With almost 1600 items for sale, Surrender Dorothy is one of Etsy’s most expansive—and successful—vintage shops. We recently spoke with Veronica, who runs the business with help from her man-person (who has his own Etsy store, IkarosFalls). Veronica is also well known in the Etsy forums for hosting the Thursday night Vintage Vixens thread—open to all who love vintage.Q. Did you ever in a million years think you’d end up selling vintage online? I think this is the job I've been gearing up to do for my entire lifetime. I started young. I dug up old bottles behind my cousin's house and soon found a huge mountain of antique buttons in the woods from the time that our local papermill made currency paper from castoff rags for the US Treasury Department. I still have a bunch of them I brought them home by the wagonful as a kid. My family tells stories about dropping in for a visit and having to bail off the couch before they can sit down—about random stacks of bowls balanced on kitchen chairs, about bowling balls and ugly clocks and toys being pack up and sent to God knows where. Our dining room table is currently hidden under a 2 foot high pile of books. My family thinks we're both totally insane. I believe they might be onto something.
Q. For your personal collection, do you like to have a lot of the same type of thing or same era, or are your tastes more eclectic? My collections rotate and change constantly. I've collected some fabulous things that have come and gone over the past 35 years, including Navajo silver jewelry, Victorian glass buttons, books, Depression era cookbooks, satin glass, costume jewelry, embroidered table linens, books, tea tins, glass booze decanters, books, car hood ornaments, rug beaters, wooden scrub-boards, books, teapots, salt and pepper sets, antique sewing tools, weird photographs, postcards, and books. So did I mention BOOKS? I own about 15,000 vintage and antique books. No foolin'.
Q. What part of your job do you love so much that you can totally lose track of time while doing it? I adore the research part of my work more than anything; it's such a blast for me! History has always been my favorite subject. Right now I have a giant photo folio of amazing clear-as-crystal B&W photos of the Chicago World's Fair from the late 1880s that's just fascinating. Images of exhibits, people, buildings--all taken when photography was brand new and electric lighting was the latest gadget that would change the world forever. After all the research I've done, I don't know if I can bring myself to actually sell it! Q. What’s your advice to someone who’s not very experienced in purchasing vintage items? I would suggest that they shop at a reputable shop, but first they need to educate themselves. Pick an area of interest and study about it. Google is awesome! Salt and pepper shakers, 1960s hats, mechanical pencils, 1970s Pyrex bowls . . . whatever. First purchases should be relatively inexpensive items, just to wet their feet; it’s probably best not to collect Revolutionary War pewter or Tiffany Glass lamps right off the bat.
I still have some fine old scorch-marks on my bum from several of my early purchases. I view them today as rather inexpensive fees paid for my education at the School of Hard Knocks, where I graduated with honors at the very top of my class. We learn lots of valuable lessons not taught in school from our mistakes, and I've made some real boners in my day. However, I like to believe that there are tons of amazing new discoveries out there just waiting for me. One door closes and another one opens ... or you can always cut your own damned door with a chainsaw. Patience was never one of my virtues.