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Things to Know When Shopping at an Antique Mall

Updated: Mar 28

Maybe you have driven past a huge antique mall in your town but never taken the time to stop in. Or maybe you have heard from a friend about a cute little antique store downtown that you need to check out. We’re here to convince you to give shopping at an antique mall or store a try — you will not believe all the amazing treasures you will be able to find!

While browsing at a cozy antique store, you are sure to find some stylish vintage clothing and adorably retro tchotchkes. And while searching through a vast antique mall, you may just come upon the perfect antique accent chair or collectible items like Funko Pops. Who knows — shopping for antiques may become your new favorite hobby!

Before you set out on your antique store shopping adventure, though, let us share some tips and information that you need to know before you go. This will help set your antique shopping journey up for success!

Know Your Styles: Antique, Vintage, and Retro

Let’s start with some basic terminology:

  • Antique

  • Vintage

  • Retro

An item is considered “antique” if it is at least 100 years old or older. Antique items may be handmade, wooden furnishings, paintings, or other home décor.

“Vintage” refers to items that are 20 to 99 years old and also represent distinct characteristics or styles of their time period. “Retro” can mean “younger” vintage pieces from the 1950s to 1980 or newly manufactured items that are made to look like vintage pieces.

Antique Mall vs. Antique Store

Vintage floral print chair

The next big question is, what’s the difference between an antique mall and an antique store — aren’t they the same thing? Although they are both intentionally collected spaces, there are some key differences between the two.

An antique mall is a large space filled with individual rented booths for vendors to sell their wares (primarily antiques, as opposed to a temporary flea market). In an antique mall, you can browse through hundreds of vendors’ booths that will contain a large variety of antiques, vintage and retro goods, and more. An antique store is typically a smaller shop curated by an antique dealer, and the shop may focus on one specific style or look.

Of course, we would love for you to visit America’s Antique Mall. We have two huge locations in Highland, Indiana, and Melbourne, Florida. Our Highland mall offers more than 55,000 square feet of shopping space filled with over 600 vendors and 309 booths, and our Melbourne mall has more than 35,000 square feet of shopping space filled with over 250 vendors and 275 booths.

Vintage items at an antique mall booth

You Can Find More Than Just Antiques at an Antique Mall

An important thing to know is that you can typically find more than just antiques at an antique mall. For instance, at America’s Antique Mall, our items are about 50 percent antiques — the rest of our wares are a mix of vintage items, collectibles, DIY and upcycled pieces, boutique pieces, gifts, toys, and new items. Our malls even host events, car shows, book clubs, and Santa at Christmastime.

Many smaller antique stores may sell only antique or vintage items and not the wide variety of goods that an antique mall does.

Why Buy Antique Instead of New?

Why buy antiques when you can buy something brand new? We know you could walk into a big box store and pick something brand-new off the shelf, but we think you should consider buying antiques at your local antique store or mall.

5 Good Reasons to Buy Antiques:

  1. They tell a story

  2. They are green

  3. They are well-made

  4. They are enduringly stylish

  5. They are a good investment

Antique glass lamp with floral detail

Antiques Have History

There is something special about knowing an antique piece had its own life before it came into your home. If you buy your item at an antique store or mall, you may not know its exact history, but you can learn about the time period/trend it represents. If your antique is inherited from a family member or friend, it is a meaningful connection to their past and history.

Antiques are Eco-Friendly

Buying antiques is a way to be a responsible citizen of our planet by keeping perfectly usable goods out of a landfill. When you shop at an antique store or mall, you are not contributing to the mass production of new goods and all that accompanies that. This is a great way to reduce, reuse, and recycle!

Antique Furniture Will Last

Antique furniture is typically made to last, probably even constructed by hand. If properly cared for, your new-to-you antique can last for years to come. Sure, an antique that’s 150 years old won’t be in pristine condition, but the scuffs and scrapes are proud battle scars of its past.

If you need more help, you can follow our ultimate guide to antique furniture while shopping at an antique store or mall.

Antiques Will Never Go Out of Style

Antique mall booth with mid century items

Pick an antique in an enduring, classic style, and it will far outlast anything trendy. When shopping at an antique store or mall, look for pieces with good lines and curves with sturdy construction. A great antique will always be a classic piece and never go out of style — and will provide a great contrast to the other contemporary pieces in your home.

Antiques Retain or Increase Their Value

While new furniture drops in value as soon as you bring it home and use it, a well-cared-for antique can go up in value over time. Although the value of antiques will fluctuate, antiques are typically a good, long-term investment that you could potentially resell in the future.

Things to Know Before Shopping at an Antique Mall:

Now that you’re convinced you need some antiques in your life, you are ready for your antique shopping venture. But once you step foot in an enormous antique mall or filled-to-the-brim antique store, you may feel a tad bit overwhelmed. Don’t panic; just be prepared ahead of time with some handy tips.

7 Tips for Shopping at an Antique Mall:

  1. Go in with a shopping list

  2. Bring a tape measure/measurements from home

  3. Look at items closely before buying

  4. Be prepared to bring a big item home

  5. Look out for sale signs

  6. Don’t move items around

  7. Don’t pass up unique items

Antique bench with caned seat and carved back

Have a Shopping List

Walking into an antique store or mall without a plan can leave you feeling dazed and confused. There are just so many items to see! Before you go antiquing, make a list of the items you’d like to look for — this will help keep you focused, so you don’t get distracted by other goods.

Don’t Forget the Measuring Tape

Before you shop for an antique piece, measure the space you want to place it in. Then bring the measuring tape with you to the antique mall so you can see if that piece that caught your eye will actually fit in your space. It’s an awful feeling to get a gorgeous piece home only to discover that it’s too big for your space!

Inspect Antiques Closely

Before you buy an item, make sure to thoroughly inspect it and make sure it is in a condition you are OK with. Many antique stores or malls do not accept returns. Take a look over the whole piece to look for any major damage and test to make sure it functions properly (i.e., sit in a chair to see if it is comfortable, open the drawers and cabinets of a dresser).

Borrow or Rent a Truck to Get Your Antique Home

Antique wardrobe with mirror

If you’re looking at a big piece of antique furniture, be prepared to transport your piece home. Rent a truck or borrow one from a friend so you can get your purchase safely home from the antique store or mall. You don’t want to be stuck trying to strong-arm a chest of drawers into the backseat of your sedan by yourself.

Keep an Eye Out for Sale Signs

While you’re shopping, make sure you check the booths for sale signs. Since sales are up to the individual vendor, you need to check each booth to see if a sale is going on — and of course, the sale will not apply to all booths in the antique mall. An antique store, however, may have sales on certain items or types of antiques.

Keep Items in Their Original Booth

If you’re looking at an item that you decide not to purchase, please return it to its original booth. Since each antique mall booth is maintained by an individual vendor, you don’t want to mix up their items and place them in the wrong spot. Although an antique store does not have multiple vendors, it’s still a good idea to be courteous and return the item to its original location.

Buy the Unique Item, or It May Be Gone Next Time

If you see a stunning, one-of-a-kind item, go ahead and buy it. If you wait on it, chances are it won’t be there when you come back since antique mall vendors are frequently updating their booths. The same goes for an antique store — don’t pass up a unique item that catches your eye.

This relates to another good tip: make sure you visit the antique mall frequently — new items are regularly being added by vendors!

How to Mix Contemporary Furniture and Antiques

Painted antique desk with decorations

Let’s say you find a piece of furniture at an antique store that you love, but you aren’t sure how to style it in your home among your contemporary furniture. You can make the item a statement piece to center your room or keep it more subtle as an accent piece to complement your other furniture. If a piece is damaged or missing parts, don’t be afraid to repurpose it into something new.

Another great design technique to use is layering the older pieces with new designs, like an antique rug under a modern chair. If you have many antiques to use, try leaning into it and making the room fully antique-themed (you can mix styles and time periods). Or simply display a collection of antique items in a certain room.

How to Set Up Your Own Antique Booth

Be prepared — if you start shopping for antiques and vintage, you may just fall in love with it. Antiquing may even become your new hobby, and you might just find that you run out of room in your house for all of the amazing antiques and vintage stuff you find. One way to support your hobby is by selling your extra items at an antique mall.

If you’re interested in selling antiques, vintage wares, or collectibles but don’t want the hassle of managing your own store space, then you should rent a booth at an antique mall. Follow these easy steps to set up your own booth rental.

Vintage teapot display at antique mall

5 Easy Steps to Set Up an Antique Mall Booth:

Step 1: Find an antique mall space

Step 2: Arrange and decorate your booth

Step 3: Establish pricing for your items

Step 4: Take regular care of your booth

Step 5: Enjoy your sales

Become a Vendor at America’s Antique Mall

If you live in Indiana or Florida, you could apply to become a vendor at America’s Antique Mall. Our mall offers vendors an easy online inventory system, consistent and timely dealer payments, and multifaceted marketing and advertising. You’ll also benefit from our store’s state-of-the-art security and camera system, as well as our staff that provides exceptional customer service.

Start Your Antique Shopping Adventure

Although it can feel overwhelming at first, antique stores and malls can provide you with an amazing shopping experience! We love antiques for their history and timeless charm, their eco-friendliness, and their durability. Once you know how to shop at an antique store or mall, you can enjoy yourself and find some great treasures.

Antiques aren’t stuffy or just for older people; they can be a unique, whimsical addition to any home’s style. We think a stunning antique is just waiting to become a centerpiece in your house — so get yourself to your nearest antique mall ASAP. Happy antiquing!

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