Buying and Selling Great Vintage Clothes

March 03, 2020 - Clothing, Accessories and Handbags

Vintage fashion can sometimes be hard to pull off without looking slightly fancy.

But pick the right clothes, and it’ll blow all your friends away.

Having loads of clothes to choose from lets you mix and match an ideal look that’s subtle and show-stopping at the same time.

Here’s how to find vintage clothes to create your next great outfit.

That One’s Vintage. That One’s Second-hand.

There’s a big difference between the two. Vintage clothes are sometimes cheap, but you should be willing to spend more on high-quality clothes.

In the same way that second-hand furniture doesn’t instantly become antique furniture, second-hand clothes don’t automatically become vintage clothes when they’re worn again!

But while the obvious place to look for vintage clothes is in specialist vintage shops, there are other options you shouldn’t forget to try – particularly if you’re a bargain hunter.

Why Pawn Shops Are Where to Go for Vintage Clothes

Pawn shops are used every day by people selling all sorts of things, from jewelry to musical instruments – to beautiful 1960s garments and accessories.

That makes them an ideal spot to go searching for your next load of vintage clothes. Here’s all you need to know.

What Will I Find? And How Much?

You’ll be really surprised at what you can find, especially for the price you’ll pay. It’s often far less than via a private seller, as they may have an emotional attachment to a particular garment they’re selling.

In their eyes, that might raise the value and therefore the price, even though it doesn’t mean as much to anyone else.

So pawn shops can be much better value. And they’re fun to shop in, as the stock is always changing, thanks to their business model.

Whatever you pick up, make sure you can match the eras and styles in your outfits. It can look like a bit of a jumble otherwise, and fall into the ‘costume’ look that we warned you about to begin with.

Hidden Gems

Lots of people dump big bags of clothes at these shops without really looking at what they’re giving away.

That’s great news for you.

In among the odds and ends could be just what you need to complete your ensemble for the weekend! Remember to track what’s on trend online and keep an eye out for similar items when you visit the shop.

When you strike it lucky, the results can be really exciting and inspiring.

If you’re interested in selling your clothes, read on.

Have it Cleaned

Cleaning your item is the first thing you should do. You may think that it already looks fantastic and there’s no need, but trust us– do it. Pawnbrokers are savvy people who understand the little things that affect value. You may deal with someone who has a specialty in that clothing style.

Even if your broker doesn’t know much about clothes, they’ll get a better impression from a clean garment. It may be the difference between the person accepting the item and turning you away.

Have a Realistic Idea of How Much You’ll Get

With personal items like clothing or instruments, the market value is dependent on the quality of the item, and quality is not something that is quantifiable. The broker will have to look at what the item is selling for online and make a judgment on how your piece matches up.

Pawn shops typically pay somewhere between 40 and 60 percent of the market value for the item you’re selling. Many people get offended when they hear the price that they’re receiving for the item. Understand that you are skipping the process of seeking someone out and trying to sell your item to individuals.

You’re receiving a quick and reliable service that cuts out the middleman and allows you to leave the store with cash-in-hand. Have your item cleaned, bring it into the store with a dry-cleaning bag, and see what happens.

Depending on the original value of the dress, you could still walk out with a large amount of money. Even if you receive a couple hundred dollars, that’s money you didn’t have before!

Leather Jackets

All leather jackets can be pawned.

When it comes to figuring out how much your leather jacket is worth there are dozens of variables that come into play as you critique the jacket.  Yet with price ranges running from $200 to $3,000, you’ll want to know the specifics to get the highest payout for a collateral loan.

It’s recommended that you use PawnGuru if you’re debating pawning your leather jacket. This site will keep you protected, facilitates a trustworthy pawnbroker, and ensures you get the most money possible!

Many fashion designers make the justified claim that if you bought your leather jacket for under $500 you most likely have a low-quality jacket that might not even be authentic leather. A pawn loan can run anywhere from 40-75% off the original retail price depending on who you ask, and which shop you visit. This makes upscale, high-end leather jackets an investment item with strong longevity. This is no surprise considering the iconic flair this particular piece of fashion has become as an emblem of ruggedness since the days of James Dean.

5 Factors that Boost the Value of Leather Jackets

High-Quality Leather

Just because your leather jacket is marketed as the iconic ‘leather jacket’ doesn’t quite mean it’s worth that much. Many leather jackets are made from suede or corrected leather that’s not worth as much as the real deal.

The most common high-quality leather is calfskin. This leather is both soft and durable but also the most expensive. Since the young cow produces less hide this means designers will have to order more, pushing the price point upward. Many designers are also partial to lambskin which is nice because it’s not quite as coarse as cowhides while the traditional cow leather is the most durable. Even higher on the scale of expensive leather are exotic animals like kangaroo, alligator, or crocodile.

  • Corrected Leather

Animals with scarring or other cosmetic flaws on their skin from branding or nicks also lower the quality of the leather. Skins with cosmetic flaws are sanded down and pressed with faux leather grains to appear more substantial. The material is then dyed or treated which is why corrected leather feels more like plastic than authentic leather.

  • Faux Leather

Faux leather is actually terrible for the environment made from chemical plastic that is not worth anything.

  • Suede

Suede has a top level that is genuine leather which is separated from a from the rough bottom layer known as the corium. This material is typically made from goat or lamb. The downside to suede is that it cannot get wet or the textile will get stiff.

  • Full Grain Leather

This term refers to leather that is unaltered, retaining the natural grain (skin pattern) of the animal. Full grain leather has natural pores, making the jacket more breathable. The natural oils from the skin also make the leather more flexible and softer.

  • Top Grain Leather

This type of leather is split from the bottom layers. The split layer is known as the corium, making the leather thinner and more comfortable.


More expensive leather jackets have what’s known as topstitching. This is a decorative stitching that borders seams and pockets. The jacket looks more complete with a quality aesthetic when a layer of topstitching has been added.


The top-quality leather jackets will typically have two different linings—one around the body while the other lines the sleeves. Sleeves are often lined with silk which gives the jacket an avant-garde appeal. A body lining is usually made from a higher quality synthetic—warmer cotton, that insulate and quilt the jacket.

Cheaper linings will most likely cover the entirety of the jacket with a low-grade synthetic cotton.

Armholes & Sleeves

When it comes to evaluating armhole, the rule is—the higher the armholes the better the fit. Higher armholes support flexibility and arm movement so when you raise your arms the jacket’s body won’t rise along with the sleeves. Lower armholes promote uniformity but inhibit arm movement and crumple the jacket as you raise your arms.


The most expensive leather jackets will be outfitted with 2-way main zippers that make the fit more comfortable. You can also let the jacket out from the bottom with a 2-way zipper. These are typically custom-crafted from heavier weighted zippers.

The most common zipper is the cheaper YKK zipper which is made from a lighter metal. This is not favorable. Many designers prefer RiRi zippers which are more durable than YKK and also have a sleeker shine. The price ratio between these two zippers is 10x per each zipper.

Vintage Clothes: Buying and Selling

We’ve explored why pawn shops are the best place to find amazing vintage clothing in this post.

Keep an eye out the next time you walk down your high street. Pawn shops tend to put the best items in the window display, which changes quickly. You need to act fast before someone else snaps them up!

Not all items are created equal. It tends to be harder to pawn or sell your wedding dress than your leather jacket. Wedding dresses are very specialized in size and fit whereas jackets are more standardized.

But if, on the other hand, you’ve got vintage clothes to sell or pawn, sign up on PawnGuru today and list, list, list!

David Stiebel

David Stiebel is one of the cofounders of PawnGuru. David was educated at MIT, where he studied Math. He subsequently worked at Bain as a data scientist before starting PawnGuru in 2015. He started PawnGuru to build a better tool for pawn shops and consumers to connect.

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