Eldritch Horrors, Please!
February 16, 2011 11:51 PM   Subscribe

SeattleFilter: Where can I buy weird old stuff?

I'm looking for weird Victoriana or vintage things that one might use for home decor, if one were the Addams Family. Examples include phrenology heads, old medical books, skulls, mounted animal skeletons, memorial photography. Not interested in medical instruments, but teaching aids of various sorts are nice. I am also always looking for more normal antiques-- nice old picture frames, jewelry, et cetera. But I'm fairly new to the area, and I don't know where to go to get any of this stuff.

So, do you charming and well-informed people know of any awesome antique, vintage, or junk stores that might stock things which are less fancy and well-polished than the more expensive places usually have? I am located near Capitol Hill, so stuff nearer the city center is a bonus, but I am definitely willing to travel for especially good prospects. Scratched and dented is better than expensive. Thanks!
posted by Because to Shopping (10 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
If you're willing to take a trip to Portland, you can find some of this stuff at Cargo.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:00 AM on February 17, 2011

Broadway on Tacoma has an antiques row that you might also find worthwhile to spend a Saturday browsing.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:03 AM on February 17, 2011

I've never been to Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe, and it's not clear to me what weirdness is for sale and what is purely display, or how well the online inventory reflects the in-store, etc. etc., but perhaps worth investigation.
posted by mumkin at 12:25 AM on February 17, 2011

The sunday market in Fremont might be of interest to you. While you're in the area there's a bunch of stores of possible interest, like Deluxe Junk and a few more up in Phinney ridge and Greenwood. Up by my place is The Daily Planet, which has always seemed sort of weird and sketchy but one would hope cheap.
posted by Artw at 12:25 AM on February 17, 2011

Deluxe Junk is a great place to start. They have crazy hours, though. Around the corner in Fremont is also the Vintage Mall, which is more 1950s kitsch but has lots of hidden gems. And practically across the street from the Vintage Mall is Ophelia's Books, home to some lovely cats and a good number of beautiful books.

I live directly behind the Vintage Mall, by the way. If you're coming to the neighborhood, you should memail me if you'd like a shopping partner!
posted by Mizu at 3:29 AM on February 17, 2011

This is probably the most trivial piece of information I've ever conveyed, but here goes: Drew & David Antiques in Kalama, WA (222 N 1st St.), 2 hours south of Seattle, has a collection of turn-of-the-century police blackjacks and billy clubs, including a pretty nice looking shillelagh. They're rather expensive, though.
posted by mhum at 6:37 AM on February 17, 2011

For architectural salvage, which is a great place to find old classroom stuff, try here:





All four places will have lots of stuff from century-old buildings, generally in rough shape. But that's OK, because it will cost a lot less than found elsewhere.

The Fremont Vintage Mall is a multi-dealer place. As Mizu has noted, the stock tends to MCM, but occasionally a Victoriana dealer sets up shop.

Another multi-dealer place is the sprawling Pacific Galleries in Sodo:


There's a fair amount of Victoriana there, but it is not a bargain-hunter's paradise. What's on offer tends to be top quality and priced to the collector.

Twenty years ago, there was much more pre-World-War-II stuff available, presumably reflecting estate sales of people who would have still been using some material entering their homes between 1900 and 1940. Currently, and not surprisingly, the majority of items entering the market via estate sales date after 1950.

Finally, Craigslist rules, especially for estate sales:


There is one particular dealer who occasionally has stuff up at the Vintage Mall with a fine eye for the gross, disturbing, and ridiculous. He had a shop in Fremont in the building with the rocket on it for many years, then one on Pike in Capitol Hill, and then his visibility declined. IIRC his first name is Josh. He usually has at least one or two terrifyingly rotten taxidermy pieces in his booths, along with sideshow canvases, church stuff, and the like.

At both of his shops, a real human mummy of a woman dressing in victorian clothes was on display, as was what appeared to be a prop made for the classic Vincent Price film "House of Wax," depicting Mr. Price in evening clothes seated in a wheelchair.

Josh was intimidatingly knowledgeable about his areas of interest but could become extremely grouchy with little warning; I suspect this may have prompted his apparent withdrawal from face-to-face retail. His shops were the very best things ever.

Finally, The Olde Curiosity Shoppe was at one time a great place to find some of the things you are looking for. Not any more. They still have lots of Victorianish curios on display, but none for sale. I highly recommend a visit. To see the goodies, look up; they are largely hanging from the rafters. But not exclusively.
posted by mwhybark at 9:45 AM on February 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

The stores inside the Pike Place Market (i.e. down from the top level selling fish and flowers) often have a lot of weirdo stuff. The farther down you go in the market, the odder the stuff often gets. Keep in mind, though, that it's all hideously overpriced. Exploring the market is a great way to kill a weekend afternoon, though!

Protip: if you're traveling by car, drive around down to the waterfront and park in the free parking area underneath the viaduct, as close to the Pike Place Hillclimb (big staircase) as you can.

Then walk into the parking garage which is directly adjacent to the foot of the hillclimb. If you're facing the stairs, the garage is on the left.

Take their elevator up to the bridge level, and walk across the skybridge to the market.

(Note the location of the entrance to the skybridge. It's sort of wedged in between the Chukkar Cherries stand and that funny little convenience store. It's not always easy to spot when you are ready to go home.)

Presto: free parking, with the market just an elevator's ride away! Don't tell anyone, this is just between us, okay?
posted by ErikaB at 12:09 PM on February 17, 2011

I haven't been here myself, but the Habitat for Humanity outlet store might have something along the lines of vintage objects. http://www.seattlehabitatoutlet.org
I work at a ReStore in Cali and we often get random vintage tools, old/antique lighting fixtures, and lots of stuff that could be refinished to look more appealing.
posted by anotherkate at 12:21 PM on February 20, 2011

Victoriana is extremely unlikely, but UW Surplus routinely ends up with odd crap that'd been in the back of some closet for fifty years.
posted by lantius at 1:33 PM on March 7, 2011

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