.

If you really want something, be sure to check back in in the last 30 minutes of the auction, and be prepared to be bid up. Often, I won’t even bid until the last 30 minutes or so to avoid as much price inflation as possible. I put neat items I’m considering on my watch list, and sit on them for a while, to make sure I really want them or don’t find something better, or the buying impulse goes away.

Getting your search right can be tricky too. Is it a wood or a wooden cutting board? Should I search on vintage, antique, or primitive? Here are a few of my personal favorite searches for food-photography related props:

Shabby Chic Kitchen Collectibles
Cottage Kitchen Collectibles
Enamelware (Enamelware seems to be a hot new prop trend. I had started buying some, and then noticed my new issues of Saveur and Gourmet both feature red-rimmed enamelware bowls on the cover.)
Old-looking Wooden Cutting Boards
Collectible Cake Stands
Depression Glassware
Vintage Kitchenware Lots (great for finding old bakeware, linens, and flatware)

While I’m at it, here are a few of my other favorite prop shopping sites:

CB2 – Crate & Barrel’s inexpensive little sister, great for modern props.
Horchow – Some of this stuff is over the top, but there are some great bargains if you look for them.
Napa Style – Cool, but expensive stuff. Worth picking up a piece or two though.
Heath Ceramics – Gorgeous, gorgeous pottery
The Find – Fantastic comparison shopping site. Just enter in a few thoughts about what you are looking for, and you’ll get results from all over the place. So much better for shopping than Google.
Stylefeeder – Another great place for finding shopping tips.

Care to share any of your favorite prop shopping tips?