Surprise, surprise! You can always find antiques in an antique store. However, it may not be the items on display that are the real treasures. Antique store owners often have a back room or storage are filled to the gills with hidden treasures. Many antique store owners have been in business for decades. Although most antique dealers keep detailed inventory lists, you may find older, smaller shops with owners who have been in business so long they may have forgotten an item that may be exactly what you are looking for.
You can also learn a lot from shop owners who have been in business for a long time. I find that these dealers are frequently very eager to share their knowledge and love of antiques. The prices in older, smaller shops are often more reasonable. Oftentimes, the owners have been selling from the same location for their entire career. They no longer have significant overhead costs because many times they own the building that houses the shop. This may be an old house, warehouse, or even a barn.
Here are a few other places to look for unique antiques:
Online auctions, including but not limited to ebay, are a great source for antiques. You just have to do your homework if you are looking for something specific. If you are unsure about something you see in the photos of the item, ask questions. There are a ton of online auction since the pandemic forced some antique dealers to pivot and change their business model in order to survive. Again, you may find some amazing items, but you have to be cautious. Unless you have unlimited disposable income, you will want to go into the auction with a budget and have enough discipline to stick to the budget. It is easy to get caught up in a bidding war, especially if you are a competitive person who likes to "win".
Thrift stores are another great way to find antiques. You may have to sort through a load of what may be considered "junk" before discovering a hidden gem. But if you are willing to put in the time and effort, it may very well payoff. It is very unlikely that you will find something that is so valuable that you can retire. But you may find a ten dollar item that is actually worth a couple hundred dollars. You may be able to find antique furniture and collectibles, including antiques that have been donated by long-time collectors who don't need or want the items any longer.
Last but definitely not least is the tried and true yard sale. It may be a cliche, but one man's junk may truly be another's treasure just waiting to be discovered.