Keeping a Vintage Finds Journal is a great way to keep records of all your great vintage, antique and second-hand finds. Along with their patina, a big part of their charm is the history and stories that go along with these pieces.
We love collecting, using and displaying vintage and antique pieces in our home. Many are high-quality items that have lasted decades, if not more than a hundred years – much longer than some of the more cheaply made, disposable versions from modern life.
The wear, patina, and imperfections of vintage pieces bring charm and character. The worn edges, faded parts, and scratches are earned through use by all of the previous owners. If only these vintage and antique pieces could talk. It would be fascinating to hear about where and when they were made, all the places they have lived in, and all the people they have belonged to.
The Stories of Your Stuff
Besides the craftsmanship and charm of vintage and antique pieces, I love them for the stories that they carry with them. We may know more of the history around pieces that we have inherited from within our family, but it is still difficult to ever know all the details.
For vintage and antique items that are purchased, it can be even more difficult to find out information and history. If we purchase a piece from a shop where the owners may have been involved in picking, or if I purchase directly from an owner like at a garage sale or Facebook Marketplace, I try to remember to ask for any information about where the item came from. Sometimes they will volunteer the information, but I always try to remember to ask. You can gain some interesting information this way. For example, we bought a vintage mirror off of Facebook Marketplace, and the seller told us that it was from a railway hotel in Kelowna, British Columbia.
But more often than not, you won’t be able to learn any interesting information when you buy a particular piece. Regardless, I like to do some research when I get the piece home. I want to know things like how old it is, where it was made, etc. Sometimes, I won’t get very far – such as researching the artist of a painting we have. Other times, I’ll find lots of information and it’s fascinating. I find knowing things about the vintage treasures we own gives them meaning.
Keeping a Vintage Finds Journal
When we first started buying vintage pieces, I kept a journal of every piece we bought. I’d record where we bought it, and how much it cost. If I did any internet research about it, I also wrote down what I discovered. I kept receipts and price tags too. And then for some reason, I forgot about keeping these records and never continued.
I think I thought that I would remember all this information. But when I look back through my old journal at the early records I kept, I would not have remembered any of that if it hadn’t been written down. I’m grateful to myself for keeping those few records.
Over the years, we’ve bought a lot of vintage and antique pieces from a lot of different places. And I’ve definitely not retained all the information. Therefore, I decided I wanted to start keeping records of our vintage and antique purchases again. I’m going to attempt to go back and fill in the gap on some of our favourite pieces during the time I wasn’t keeping records. I won’t be able to remember everything, but anything is better than nothing.
To record my information easily, I’ve designed a printable journal sheet for records of vintage finds. You can get your free copy at the bottom of this post to start your own journal. Simply print out copies (double-side them if you can), hole-punch them, and put them in a binder.
You might also like my Family Heirlooms Journal Sheet for recording about vintage items with a family connection.
Read on to see an example of the Vintage Finds journal sheets with one of our favourite finds.
Buying an Antique Phonograph
In April 2010, it was exceptionally warm on Easter weekend. We headed out of town to go antiquing. In a small store in a small town, we found an antique phonograph (also called a gramophone) cabinet. It was in great working order. And the fancy gold label inside from Leach, Clegg, and Leach of Ottawa, caught our eye. That’s where we lived.
We put a deposit on the phonograph and had to rent a bigger vehicle to transport it the following weekend. It’s an interesting piece. It looks much like a little buffet, and in several previous apartments, we’ve had it flanked with bookcases and a mirror over top to create a living room focal point. Here’s a really old (and quite dark) photo from our tiniest apartment.
There is record storage inside the phonograph cabinet, but it is not a versatile piece for storage. The crank on the right hand side also means that bookcases can’t be flush against it.
Unfortunately, in our current house, the only place we have room for it is in a little landing at the base of our basement stairs. It took a fair bit of acrobatics to get even decent photos in the dim light and tight space. The phonograph is a little under-appreciated here (and if I’m being honest, often covered in items in need of a home in the basement). I hope to some day give it a more glamorous home again.
In order to take photographs of the phonograph, we cleaned it all up. And we also tested it out since we haven’t used it in a few years. We have some old records that we can play on it, including things like Frank Sinatra and some classical pieces. My favourite record to listen to though, is “She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain”, sung in German. It’s a rousing good time, complete with humorous sound effects.
We need to wind the phonograph before each song, and there’s only one song on each side of a record. This makes it a lot more work to play a handful of songs compared to turning on a Spotify playlist. But the crackly, slightly garbled sound is full of charm, and the phonograph itself is quite powerful and loud. (We startled our poor dog Oliver!)
Researching our Phonograph – A Local Connection
The exterior is in decent shape, but the interior wood is much more glossy and a richer colour. However, the true piece de resistance is the gold-lettered label inside for Leach, Clegg, and Leach, Ottawa. I initially researched the company after we bought it. And then recently, I did a little more research to fill out my journal sheet. Leach, Clegg and Leach were located in the heart of downtown Ottawa, and were in business under that name from 1920-1926. A larger company then absorbed them.
In doing my research about the phonograph, I was able to find vintage advertisements in old newspapers through our library. Similar models cost in the range of $115 to $200, which is very similar to the $197.50 we paid for it in 2010. However, when inflation is taken into account, the 1920s purchase price would have been more like $1500-$2500 today. That’s quite a large purchase!
I like imagining someone saving up their money to buy this phonograph a hundred years ago. It’s even more special that it came from a shop on a street that we’ve walked down ourselves. And it is amazing to me that this piece of engineering still works and is so powerful without electricity. Hopefully with care, it will continue to work for years to come.
Recording on your Vintage Finds Journal sheet
Once I had completed my research about our phonograph, I filled in one of Vintage Finds journal sheets. Now I won’t forget that information again. And if someone inherits it from us, they’ll know more about it and how we came to have it.
It’s easy to keep records of your own vintage and antique treasures with this handy printable. Simply fill out whatever information you do have, such as where and when you bought the item. If the seller is able to tell you anything of its history, include that too. There is also space if you want to do a little research as I like doing.
You might also like The 7 Best Reasons to Buy Vintage Decor, or for tips for hunting for vintage treasures, check out The Thrill of the Find.
Begin your own Vintage Finds Journal!
Do you also want to start recording the stories of your vintage treasures? It’s easy to begin with your free copy of the printable Vintage Finds journal sheet.
I want to hear from you. What’s one of your favourite vintage finds? What do you know about it? Let me know in the comments below.
All the best,