Antique stores offer a treasure trove of unique items that can add character and charm to any space. From furniture to decor, many antique pieces appreciate in value over time, making them smart investments. Knowing what to look for when antique shopping can help you discover pieces to nab now and place later for maximum style impact. Here are 12 top antique store finds worth snatching up to hold onto for future decor goals.

Vintage Suitcases

Vintage leather or wicker suitcases make excellent home decor finds. Their nostalgic charm plays well in a variety of design aesthetics from rustic farmhouse to retro industrial. Look for pieces in good condition with minimal exterior wear and tear. Smaller suitcases can hold books or blankets. Larger ones can serve as quirky end tables or ottomans. Stack suitcases on top of each other to build fun furniture shapes. Lean them against walls or nestle them in corners to add visual interest.


The click-clacking sounds of yesteryear come alive again with a vintage typewriter decorating your home. These relics of writing have become wildly popular for adding old-timey character to modern spaces. Style a typewriter on top of a desk or dining table as a unique centerpiece. Opt for more common brand names like Remington or Smith-Corona in black or grey for wider appeal. Rare colors like seafoam green or bright red also fetch higher prices.


Whether using faux leather or real vintage materials, storage trunks impart ruggedness and charm. Small trunks can serve as quirky side tables next to chairs or sofas. Large trunks at the foot of the bed can hold extra blankets. Look for interesting details like brass reinforcements at the edges and corners. Monitor condition carefully – restored vintage trunks will last longer than ones with cracked or peeling exteriors.

Glass Bottles

Glass bottles in vintage shapes and colors have a homespun appeal perfect for country kitchens. Look for ones embossed or painted with product logos from soda companies, drug stores, or dairies. Milk bottles, malt shake containers, and antique medicine bottles have a nostalgic Americana style. Display them on open shelves or inside glass-front cabinetry. Fill them with fairy lights or faux greenery for whimsical accents.

Oil Lamps

For atmospheric lighting, oil burning lamps create flickering ambiance reminiscent of bygone eras. Look for hurricane lamp or chimney styles made from brass or colored glass for classic but durable options. Use lamps with electric inserts to safely mimic the soft glow of burning oil without the fire risk. Scour antique stores in harbor or fishing towns to potentially find some converted to electricity from original use.

Vintage Signage

Repurposed street and commercial signs from the early to mid-20th century have endless decor potential. Vintage advertising and civic signs, highway markers, and more provide industrial flair. Look for ones with minimal exterior damage or patina over ones needing extensive restoration. Prices often depend on sign material like porcelain, steel, or wood. Rare examples like neon signs cost more but pack a punch.

Architectural Salvage

For a truly unique piece, scour antique stores for architectural salvage like corbels, spindles, flooring, doors, and more. Elements from old barns, factories, and homes have one-of-a-kind appeal. Search high and low for things like clawfoot tub feet, door knobs, door knockers, and vintage hardware. With some TLC, the right salvaged piece can transform into a custom furniture find or focal decor point.

China Sets

Partial or complete vintage dishware sets charm with delicate details and patterns. Snatch up plates, teacups, or bowls showcasing delicate florals, classic geometric designs, or handsome pastoral scenes. Look for dishware made from fine materials like bone china or porcelain in pristine condition. Simple patterns have the widest appeal for mixing and matching pieces later. Display your finery in a china cabinet or plate rack.

Silver Tea Sets

For a touch of timeless sophistication, seek out silver tea and coffee sets from the early 1900s onward. Ornate teapots, creamers, sugar bowls, and trays gleam beautifully when polished up. Hallmarks identifying silver purity help assess value – sterling silver or silver plate are common. Simple silverplate sets by makers like Kirk & Sons offer antique style on a budget. Use your set when hosting guests or arrange decoratively on sideboards.


Celestial and terrestrial globes from the 19th or early 20th centuries capture the cartographic sensibilities of their eras. When sourcing an antique globe, prioritize a nicely aged patina over worn condition. Look for complete globes with all latitude and longitude markings visible. Mahogany, brass, or painted cast iron bases add boldness. Place your globe on an office desk, library table, or whiskey cart. Spin it to spur daydreams of journeys to faraway lands.

Vintage Radio

The warm crackle and pop of an antique radio evokes happy memories of bygone eras. Look for classic models like cathedral, tombstone, or farm styles in materials like bakelite plastic or wood. Test electronics before buying to check sound quality. Upgrade components like speakers if needed. Whether functional for music or decorative for display, an antique radio adds nostalgic flavor anywhere from the kitchen to family room.

Vintage Books

Beyond their pages, the character of vintage books captivates as decor. Seek out eye-catching titles, ornate covers, or standout authors to make books really shine as focal points. Cluster colorful selections into a meticulous bookshelf arrangement or stack horizontally into towers on a console table. Choose books related to family histories or local areas for personal connections. Swap selections seasonally to keep your vintage library fresh.

Edison Bulbs

For antique spaces, Edison-style bulbs cast ambiance perfect for certain moods and eras. Their exposed inner filaments impart a gentle industrial edge. Use them in casings like vintage pendant lights, wall sconces, table lamps, or marquee signs. Buy new “vintage” reproductions for affordable options to light larger spaces. Seek out real Edison bulbs from the early 20th century to use sparingly as artful accents when practical.

In Summary

Antique shopping offers limitless possibilities to find covetable items for current and future decor goals. When exploring antique stores, keep an eye out for furniture, decorative objects, dishware, architectural salvage, and vintage lighting trends that transcend the ages. Sturdy furnishings, timeless patterns, and items with historic patina make smart nabbing now to creatively place later as your style evolves. Pieces appreciate, rather than depreciate, in value over time – giving you an added incentive to invest in enduring antique finds.

Frequently Asked Questions

What antique items are worth buying to hold for later?

Some top antique items worth buying and holding onto for later use include vintage suitcases, typewriters, architectural salvage, antique signs, china dishware sets, silver tea sets, globes, vintage books, Edison bulbs, trunks, oil lamps, and vintage radios.

How can I determine if an antique is worth the price?

Check condition carefully, seek rare materials or markings, verify any supposed history, examine manufacturing quality, and research prices for similar items online or via antique price guides. Quality antiques made of durable materials tend to accrue value over time.

What should I inspect when buying old furniture?

Inspect wood furniture for damage like scratches, gouges, warped surfaces, or loose joints. Check condition of finishes and upholstery. Ensure all hardware like drawer pulls are present. Examine undersides and inside drawers. Look for quality dovetail joinery in drawers. Seek makers marks to verify authenticity.

Where are the best places to shop for antiques?

Beyond antique stores, excellent places to shop for antiques include flea markets, estate sales, auctions, antique malls, vintage shops, online retailers, and directly from collectors. Join local antiquing clubs or groups to stay informed about events.

How can I incorporate antiques into my modern decor?

Choose versatile antiques like vintage signs, books, trunks, or globes that work in both traditional and contemporary spaces. Mix antiques with clean-lined modern furnishings and decor accents. Add antique lighting like Edison bulbs. Refinish or upholster antique furniture pieces using current fabric trends.

What are some tips for styling antiques in my home?

When styling antiques, opt for symmetrical arrangements or tidy groupings of 3-5 items. Use height to create visual interest. Pair antiques with decorative objects or greenery. Incorporate personalized elements like family photos. Rotate seasonal decor to refresh antique displays. Properly dust and care for pieces.

What are the most popular antique items to collect?

Some of today’s most popular antiques to collect include vintage advertising signs, jewelry, clocks, ceramics, pottery, folk art, bicycles, globe maps, cameras, telephones, jukeboxes, rocking chairs, and turntables.

Is it better to clean or preserve antique patinas?

For furniture, gently clean built-up dirt and grime without stripping original patinas which show authentic age and use. For small decorative antiques, carefully dusting is often sufficient. Consult antique conservation experts about cleaning methods if uncertain.

Are online antique stores legitimate?

Yes, many online-only antique stores and marketplaces offer legitimate antiques sourced from reputable dealers. Look for detailed product descriptions, high-resolution photos, fair prices, and positive customer reviews. Avoid sellers with limited product info or stock photography. Inspect items upon arrival.

What should I look for when buying antique jewelry?

When purchasing antique jewelry, inspect diamond, gemstone, and metal quality markings. Seek pieces showing fine craftsmanship and details. Verify any supposed history. Opt for popular precious metals and classic design styles that retain value. Research appraisals to confirm price fairness.


Antique collecting offers the thrill of discovery combined with opportunities to unearth covetable finds perfect for decorating now or later. When exploring antique stores, keep your eye trained for diamonds in the rough – items made from high-quality materials built to stand the test of time. Investigate pieces thoroughly and learn market values to feel confident bringing home timeworn treasures. Whether purchased purely for aesthetic joy or financial returns down the road, the right antique find adds a touch of enduring magic.