While some people are drawn to vintage or secondhand items like furniture, household goods, and clothing because of their style or their sustainability, others purchase pre-owned merchandise because it’s what they can afford. But if you’ve ever hit up thrift stores, yard sales, or flea markets hoping to find a particular piece, you probably noticed that prices of similar or even identical items can vary significantly depending on where they’re sold.
That has to do with everything from supply and demand to the seller’s reason for getting rid of it, but it can also make it hard to determine whether that lamp you had your eye on is being offered at a decent price, or if you should continue your search elsewhere.
Or, perhaps instead of shopping, you’re cleaning out your parents’ basement, and wondering whether the crystal candlesticks they received as a wedding present 40+ years ago are worth anything. Whatever the reason, if you want to get a general idea of the range of prices a vintage item is currently being sold for online, Google Lens can help. Here’s what to know about using the tool, including where to look if it’s not helping.
How to use Google Lens to price vintage items
Table of Contents
Available in the Google app on Android and iOS phones and other devices, as well as on desktop via Google Chrome, Google Lens can help you identify everything from plants to skin rashes, and yes, vintage and secondhand goods.
In addition to helping you determine an item’s age, manufacturer, or model, the visual search tool also provides a quick way to get a basic idea of how much online retailers are currently trying to get for it. Of course, that’s not necessarily what people are willing to pay for the item, or its precise retail value, but at least you’ll get some kind of picture of what it might be worth.
The process is the same as any other Google Lens search: Pulling up the Google app on your phone—or opening Chrome on a computer—and either snapping a photo of the item, or selecting one you had taken previously, positioning it so it’s inside the little viewfinder box, then tapping the magnifying glass icon to start the search.
Here are the initial results for a Google Lens search we did on a vintage red rotary telephone:
The search results will include what Google deemed to be similar items, as well as the prices they’re currently listed for. Be sure to scroll through multiple pages of the results in order to see the range of asking prices. For example, the first page of search results for our red rotary phone shows prices ranging from $75 to $130:
If your first search isn’t yielding many results—or, conversely, has given you so many results that you need to narrow it down—try entering some keywords in the search bar at the top. This could be the brand or manufacturer, a serial number, or a description of the item: Any additional information that might help track (or narrow) it down. For example, our telephone has a Western Electric marking, so we added it as a search term:
Where to look if Google Lens isn’t helping
There are also plenty of times when Google Lens isn’t coming up with any useful information. When that happens, you may be better off searching without an image. Instead, go to the search engine of your choice, and enter any potentially identifying information—like a manufacturer, year, or model number—along with a physical description of the item. You may need to play around for a while and try different combinations of search terms.
Chances are, some of the search results will be eBay listings. Click on one to see the related listings, then once you’ve scrolled through the ones that come up, do a new search for the item on eBay, rather than going through the search engine. Here, you have the added bonus of being able to filter the search results so you only see items that have actually sold. This way you’ll have some idea of what people are willing to pay for the item (at least online).
Don’t search in front of sellers
Let’s say you’re shopping at a flea market or antiques shop and an item catches your eye. You’re not sure what to make of the price, and wonder whether it’s the going rate at the moment, or if you might be able to find it cheaper somewhere else. By all means, search away, but be discreet about it—especially if the seller is around. Chances are they’ve put time and effort into finding, cleaning, repairing, and staging their merchandise, and may be less willing to make you a deal if they spot you trying to find it at a lower price.