Etsy Vintage vs. Pottery Barn Vintage

Things that make you go Hmmmm...
At this point, I think we are all aware that vintage and handmade are kind of a trend these days, but imagine my surprise as I was recently thumbing through one of the seventeen Pottery Barn catalogues that get delivered to my house every week, and saw not just the usual vintage "look" decor, but actual vintage pieces. WHAAAAT?!?!
Wow, I never thought I would be competing with Pottery Barn for vintage sales.
This week's Unique Picks from great etsy sellers takes a slightly different twist so I can get this off my chest...

Screen shot of Pottery Barn's Main Page.

Now I admit to having my share of Pottery Barn pieces in my home, mainly due to the fact that the Hubby and I registered there when we got married. Let's just say I was young and wanted that vintage look, but wasn't really privy to finding the vintage pieces I craved. It's been almost ten years since I registered for my wedding, I am now a little older, a little wiser and a bit thriftier. I realized that it was way more exciting to discover actual vintage pieces that were unique instead of buying "vintage looking" items that were a bit over priced and mass produced. I do understand the convenience factor of buying new "vintage look" items when folks are pressed for time and they aren't really concerned about having a unique piece, not to mention some folks are kind of creeped out about buying used pieces (fair enough).

Screen shot from Pottery Barn's "Vintage Finds" listings.

Pottery Barn selling vintage pieces online is a bit weird to me. No offense, but this is the kind of stuff they are going to buy to knock off anyway...
Sure they are bringing the idea of buying actual "vintage" to a much larger and mainstream customer base that already wants a vintage look. I know that a lot of people would love to buy vintage but don't always have the time to spend hours scouring flea markets, garage sales, or even go to antique shops, but that is where websites like Etsy, Ruby Lane, Go Antiques, Ebay and many, many more...have made buying vintage a little more convenient for many people with busy lifestyles. With all of these smaller internet retailers selling a plethora of vintage online with better selections, and often at better prices, why would someone decide to buy from Pottery Barn? Brand recognition? Cheaper shipping (maybe because they ship loads from their warehouses everyday and I am sure have a bulk shipping rate)? Folks may also be a bit leery about buying vintage pieces online because they can't inspect the item in person, but the fact is, with these vintage pieces that are sold (online only) from Pottery Barn, what you are actually getting is a bit of a crap shoot...

"Found Enamel Jug" listing from Pottery Barn.

In the item description it says...
"We purchased these vintage pieces from a collector who gathered them from small villages in Central Europe.

Milk Jugs range in size from 1 to 3 quarts.
Buckets range from 9" to 11" high
Water Jugs range from 9" to 11" high
Originally used by farmers for storing and serving milk, water and food products.
Each piece showcases slight imperfections that capture true vintage character.
Approximately 40 to 90 years old, they range in size, shape and color.
Red, Blue or White; let us choose for you."

Say Whaaat??? Did it say "let us choose for you" and what you get will range in size, shape and color?? Woah there...If I were to list a vintage item in my etsy shop and say something like that...well I don't think that would fly.

Are Pottery Barn Customers really buying their "vintage" sight unseen?
Listing for three vintage enamelware mugs from The Unique Bird on etsy. What you see is what you get, and the listing is pretty specific to the size and condition of the piece.

Sure they are taking part in the vintage and antique buying process, buying from a "collector", that's what all of us vintage sellers do (it's not like I have an endless supply of vintage goodness buried in my back yard).

I just wanted to share a few of the kind of vintage items they are now selling online at Pottery Barn "Big bucks grab bag vintage," and their etsy competition...

"Found Soda Bottle" from Pottery Barn.

 Antique soda bottle "found" in Strange Vagaries etsy shop. Less expensive than the PB option, plus you know what you are getting. 

"Found Soda Crate" from Pottery Barn. You should read the customer reviews on this item...not everyone is happy with the "you get, what you get" way of selling special vintage pieces.

Vintage Pepsi crate Found in Rhapsody Attic's etsy shop. 

Vintage Royal Crown soda crate from bluebell's etsy shop.

"Found Wooden Skis" from Pottery Barn.

Vintage wood skis found in McLovebuddy's etsy shop.
Assorted mid century "Found Cameras" from Pottery Barn. Don't worry they will choose one that's right for you!

Beautiful 1960's camera found in Corr Nucopia's etsy shop.

I love that more people are falling in love with vintage, but I think it's kind of sad the way Pottery Barn is taking such an aloof approach to selling their vintage.
Please, Support Small Business! Please support the vintage sellers that take the time to list each individual item, photograph, describe with care, and even do a bit of research on the history of these pieces, so you, the buyer, knows how special these pieces truly are.
Spread the good etsy word!!


  1. This is such a great post! Even clothing stores, such as Free People, have picked up on the vintage trend. And as you said, they often sell at insane prices and are poorly described.

  2. We can only hope that PB customers will be so turned off by this kind of "pick for me" shopping experience that they'll flock to sites like Etsy where they can pick out exactly what they want, probably for much cheaper in most cases.

  3. ugh. it had to happen. sadly two or three major clothing retailers have been doing this for the past few years, they will choose for you too... its all about market domination (capitalism) thats all that is important to these people at the end of the day. its not for me. in my opinion it is important to boycott these corporations now. they are only shortening the life span of an undergrowth of americans whom are finally embracing a more ethical way to live. boycott all companies involved in any kind of mass manufacturing! yay! go etsy! this company supplies mass produced items that are cheaply made off shore and manufactured under questionable circumstances. why on earth would you want to buy vintage from a company whom endorses such?

  4. Wonderful post. I noticed this with PBs last season's "vintage farmhouse" spread. My first thought was that perhaps it's a boon for us vintage sellers that they're actually promoting vintage. Savvy consumers should know to shop the venues mentioned above instead of paying PBs crazy prices. I also read that Brimfield is the source for most of their vintage - not private collectors.

  5. Interesting post! Hopefully the Pottery Barn vintage will just help create even more demand for our wonderful vintage offers!

  6. Love love love this!! The bigger retainers are jumping on the bandwagon and doing a miserable job! You pick for me, HA! Thanks for the informative and well thought out post!

  7. Great post! Anthropologie has been selling their vintage props out of stores for years. Important to note, PB owns West Elm- I'm sure vintage finds will shop up there soon enough. At least with Crate & Barrel, they are licensing the original products that they are reissuing to create a "vintage look".
    As a long- time collector and dealer, it is nice to see more people taking an interest in vintage. There are so many little shops and websites that offer better product, often for less. And part of thrill, at least for me, has always been the hunt.
    I've reposted this on my own Facebook fan page, and on the VMTEAM fan page, for which I am a team leader-

  8. I am not surprised. I was shocked to find a host of items in the Crate and Barrel catalog that were clear copies of my product line (other business). I agree with the creation of more demand. Can help us!

  9. Wow! I am actually in shock that anyone would buy online with a "we'll pick it for you" approach. Not to mention vintage. Great post! Definitely made me go, hmmmm!

  10. Thanx for the eye opener. There aren't many Pottery barns here in this is news to me.
    I hate to hear this....what now??? People will want their vintage made in China b/c it will be so much cheaper.
    What next the Dollar Store?? *Shudders*
    Great post!! Thanx!
    I re-post on my fan page as well :)!/pages/London-ON/Weezi/16766696732

  11. I have no words for this. Corporate America wants to stick their nose in everything. Now to have a large company doing this and at such a crap shoot way. I hope people do not go this route- they will get a bad experience and possibly never want vintage again. That to me is a very sad thing.

  12. I just can't imagine putting "Let me pick for you" in a listing... I, personally, would run away from anyone who said that -- including PB! The audacity of it all!

    Thanks for posting this -- it's a real eye-opener.

  13. Ten years ago, I, too, was ooohing and aaaahing over Pottery Barn catalogs before my wedding! Now I'm in a largely empty apartment, having fallen totally out of love with our old mass-produced look, ready to slowly fill it in with the bits and pieces I find.

    Naturally Pottery Barn wants to cash in our hankering to be original.

    Sounds like an old Friends episode to me..

  14. Unbelievable...thanks so much for sharing!

  15. Thanks so much for all the amazing comments! I am so glad to see that so many others feel the same way that I do! I know we can't stop them (PB) but what we can do is try and educate customers. Tell someone new about etsy everyday!

  16. Didn't you know vintage just floats from the sky? I'm sure that's how Pottery Barn got it.

  17. I really appreciate this. Thank you very much for advocating for vintage sellers.
    I feel honored to have one of the items from my vintage shop included here. So great when people begin to realize what they support when they purchase any thing... It's empowering! Stick with it everyone. Conscious consumerism is how we choose what sort world we are going to live in.