Where to find really unique items

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Venetial mask wall art
You wont find Venetian wall art like this at the mall
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If you know where to find really unique items you can handle any gift challenge

Some things are just hard to find. Perhaps you need an interesting gift, or you're a new collector with very specific tastes. If you want to find that certain something beyond the usual department store and big box fare, you need to know where to start. 


For shoppers, the world wide web has become a virtual bazaar where you can find nearly anything your heart desires. Look for museum stores, artisan shops, and niche catalogs. If you know a specific site that specializes in imported gifts and one-of-kind items, go straight there and do your browsing virtually.

A general online search for oddities, however, can bring up hundreds of entries ... or barely any at all. The trick is to know how to search. First, be as specific as possible. If you are trying to find a hat for a friend who collects them, for example, don't put “interesting hats” in your search engine; you are liable to get back all sorts of fashion articles, images, and definitions which won't get you any closer to making a purchase. Instead, try searching for something like, “pink hats price,” or “hats feathers retail.” These search terms, including a term that indicates you want something you can buy, will be much more fruitful. 

Another way to find something one of a kind on the web is to look at sites like Etsy, where artists and crafters peddle their handmade wares. Many antique shops now sell their treasures online, as well.  ebay and craigslist are also great places to find unique stuff. Kind of like garage sales online, individuals sell all sorts of items, from electronics to Faberge eggs.  

Flea Markets and Garage Sales

At your local flea market, anything goes. This can be a great place for collectors, as sellers offer everything from live animals to used books to original artwork. Wading through the booths and booths of stuff can be a bit daunting at first, but after a trip or two you will begin to familiarize yourself with the layout. Oftentimes, sellers will set up in the same spot week after week. If you find one (or more) who specializes in just the thing you seek, talk to them and find out if they'll be returning the following week. If not, find out where else they sell. You might find they have a shop somewhere in town, or that they follow a rotation of flea markets, setting up at a different one every week.  

Garage sales and estate sales are another great way to find original items, and usually at a bargain! The best time to hit these is early in the morning, since the best pickings are usually snatched up first. The trick here is knowing when and where the sales are happening. You can drive around neighborhoods on any given weekend in the spring, summer, and fall to find handmade signs staked on street corners, pointing the way to garage sales nearby.

However, if you know pretty much what you want, it might be better to plan ahead. Thankfully, people hosting garage sales often post ads in the local newspaper and on craigslist. The great thing about this is that, not only will they list the date and times for the sale, they also frequently list some of the bigger or more interesting things they have to offer. Sometimes, if you see something that looks particularly promising, you can even contact the seller to ask if you can come before the sale to purchase an item they've listed.

Festivals and Trade Shows

Art shows and festivals are notoriously great places to find handcrafted art and pottery, artisan jewelry, and other pieces you just can't find anywhere else. Here the artists themselves set up booths to sell directly to the public. As an added bonus, if you like what you see you can often commission original pieces directly from the artist. 

Trade shows tend to be a bit more specific, catering to a particular niche. Gem shows sell precious and semi-precious gems, gun shows sell guns and other weaponry, and car shows showcase and sell collector cars. 

The downside of trade shows and festivals is that they typically only appear in a given city once or twice a year. Search for these events online or in your local newspaper to find out when one is coming to your area. 

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