How (and where) to find Vintage Nail Polish

I get this question  HEAPS so I figured that one of my posts this week would be addressing exactly this. Where and how do I find vintage nail polish, oh wise one with the giant stash? Have a seat, eager young one and I will tell you all I know.

Perfect – Unnamed Green

1. Be prepared to wait. A LOT.

With the explosion of indie polish, the overall landscape of the polish world has changed. Demand for vintage has dropped dramatically, and therefore so has supply. People aren’t paying as much, so people aren’t selling as much. Finding anything older than the last five years is getting increasingly difficult. But have patience, because things do appear, you just have to wait.

Cutex – Huckleberry

2. Connect with other collectors.

Find blogs, instagram accounts and youtubers that enjoy vintage polish. Someone might be destashing what you are after, or know where to find more. Plus it’s great fun when you discover polishes you never knew about! And you can make great friends too.

Orlane – 27

3. Make a Wishlist.

I use a Pinterest Board, but you can do it however you like. Spreadsheet, folder full of photos, whatever. Just try and organise yourself as your stash grows. There’s nothing worse than missing out because you thought you already had something or doubling up when you thought you didn’t. It will also help your vintage polish friends keep an eye out on your behalf.

Hard Candy – Stop

4. Cover Your Bases.

This is the time consuming part. Vintage polish can literally show up anywhere so you have to have your eyes on a lot of places. Set up eBay searches. Join destash groups on Facebook. Look for destashes on Pinterest and Blogs. Check Storeenvy. Google the polishes you are looking for the most, regularly. Growing your vintage polish collection requires commitment and most of us take things pretty seriously and dedicate some time to it. (Most of us are super generous too when it comes to helping other polish hunters!)

Clarins – 230

5. What is “dusty hunting”?

Dusty Hunting is heading into old nail salons and nail supply store and checking out what they have for sale. The good stuff is usually tucked away, covered in dust – hence the term. People in some areas will have more luck than others. Because most nail salons in my area are fairly new, I’ve had very little luck dusty hunting but I know people who have hit vintage polish gold mines. It can be hit and miss but definitely worth the effort, especially if you know of some older places.

Chelsea – Violets Galore

6. Some of your posts mention Japan. How can I find stuff there?

I’m not entirely sure that buying from Japanese auctions is as viable as it once was, but it’s a good place to check for some rarer stuff, especially Chanels. You need to find a Japanese shopping service (there are plenty if you google) as most Japanese people will not ship outside Japan. There are many things to consider when doing this – the strength of your local currency against the Japanese Yen, finding a service that is willing to ship flammables (most won’t, nail polish is dangerous goods) and also factoring in the fees associated with having a middleman bid on your behalf (these sites charge bidding fees and final value fees). It can be expensive but you can also find some absolute bargains, it’s really up to you.

Rimmel – Sonic

7. Where do you look for polish?

Myself, mostly eBay saved searches that notify me when items appear and using my blog and instagram to reach people who may have what I am looking for. I rarely have the time to trawl for vintage these days.

Misa – Silk Robe

8. What exactly is considered “Vintage”?

That depends. It’s a super subjective term that really relates to when you started collecting. For me, I started in 2008, so pretty much 2005 and earlier is vintage for me. However to a lot of newer collectors things like the China Glaze OMG collection or Max Factor Fantasy Fire are considered vintage, and I bought those brand new. I guess once something gets discontinued and becomes VHTF (very hard to find) I guess it then becomes “vintage”.

Max Factor – Midnight Aqua

9. How much is (insert polish here) worth?

Honestly? Vintage Polish is worth as much as you’re wiling to pay for it. Lower demand in the market means a large spread in pricing – very high from people who know what they have is rare and very low from people who have no idea the item is in demand. Pay however much it means for you to have it, that’s the best advice I can give. It’s impossible to gauge pricing for a lot of these items by looking at what it previously sold for because you probably won’t find another one. Ask yourself how much it means to you and click that button, or close the browser. It’s up to you.

Versace – V2045W

I hope this list has been informative and less boring than I think it is. If you have any more questions, leave them in the comments!

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  • kims416

    You have no idea how much I appreciate this post. Thank you. I only just started collecting when I came across The Scholarly Nail’s Blog (super awesome you got her stash of hard candy). While I’m pretty sure I will only be collecting Hard Candy I realized a few days ago my sister has 3 1st generation Urban Decay bottles. She was about to toss them when I intervened. Sadly she had no Hard Candy. So now I guess I need to find Nail Polish collecting pals? Not sure how well that will go since I’m living in the Seattle Punk scene… the only color polish my friends know about is black. Sorry for the ramble, and thanks for the info!

    • Kaz

      There’s a large group on Facebook called Vintage Polish Collectors! Glad you saved those Urban Decay’s! What colours did she have?


        I will ask her to send me pics of the Urban Decay. I have a question for you. I was looking through my bottles and I came across these. I have no idea where I got them, all I know is I’ve had them for forver. I tried to look them up but could not find anything on them. Do you know anything about them!

        • Kaz

          Wow I have never seen these before! I will ask my friend if she knows anything about them.

      • kims416

        how did you get your bottles shipped from japan? i found a great source but it seems most forwarding companies do not ship nail polish

  • Great post, Kaz! I learned a lot and you answered my questions, especially what it means to be vintage polish. 😉

    • Kaz

      Thanks! I’m glad it was helpful!

  • Jennifer Dixey

    Hi Kaz, question, if you have a vintage polish to sell, is it better to keep it mint/unused for the value, or is it OK to swatch it once for a seller photo if you can’t find any online?

    • Kaz

      Used/Unused doesn’t impact value too terribly, unless it’s used to the point of a visible fill line. Most buyers (including myself) are usually more than happy to buy from a bottle shot though.