This post originally appeared in the October 9, 2023 edition of The Move, a place for Eater’s editors and writers to reveal their recommendations and pro dining tips — sometimes thoughtful, sometimes weird, but always someone’s go-to move. Subscribe now.
I have always looked at shopping as a sport. It’s an ongoing game in which I “win” by buying the things that I want at a price that doesn’t make me wince. I do not have the budget to simply indulge my whims for fancy cookware, vintage dishes, or out-of-print cookbooks at any price, and so when I’m looking for something that I can’t live without in my kitchen, I inevitably turn to eBay.
eBay is, of course, a stalwart of the online secondhand market scene. Founded in 1995, the site has long been a destination for bargain-hunters of all stripes looking to score a deal on someone else’s unwanted stuff via eBay’s online auctions. I buy a lot of things on eBay, including vintage clothing and unique decorative pieces for my apartment, but I’ve had the most success on that platform searching for cool stuff to outfit my kitchen. It really began when I started collecting vintage Pyrex, and eBay was an obvious destination for checking prices against the brightly colored dishes I saw in antique malls.
I quickly realized that, because eBay has a more competitive retail atmosphere than the typical antique mall, prices were more reasonable. Antique malls are curated by experienced junkers, who rightfully want to be paid for their time finding all these treasures. On eBay, sellers can still set their own prices, but they have to compete with dozens of other sellers listing the same bowl. Even with the cost of shipping factored in, I regularly save upwards of 50 percent on whatever I’m looking for by ordering it on eBay. I’ve had similar luck searching for vintage Magnalite, a line of cast aluminum cookware produced by the once Ohio-based company Wagner, that was a staple in my mom and grandma’s kitchens growing up. Magnalite is, technically, still on the market, but Wagner has been bought and sold a number of times over the decades, and the new stuff just isn’t of the same quality.
To be clear, this isn’t an endorsement of eBay so much as it is an endorsement of looking beyond the traditional retail atmosphere when you’re shopping for kitchen essentials. eBay is simply my preferred hunting ground, and the place where I can reliably find a deal. Platforms like Poshmark and Depop also boast a surprising assortment of kitchen treasures. Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and Mercari are also great places to look, especially if you’re searching for something specific or hard to find. You may need to do a little extra fact-checking (or ask the seller a few questions) to ensure that the item is authentic and in good condition, but most eBay sellers are happy to answer. (Run away from those who aren’t!)
But more than just vintage finds await on these platforms. I recently developed an interest in East Fork pottery, which is a real shame considering that it is absolutely beautiful but my budget simply cannot withstand the accumulation of bowls that cost more than $30 each. After seeing the eye-popping prices on East Fork’s website, I immediately turned to eBay and scored a set of bowls in the Asheville-based company’s creamy panna cotta glaze for a substantial discount. It was an absolute triumph, one that led me to set up an eBay alert that lets me know every time someone lists a bowl or plate that might be of interest.
And whether or not this is just me trying to justify my eBay spending, I also like that I’m shopping at least a little more sustainably. I imagine that the bowls I ordered just didn’t fit with the seller’s color scheme, or that the Pyrex I’m coveting is part of an inheritance that’s being passed on. They’re headed to my cabinets, ready to be used for so many dinners and snacks and appear in so many Instagram photos, instead of ending up in a landfill or languishing on the shelves of a Goodwill. That small victory, at least a little bit, helps make me feel better about my own consumption habits in the time of late capitalism.