Now, dealers might disagree with me, but I generally feel that "vintage" = 25-50ish years old and most anything beyond that (let's say 75 years and older) is "antique". Slapping either one of those labels on an item also generally implies that there's some value there (I mean, you could pick up a rock off the ground and say it's a million-year-old antique!)
But how does one find this stuff?!
Usually done by the individual owners. the benefit of garage sales is that people want to get rid of this stuff, so prices can be dirt cheap or negotiable. The bad part is getting up EARLY, possibly slogging through junk (but some folks like the "digging" aspect), and most garage sales only deal in cash. Best way to map out a garage sale route is through your local newspaper's classifieds.
Estate sales are often conducted by a company. The benefit here is that items are staged and pre-slogged through. The sales are primarily indoors and have a set opening time (usually 9am), so you don't have to fight through weirdy early bird resellers carrying mag lights in unmarked white vans (true story). The downside is prices are higher and usually firm- but that's not to say you'll never find something on the cheap. I once bought an awesome vintage arm chair for $20! Estate sales usually run Friday-Sunday, and typically sellers will offer a discount towards the end of the sale (such as all items half-off on Sunday). You can find estate sales via company websites or classifieds. My favorite local companies are Pennsylvania Trading Co. and Roy Dudley. In the central Arkansas area, I also rely on Ashley, of Ashley's Finds, to keep me in the know.
Thrift stores have many of the same benefits and drawbacks of estate sales. There's still an element of slogging, but less urgency in that thrift stores are open most of the week. Many thrift store companies also benefit charities! My favorite places to go locally are Savers, My Favorite Thrift Store, and of course Goodwill. If you are lucky enough have a privately owned favorite hotspot, that is definitely a precious commodity! The best I've found here in town is Galaxy Furniture in the Argenta district. Antique malls and flea markets are also a good bet. One of my favorites is Fabulous Finds, here in Little Rock. You may also try a reputable pawn shop for specific items of value.
If you're looking for something highly specific, it's beneficial to do some research before you throw money down. Or if you just rather shop to the warm, comforting glow of the internet- there are many online retailers where you can find fun vintage goods. eBay has been around nearly as long as the world wide web itself. Etsy is also a great venue to connect with individual sellers- just search under "vintage". There's also your local craigslist, which has a not-so-good reputation, but with common sense you can utilize craigslist to your benefit.
Some of my favorite finds:
(^My ginormous metal peacocks!^)
(^That is an amazing, beaded table runner!^)
Stay tuned for: More finds! Better pictures!