Published 12 March 2018 ● Last Updated on 13 December 2021

Gifting meaningfully is hard. Living eco-friendly is harder. And doing them both together? That requires more effort and guilt and thought than most of us can spare!

After all, gifting things is all about buying – versus sustainable lifestyle, which is about reducing purchases, avoiding consumerism… saying no to freebies/fads/sellers.

If you are on the path to eco-friendly living, you have probably reduced your shopping. Perhaps you are swapping clothes instead of indulging in fashion brands, cold-shouldering the latest gadget, buying pre-loved furniture. But for a friend who’s turning 40- can you avoid visiting a store? Can you forgo giving a memento to your daughter on her 13th birthday? If that’s a conflict you feel – this guide is for you.

When gifting used things is NOT taboo! | Unique gifts that owe their charm to a past life

Some things carry a charm not in spite of, but because they are old! If you live an eco, secondhand lifestyle – this gift guide will help you avoid the branded stores and still present your family/friends with a special memento. For all ideas and sources, look up #giftideas #preloved

Posted by Secondsguru on Monday, March 12, 2018

There are many things that carry a charm not in spite of, but because they are old! You can call them vintage / retro / heirlooms / antiques… but in essence those are just glowing labels for used things. By gifting these, you get to give a second life to something old, and at the same time buy something beautiful that serves as a keepsake.

There are strings that attach sustainability to minimalism and a second-hand lifestyle. Let Secondsguru help you stay tethered whether you buy for yourself – or for others!

Vintage Swag

We all have friends still grooving like it’s the 80s – air-guitari-ing for the zillionth time on Summer of ’69, dressing up to insane lengths at Star Wars re-re-re-releases, installing typewriter sound apps on their iPhone. It is most easy and rewarding to find pre-loved / vintage swag for this group.

For the Sci-fi lover, get a casio calculator watch. It has won iconic hearts, from McFly to Sting, and is bound to bring cheer to your friend too. Another pop-culture hit is the vinyl record – bonus points if your friend owns a turntable, but even otherwise, an LP looks great framed on a wall!

For old-school enthusiasts, mechanical souvenirs should work well: think wind-up toys and typewriters.

vinyl records classic

An old school typewriter for sale at Tong Mern Sern Antiques
Quirky vintage: (Top) Old School LPs at Junkies Corner; (Below) A typewriter for sale at Tong Mern Sern Antiques.

Looking for vintage swag? Head here:
For vinyls and turntables, this list has the best places to head to in Singapore.

To get a Casio watch, search Amazon and Ebay for resellers of original ranges.

For antique pieces, Tong Mern Sern Antiques [51 Craig Road] is a small but wonderful delight for vintage knick-knacks within the CBD.

For the book-lover

No bibliophile born in the previous century can deny a weakness for sepia paper and mildew smells. Ironically, the digitally unified online world makes it easy for us to fulfill the fetish! From generic sellers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble to specialised local sellers, you will find many sources to get rare and signed editions. Search for the favourite genre or author of the “giftee”, and your job is done. Prices vary widely depending on how popular the book is.

Nonsense Novels
This almost-century-old hardcover was gifted to me by my very discerning husband! He knew I was curious about this book (thanks to the title!) – and he simply googled to find a willing seller.

Looking for rare books? Head here:

The book pictured above was purchased from Besleys Books, based in England.

To buy from a local seller, head to Gohd. As of date, they have available: an 1890s print of Notre-Dame de Paris by Victor Hugo, and a 1901 print of The Iliad.

Online, Amazon has a great collection too – choose collectibles in the filter search. A quick search showed so many sellers parting with the first edition of Gerald Durrell’s The Overloaded Ark, a great addition to any animal lover’s book shelf!

If you need to go luxe

Are you buying for a socialite who believes it’s Blahnik or bust? Or a banker who cannot show up without a logo on the leather briefcase? Or a young gun who wants to start his internship with a fancy timepiece?

Luckily, pre-loved mint-condition luxe is now a thing, so you can remove the guilt and reduce the poverty you feel after purchasing big brands (though you may still feel the price pinch!). Be it watches, handbags, totes or cufflinks – it is possible to get deep discounts on these items, and find them pristine enough to be gifted.

A 1960s Walborg beaded evening purse retailing for US$149 at 1st Dibs.


Looking for big brands? Head here:

If you buy from marketplace-style platforms where you connect directly with sellers – such as Carousell  – do ensure you buy from highly-rated sellers. Ask for receipts / warranties that can prove authenticity.

For higher end brands, it’s best to go to curators who quality check and resell, so you can be sure of working condition and authenticity. In this regard, look up Style Tribute and Second Edit. Both have a physical base in Singapore, carry a range of brands, and even mark the condition for each item that can range from pristine / brand new to fair /gently loved.

Luxury brand aficionados would love the finds at 1st Dibs, a virtual gallery of furniture, art, fashion and more – all items being antique treasures. And then there’s The Fifth Collection – which carries authenticated and curated luxury items.

When a house-gift is in order

Weddings, anniversaries, house warming, Christmas … there are many occasions when you want to pick up gifts for couples and zero in on an item for their home. Rather than pick up cookie-cutter décor items, why not pick up an original poster? Vintage prints have personality, and are easy to fit into modern settings (“it’s kitsch!”) as well as traditional homes (“it matches the mood!”). Plus, they have a resale value in the vintage world, should the owner choose to let them go later.

This poster was purchased from Picture This, and marks the Japanese release of Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Looking for vintage posters? Head here:
Locally, Poster Hub  has a good collection of recent flicks, ranging from SG$35 to $400. You can buy online or browse at their shop in Esplanade.

If your budget is bigger, look up Picture This; their travel collection  and James Bond poster series are a guaranteed hit.

Within the family

My favourite gift from my mom is a necklace she gave me – it’s delicate, intricate, and most importantly, it is the one she wore at her wedding. Every time I see it, it takes me back into a time I haven’t even witnessed, a black and white world where I imagine my mom and dad smiling at the threshold of a marriage that has now lasted 35-plus years.

That’s what heirlooms are: not jewellery but passed down moments. If your closet has something attached to a memory – the studs you purchased from your first salary, a pendant that you considered your lucky charm, a digital watch from an era that treated it like the height of technology – consider polishing them up and handing hand them (both the item and the story!) to your son or daughter.

If it is your wife you are planning to gift jewellery to, and you don’t have an heirloom to dip into, don’t worry, your cheque book will work as well!

shikha lamba jewellery
Old family jewels reworked into a new neckpiece, by designer Shikha Lamba.

Where you can head to buy these:
Online curator 1st Dibs  and The Fifth Collection are our top recommendations for online purchase of antiques. Alternatively, you could go to your trusted jewellery designer to reset stones or sets with history in your own collection. Secondsguru is happy to recommend Shikha Lamba – a jewellery designer who can spin magic to your jewels old and give them a new lease of life. Shikha has her own online store and ships her wares worldwide.

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