Why We Shopped Second Hand

Saturday 4 January 2014

This article originally appeared on rabble.ca on December 20, 2013.

Two Saturday mornings ago, I started my Christmas shopping, but I didn’t hit the likeliest of spots. Instead, I wandered down Ottawa Street, a stretch that acts as a throwback to Hamilton’s industrial past. The street, which once housed the booming garment and textile industry during WWI and WWII, is still known for its fabric shops, as well as many cozy caf├ęs and antique stores, the latter being the reason for my visit.

For the second year in a row, my dad’s side of the family committed to buying second hand, which meant combing thrift stores, vintage boutiques, flea markets and antique stores for the perfect gift under a strict $20 budget. To make things even more difficult, we each only bring one gift to the festivities, never knowing who will take it home. That means choosing something that is suited for any family member.

Let me confess, when the idea was first suggested last year, a lot of us grumbled. Selecting a gift that was perfect for any member of the family and keeping to a strict budget was already difficult enough. But despite some hesitation, we decided to give it a try. And it was an incredible success!

Unlike picking the best bang-for-your-buck from a big-box store, our vintage gift exchange was overflowing with personal touches. My dad, who had never baked a thing in his life, filled a vintage cookie jar with homemade cookies. My mom crafted a chalkboard out of an old picture frame. Vintage suitcases, a rose-coloured plate and even a singing Santa were all exchanged. And so, we decided, in 2013, we’d keep things vintage.

I found this year’s gift at Steeltown Pickers, an antique shop with everything from musical instruments to vintage kitchen supplies. I chose a small wooden cheese crate, which I filled with cheese from my local cheese seller, The Cheese Shoppe on Locke. My better half, found his gem — a vintage Tupperware set circa the 1970s — right down the street at a shop called Antiques Unlocked.

This year’s gift exchange took place on Saturday, and for the second year in a row, shopping vintage was a huge success. This year’s haul included a heap of vinyl Christmas albums, a picnic basket (with a pie inside!), a plant with a vintage watering can and an antique cocktail set.

There are many reasons to shop second hand during the holidays. For one, second-hand gifts are unique. You never know what oddities you’re going to find while scouring flea markets, garage sales and antique shops. They’re also economical, especially since in many shops you can barter and name your own price. There are also environmental reasons (less packaging!) to shop second hand, all while supporting local vendors in your community.

Happy searching!


  1. Great gift idea if a city (unlike mine) has nice second hand shops. Then one could go visiting yard or garage sales, flea markets (none here either), etc. Your Corona 3? It sure is beautiful.

    You and yours have a Very Happy New Year!

  2. Unfortunately it's not mine, but I wish it was! Happy New Year to you, too!


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