One note: I use the term vintage weights to mean weight plates, dumbbells, barbells, equipment, and anything else old and used to gain strength.
Widen Your Search to Include Left Field
You might not find vintage weights within the 30 mile preset search radius on your used market of choice. Widen your search and be willing to drive. Also, you can get creative. It only takes a minute to politely ask someone if they are headed your way. The worst they can do is say no. I don’t do it often, but at times when I see something listed at a distance I don’t want to drive, I’ll message:
"Hello, I know this is a long shot, but do you happen to be headed toward ____(your location) ____? I love those weights, but can’t make it all the way to __(their location)___ right now."
At best, they’re coming close to your house. Or still a win, they agree to meet you halfway. A seller from about an hour and half away met me a half hour from my house with deep dish plates in the back of his work truck. He had a job close to me and agreed to meet. Another seller from Washington DC sent a couple hundred pounds of plates and a barbell with his in-laws who had been visiting. They lived in Pittsburgh about 20 minutes from me! These are completely coincidental, but just a few examples of how that 1 in 10 shot sometimes works out.
Embrace Rust, Dirt, and Bad Paint Jobs
I seldom find vintage weights in pristine condition. If you want to find vintage weights on the cheap side, you need to be willing to clean them up. But fret not. I have several videos on my YouTube channel to help you do just that. Here are a few of my restoration tutorials.
York Olympic Weights Restoration - How to Remove Rust and Retain Original Paint
Vintage Barbell Restoration Two Ways - Shiny & Old School
5 Time Saving Tips to Restore and Clean Your Weights
Level Up Your Search Terms
People who sell valuable vintage weights for far less than they are worth don’t often accurately describe them in the listing or the listing’s title. Even though there may be specific weights you’re hunting, use a variety of search terms. Here is a 2 minute video on the search terms I like to use.
How to Collect Vintage Weights - Episode 2 - The Best Search Terms
Pay & Pick Up
If you find vintage weights for next to nothing, don’t try to get them even cheaper. First of all, that’s kind of a jerk move. Secondly, there’s a good chance someone else will offer full price and you’ll lose the listing. The same applies to picking up. Don’t expect for the seller to keep their word and sell you the bar Jon Pall Sigmarsson used to lift blocks of cheese for twenty bucks if you make them wait a week to pick it up.
I love to pick up weights on Saturday mornings, because I usually have familial commitments on weeknights. But after I lost several vintage weights, because I’d wanted to pick up on the weekend, I started making down payments. Offer the seller 25-50% of the listing’s price as a down payment to secure it for you. Also, ask the seller to show good faith by taking down the listing or marking it sold. This will further ensure no vultures come around to scoop up your score.
Asking Questions is Free
I’d started to regularly ask, “Do you have any other old weights?” However, I only used to ask when I picked up the weights being sold. Sometimes, the seller would surprise me with another pair of old dumbbells. Many times, the answer was no. Then I thought to start asking on listings of older equipment or weights even if I didn’t necessarily want the featured listing. Someone with a 50 year old bench might also have some old weights or a barbell. And sometimes, they do. I start by clicking to see their other listings if possible. Then I send a message to ask if they have any other old weights. The best thing about this tactic is that many times the other weights haven’t been listed yet. So if you strike a deal, you can rest assured no one else will snag it.
Finding vintage weights requires perseverance, creativeness, politeness, and luck. It doesn’t take a lot of money. Learn as you go and make sure to lift what you find. You can find more tips and tutorials regarding vintage weights on my Instagram account linked below.
by Rob at VintageWeightsPGH
This very well may be the only article I read all year. As a lifter, knowledge very seldom excites me, however, this is very good knowledge.