Sooner or later in your perfume journey the allure of masterpieces of the past will become too tempting to ignore. Or maybe you have a vague memory of something a beloved relative used to wear and you're yearning to find it again. No matter the reason, you are going to start looking for vintage perfumes, and if you're new to this particular obsession it can be confusing, overwhelming, heartbreaking or disappointing (and sometimes all of these at the same time). Here are a few points to consider if you're about to take a dive into the rabbit hole of vintage perfume.
1. Online shopping should be your very last resort. Eight, ten and even five years ago eBay was a great place to buy vintage perfume for pennies. So few people were interested in old juice and sellers offered these bottles as an afterthought. Nowadays it's a lucrative enough field to have professional crooks who buy empty bottles and fill them with who knows what. There are fake labels, watered down juice stretching that Chanel No. 5 drop into two bottles, and plain old thieves. On top of that there's also the issue that always existed: old juice may have turned on its own because of inadequate storage. You need to be aware that there's a risk there even if the seller is honest and reliable-- some things are out of his or her hands, and refund and return policies have become more complicated. If you've never smelled a certain perfume you'll have a hard time knowing if that's the real stuff in the bottle and proving that you even deserve a refund. So beware and rethink before you sink a crazy amount of money (that would have bought you a couple of new Amouage bottles at Luckyscent) into what may or may not be Chanel 46 (most likely it's not).
2. The safest and most satisfying way to get vintage stuff is in your immediate circle. Ask friends and relatives if they may have unwanted old bottles in the back of their closets. Some of the best stories I've heard about perfume treasures involved the linen closets of spinster aunts and grumpy old neighbors clearing out their attics. In the same way, yard sales and estate sales are also a great place to find stuff. People with no interest in perfume are prone to offer an unopened Guerlain gift set from the 60s next to their VSH tapes of Friends and for a similar price.
3. Thrift stores and Goodwill may hold some fine gems. Real antique stores are more tricky since many dealers prefer to only handle empty bottles (I don't even want to think about the priceless juice that went down the drain the process), and some of them have already caught up to the growing interest and raised their prices accordingly.
4. Don't disregard the cheapies. Of course, we all want to find that bottle of original Djedi. But with the dwindling supplies and growing demand for big names it's harder to find the grand perfumes from their heyday at even semi-reasonable prices. However, less known brands and even downright cheap ones from the 1950s, 1960s and even 70s are still worth a sniff and some of them are going to knock your socks off. Same goes for Avon. Most of the miniature bottles are beyond tacky, but the actual fragrances, especially those from the 70s were made with better raw materials than a lot of today's mainstream dreck. Have a sniff at Timeless or Charisma and you'll see what I mean.
Are you a vintage shopper? Please share your tips, ideas and experience, bad or good.