Exploring thrift stores can turn into quite an adventure, but it can also be quite overwhelming if you're not well-versed in the art of thrift store shopping. These stores, often characterized by their tight spaces and seemingly endless rows of shelves stuffed with all sorts of items, can trigger a sense of chaos that might leave even the most seasoned shoppers a tad flustered. The temptation to hastily grab whatever you can find just to escape the seemingly endless labyrinth of items is real.
However, there is a path to thrift store shopping success, and it begins with knowing what to look for. By learning how to navigate these treasure troves of second-hand goods, you can transform your experience from one of anxiety and impulse purchases into a fruitful treasure hunt. Let's delve into the valuable insights that can help you make the most of your thrift store visits.
Baby Clothing Should Never Go Unnoticed
One minute your baby is wearing a three-to-six months garment and almost the next day they've grown a few inches and need the next size up! It's a known fact that buying baby clothing can result in financial strain. Thankfully, people have come to realize that thrift stores will take old baby clothes off your hands!
Stop going to high-end baby boutiques for your growing-like-a-sprout child. Instead, head over to your local thrift store or consignment shop. There's bound to be some cute options for a reasonable price!
Lifetime Warranty Tools Are The Handyman's Loop Hole
For those who are handy and love DIY projects, you know that good tools can get a bit pricey. We're here to tell you to stop going through the Home Depot catalog and head over to a thrift store. Various thrift stores cater to home goods, such as tools.
And if you're able to find a brand that has a lifetime guarantee, snag it! Specific brands, such as Craftsman, have a no-cost replacement policy. So, if the tool you bought isn't working, return it for a free repair or new tool.
High-End Clothing Brands For Less
High-end clothing brand lovers, stop going to retail stores and start frequenting consignment and thrift shops. Typically, there will be a section dedicated to specifically branded clothing, such as Free People, Flying Tomato, and Lilly Pulitzer.
If you're a fan of the former, you know that their clothing items can cost upwards to a few hundred dollars. And that's just for a sweater! Before buying off the website or in the store, check out a second-hand shop. They might have the same piece for a fraction of the price.
Vintage Jewelry Is A Great Gift
Vintage jewelry found in thrift stores does not necessarily equal cheap costume sets. In fact, it's the opposite. You can find some quirky pieces in thrift stores that equate to a lot of money, especially if it has priceless gems.
There are also unique pieces, like funky rings, that make for great gifts! Who wants something that everyone has because it's mass-produced? Go thrift store hunting and pick out something personal that your friend will have for years to come!
All The Hangers
If you're now in that stage of your life when your adulting, then you've probably noticed that nice hangers are expensive. We're talking about the sturdy wooden ones and the no-slip grip that is the ever fantastic velvet hanger. The problem is, who wants to spend upwards to $20 on hangers?
Thrift stores are here to save your wallet and your clothing. Typically, these stores have sections designated to hangers. So, you can buy a huge bundle of them for about a dollar or two.
Bicycle, Bicycle, I Want To Ride My Bicycle
Yes, you can buy bicycles at a thrift store. Genius, right? The only pro-tip we have, though, is to bring someone mechanically handy with you, just in case there is something wrong with the chain or tire frames.
Then again, those are cheap fixes and will be a lot more doable than, say, buying a bike that's brand new. If you go the thrift store route, then you'll most likely save a hundred or so dollars buying a nice bike.
Wooden Furniture Because Retail Is Expensive
Never underestimate a nice second-hand piece of wooden furniture. If you see a desk, chairs, dresser, or even end tables lying around a thrift store, they are definitely worth a few minutes of your undivided attention.
It's understandable if you are iffy about buying secondhand. If you're ever unsure of how well a piece is put together, ask one of the workers if there is any dovetailing -- a joinery style that will indicate a handmade item. Quality is everything!
Maternity Clothing Can Get Pricey
There is no telling how big your belly is going to get when you're pregnant. And it's safe to assume you're going to be stocking up on a lot of baby apparatus before your bundle of joy makes their way into the world. Paying for maternity clothes should be the last thing on your mind.
The good news is that a majority of thrift stores cater to maternity wear! So, instead of buying expensive clothing you'll never wear again, try perusing a thrift store first.
Thrift Stores Have Some Of The Best Halloween Costumes
It's common knowledge that retail shops such as Party City sell great Halloween costumes. The only issue is that they are ridiculously overpriced. And if you have more than one person in need of a costume, forget about it!
On the other hand, consignment shops and thrift stores have traditional costumes as well as funky, retro outfits that you are able to piece together for a unique costume. Seriously, just find a black shirt, a wig, and a Wayne's World hat for $10 and you're good to go!
Cast Iron Skillets That Are Already Seasoned
Now is the time in your life where you should stop buying niche kitchen appliances like cast iron skillets. They're pricey, and unless you use that skillet every week, they're most likely gathering dust in some long-forgotten cabinet.
Instead, if you find yourself hosting fajita night, run down to a thrift store. There are typically a few cast iron skillets lying around. And the best part about them is that they've already been seasoned!
Vintage Pyrex Is More Durable Than The New Stuff
Like other kitchen wares found at thrift stores, if you're lucky enough to stumble across some vintage Pyrex, buy it. Maybe it's because the vintage collection is more durable than the newer selection, or because they're more colorful, but the retro stuff is becoming increasingly popular.
Either way, you're not going to want to miss a chance to own old Pyrex dishes. Even if you don't want them taking up space in your house, collectors will surely take them off your hands for a nice price.
Keep You're Eyes Peeled For Jadeite Kitchenware
Jadeite is a popular line of kitchenware produced by Anchor Hocking in the 1940s. The glassware is jade-green, or, if you're lucky enough to find it, baby blue, and is known to be quite durable. If you need some beautiful vintage items that give your kitchen a splash of color, start walking through some thrift shops!
If a store happens to have Jadeite, you're going to want to grab it fast. As retro items are coming back into style, products such as Jadeite kitchenware are flying off the shelves!
The Original Fiestaware Is Perfect For Parties
Other brands of vintage kitchenware have discontinued, but Fiestaware is still around today. Although, they have changed the color shades since the original 1936 line. The line has bowls, dishes, and a special platter that is comprised of a large orange plate, four moon-shaped bowls that fit together to form a donut, and a tiny dip bowl that fits snug in the center of the circle.
These sets are still around and being produced, but if you know what you're looking for, the original colors would be a cool find!
Board Games Can Be Flipped For A Lot Of Money
For some thrift store shoppers, it isn't about finding hidden gems but rather finding pieces that they can flip for a substantial amount of money. That is particularly prevalent in games. Someone might find an original 1935 Monopoly board game sitting on the shelf of a thrift store and buy it for $3.
According to auction sites such as eBay, a vintage Monopoly set with the year or "patent pending" on the box can go for between $300-$900 depending on its condition. Next time you're in a thrift store, keep your eyes peeled!
Textbooks Because No One Can Afford Those Gen. Ed. Books
Anyone who has ever had to buy a textbook will say that they are ridiculously overpriced and expensive. And for a poor college kid, the funds are steep enough to have them rationing out two Ramen packets for a week's worth of food.
Instead of going to the college bookstore to buy your class texts, try a second-hand shop first. There are other students who've had to go through the same classes. You'd be surprised what thrift store bookshelves may offer.
Emergency Equipment To Prepare You For Zombies
Ever since the zombie fad of the 2000s, more and more people are getting prepared for the zombie apocalypse. This means buying flashlights, battery-operated radios, batteries for pretty much everything, tents, and sleeping bags.
The good news is, there is no reason to break the bank buying these emergency supplies. A majority of thrift stores will have a camping section. So, as long as all of the equipment is in working order, pick them up!
Craft Supplies For Your Little One's School Projects
If you love crafts or have a young one who has a lot of school assignments based around art projects, then you know the price of materials adds up fast. Colored construction paper, crayons, markers, felt, pom-poms, popsicle sticks, and even hot glue guns don't have to cost you a fortune.
Second-hand shops are known to have craft sections. So, the next time your little one comes home saying they need to build a diorama of George Washington crossing the Delaware River, you know where to go!
T-Shirts Because You Can Never Have Enough
Although t-shirts aren't the most expensive clothing item, buying a lot of them can add up fast. And, aside from saving money, there are benefits to purchasing pre-worn shirts! For one, they might actually fit better because they've been worn and washed a few times.
You also won't have to worry about the shirt shrinking because it's most likely been dried in a machine and not hung-out. Also, there is something to be said about a unique shirt from a thrift shop that everyone asks you about!
Wooden Cutting Boards Are A Thrift Store Must Buy
If you're like us, then you're getting tired of your modern plastic cutting board not standing the test of time. The good news is that there is a solution. Thrift stores tend to have a nice selection of heavy wooden cutting boards.
Older boards often have a better quality about them, and they are also able to be restored close to their original state by using mineral oil. With the restoration, you don't have to worry about food that's previously been on the board!
Picture Frames (Forget The Picture!)
When you're searching through thrift store artwork, keep in mind the object surrounding the art -- the frame! There is no rule that states you much buy a picture frame because of the artwork nestled inside.
If you like the way the frame looks and have a photo you think will look nice in it, snag it! Frames at thrift stores are going to be significantly cheaper than those at their retail store counterparts.
Second-Hand Exercise Equipment For At-Home Workouts
You know those people who spend every New Year saying they're finally going to get back in the gym and get in shape? Well, those are the same people that should stop buying expensive gym memberships because there seems to be an ongoing pattern of not using the membership.
There is a solution, though. Tell that friend to go to a thrift store and buy second-hand equipment. That way, they have the means to workout without breaking the bank when they decide to stop working out.
Used Books Are Good For The Soul
There's nothing quite like snuggling up on the couch with a good book. And with hard copies becoming increasingly expensive, it's nice to know there's an alternative to buying novels. They may not be exactly what you're looking for, but thrift stores tend to have shelves upon shelves of used books.
The best part is that the prices are usually super low. Next time you find yourself in a thrift store, be sure to check out the books. You might find a new favorite author!
You Can Never Have Enough Baskets
Baskets are good for any occasion, but especially in the fall when you can decorate them with apples, pumpkins, and other festive gourds and squash. Single baskets don't tend to be too pricey, probably around $20, depending on where you go.
But that number will quickly skyrocket depending on how many you need. Try going to a thrift store first. They have a variety of shapes and sizes that are typically in good condition, and the price will be marked way down!
Old Video Games To Fuel Your Nostalgia
Even though old games will go on mega-sale once the newest version is released, there are a few exceptions that you're going to want to look out for, while searching through a thrift store.
If you find yourself in the gaming section, keep an eye out for old games, especially those that were released at the end of a gaming consoles reign. For example, the last game to be released on the Nintendo 64, Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3, can be resold for up to $40 if used, and up to $90 is new!
Find Some Funky Lamps
You wouldn't think it, but lamps are oddly expensive. A typical desk lamp can be priced at $30 or more, while a standing lamp can be in the hundreds! There is no reason to break the bank to get a little light in your room.
Think about going to a thrift store before shopping online. A lamp found in a thrift store will most likely be a funky conversation starter, and the most expensive component will be the light bulbs!
Vintage Clothing Never Goes Out Of Style
When looking for vintage clothing in a thrift store, there are a few things to look out for. Mainly, keep this motto in mind, "just because it's old doesn't mean it's vintage." If you're interested in switching up your style to more vintage garments, keep an eye out for these two things:
First, see if it's made in the U.S.A. Second, check if the article of clothing is carrying an old brand logo or has a "union" tag. If so, it's most likely vintage, and you should snatch it up!
Some Coffee Mugs Are Collectors Items
If you're like a majority of people who go thrift shopping, then you walk straight past the coffee mugs. They tend to be dusty with a few chips on the lip, anyway! Well, take that mindset and throw it out the window.
Next time you're in a thrift store, browse the mug selection. There might be a gem hidden among the porcelain. Especially keep an eye out for any name brands or sports team logos, as they're collector's items.
Gardening Supplies Stand The Test Of Time
Since gardening tools are meant to withstand the elements, the chances are that if you spot a shovel or plant pots at a thrift store, they're in decent shape, and you should buy them.
Depending on the quality you buy, retail gardening supplies can run up a hefty bill, especially if you're like us and like to have everything with matching handle colors! That being said, if you see gardening tools at a thrift store, check them for any obvious issue, then buy them.
Maps And Atlases For Your "Bug Out Bag"
Remember all of that camping gear for your survival pack? Well, be sure to add physical maps and atlases to your list of things to look out for, while thrift store shopping. People who use hard copies of maps are few and far between, so a lot are lying around in stores.
The good news is that because the majority use digital maps, paper copies are going to resell for cheap! Take it from someone who watched The Walking Dead too many times, buy the map!
Silver Utensils (No, Not Stainless Steel)
While sorting through the silverware section of a thrift store, keep an eye out from silver! No, not stainless steel, we're talking the real deal -- sterling silver. It's a treasure hunt, but there are times that a silver spoon or fork gets mixed up with the regular silverware.
If you have the time and patience and are able to tell the two types of utensils apart, then it's definitely worth sifting through everything.
Vince Lombardi Sweater: $43,020
An old ripped sweater at a Goodwill store? Most people would just walk away but Sean and Rikki McEvoy thought they were getting a great deal when they picked up this sweater in Asheville, N.C. back in 2014. It wasn't until the couple was watching a Vince Lombardi television special that they realized it was the famed coach's personal property.
After the origin of the sweater was authenticated it was taken to auction where it fetched $43,020. That's a nice sale price for an item the couple paid just $0.58 to acquire.
Chinese Libation Cup: $75,640
In 2013, an anonymous Australian walked into a thrift shop in Sydney and discovered a rather strange looking cup. He decided the item was worth the $4 purchase price and he took it home.
After conducting some research it was determined that the libation cup was from 17th century China and carved from rhinoceros horn. The cup was taken to auction and sold for a life-changing $75,640 Australian dollars. If the true owner of this cup ever found out what they gave away they probably felt sick to their stomach.
Bond Watch: $160,175
An Englishman roaming a flea market picked up this watch for $38. The watch was later determined to be worn by James Bond in the iconic film "Thunderball." The item was eventually taken to a Christie's auction where it sold in 2013 for $160,175.
Typically, movie memorabilia doesn't sell for this type of price, however, the watch was the first-ever modified by the "Q Branch" to include a Geiger counter to help James Bond detect nuclear radiation. This James Bond watch proves that when the circumstances are right, bidders will overpay.
All Quiet On The Western Front: $18,000
Laura Stouffer was browsing through a thrift shop when she came upon a small print of "Shepherd's Call." The painting that was completed sometime between the early 1850 and late 1870s. She purchased the item because she genuinely liked what she was buying.
After taking the item home and evaluating it further, she realized there was a lithograph of an original movie poster for the film All Quiet On The Western Front. She quickly had the lithograph appraised and was excited to learn she had bought a thrift shop item work a whopping $18,000.
1650 Flemish Painting: $190,000
In 2006, a man named Leroy purchased a painting for $3 at a local Goodwill store. His daughter thought the painting was unique and took it to an Antiques Roadshow event. The appraiser was immediately interested in the painting and placed a value on it of $20,000 to $30,000.
The family decided to sell the painting in 2012 and were shocked when it fetched a price of $190,000. The painting ended up being a Flemish work of art that dated to around 1650. It's not the most exciting painting to look at but it sure was worth a ton of money.
Alexander Calder Necklace: $267,750
A Philadelphia woman shopping at a flea market found a piece of bold jewelry she thought would be a nice addition to her collection. Three years after she purchased the necklace she noticed similar jewelry in a display at the Philadelphia Art Museum.
The jewelry was the work of Alexander Calder. The woman quickly called the Calder Foundation in New York and received confirmation that her piece was real. She decided to sell her discovery at Christie's, First Open Sale of Post-War & Contemporary Art. The necklace was listed as 'silver wire and cord, executed circa 1940.' Her cheap find turned into a $267,750 payday.
Declaration of Independence: $2.4 million
The Declaration of Independence has been a hot seller in the 21st century. In 1991, an unidentified man paid $4 for an old picture with a wooden frame during a trip to a flea market in Adamstown, PA.
As he took a closer look at the picture, he noticed there appeared to be something behind the frame. He was shocked to open the frame and find a hidden document. The original copy of the Declaration of Independence would go on to sell for $2.4 million. Since that time, we're pretty sure thrift stores throughout the world now check for hidden paintings behind old worthless photos.
Faberge Egg: $30 million
A scrap metal dealer paid $14,000 for a Faberge Egg at a flea market. The man weighed the gold item and believed he could earn his money back by melting it down. It's a good thing he didn't melt the item down for scrap metal. The egg was soon discovered to be one of only 50 Fabergé Imperial Eggs known to exist.
The estimated value of the egg was over $30 million. The item was eventually sold but the full price paid by a private collector was never made publicly available. Only 43 of 50 Faberge eggs have been discovered at this moment in time.
Pierre-Auguste Renoir's "Paysage Bords de Seine": $100,000
A painting by renowned French Impressionist Pierre-Auguste Renoir was given away at a flea market for $50. The painting was purchased at the Shenandoah Valley flea market and an anonymous owner delivered it to a Virginia auction house where experts verified that it is Renoir's Paysage Bords de Seine from 1879.
The scene was originally purchased from a Paris gallery in 1926 by international lawyer Herbert L. May. It's a rather small painting at just 5.5-by-9-inches. It's a beautiful work of art but you'll have to get up close and personal with the painting to really enjoy it.
Philip Treacy Handbag: $317,000
John Richard was always on the lookout for valuable treasures and he struck it rich while visiting Oxfam, a British thrift store. Hidden inside an old dusty box was a high-quality purse that Richard just had to have. The purse was priced at £20 ($32) and he tried to haggle over the cost. When the cashier refused to change the price, he accepted the cost and moved on.
He brought the bag to a Philip Treacy store and the origin of the bag was confirmed. It was, in fact, the work of world-renowned milliner, Philip Treacy. The hand-stitched bag was created by Andy Warhol and only 10 of these bags were produced. Richard soon revealed that two different offers of £200,000 ($317,000) had been made for the handbag.
Red Nose Print: $9,000
Karen Mallet was visiting a Goodwill when a single picture caught her eye. It was a large abstract print featuring black and white lines with a large red nose-like triangle. She soon noticed the signature in the corner of the painting — Alexander Calder.
She couldn't verify the famous artists' signature on the spot so she gambled a measly $12.34. Mallet started researching Calder when she got home and found out that he had created lithographs—authorized copies—that were similar to her own print. After she had the signature validated she discovered her piece was a lithograph of Calder's Red Nose. A fine art company set the print’s value at $9,000.
Volunteer Finds $1,200 Salvador Dalí Wood Engraving
A volunteer at the Hotline Pink Thrift Shop in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, lucked out in a big way when she spotted this piece of art hanging on the wall. The work, which was priced between $10 and $50, was actually an original 1950s woodcut print by the famed surrealist artist Salvador Dalí.
Wendy Hawkins, who works at the store twice a week, said, "I saw this, with a bunch of other paintings lined up on the floor, and I said 'this is old, this is something special.'" It certainly is! With the help of a local gallery owner, the artwork was sold for $1,200.
Photo Of Billy The Kid: $5 Million
Randy Guijarro was walking through a thrift shop when he discovered a few "junk" boxes. He found three tintypes inside one of the boxes. A tintype is an old picture printed on thin metal sheets. He paid a whopping three dollars for all three photos and headed home. Upon a closer examination of the work, he was shocked when he recognized the famous outlaw, Billy the Kid.
At first, collectors were very skeptical when Guijarro told them of his find. The artwork was examined for a full-year by a team of professionals. They ended up identifying all 18 people in the photo, including Billy, his gang, and their friends and family. The photo was later discovered to have been taken in Chaves Country, New Mexico. They even found the remains of the building in the photo. Guijarro's photo was appraised and quickly insured for $5 million.
Preparation To Escape To Egypt: $27,630
This painting was found inside a house. A student in Germany purchased the pullout for $215 when visiting a Berlin thrift store. He thought it was a strange find and his research paid off. It turns out the tiny oil painting was the work of a famous artist.
Titled Preparation to Escape to Egypt the painting was created somewhere between 1605 and 1620. The excited student was soon the proud owner of $27,630 which he earned with a quick sale of the artwork. This is why you should never donate anything until you make sure you're not giving away a small fortune.
Martin Johnson Heade Painting: $1.2 Million
A man in Indiana wanted to find a painting to cover a hole in his wall at home. He happened upon a still photo that he was willing to pay $30 to take home. Later, he was playing a card game that happened to feature famous works of art. The man was shocked to realize the $30 painting he picked up at a thrift store was actually the work of Martin Johnson Heade, an American still-life painter.
The painting was sold for $1.2 million. Sometimes you have to be lucky twice, once in the purchase of your hidden treasure, and once when the true value of the item is accidentally revealed.
Ceramic Bowl: $2.2 Million
A New York family purchased this simple white bowl for $3 while attending a garage sale 2007. After owning the bowl for six years, the family had the item appraised. It turns out the family had purchased a significant piece of history.
The bowl was created for China's Northern Song Dynasty, and was worth $200,000 to $300,000. In March of 2013, the family put the bowl up for auction at Sotheby’s and it sold for an unexpected $2.2 million. Not everyone has an eye for this type of antique but the people who do can make a fortune from a very small investment.
Tudor Bed Frame: £20 Million
This Tudor Bed was being thrown away in the hotel parking lot of the former Redland House Hotel in Hough Green, Chester, England. Ian Coulson fell in love with the unique piece and offered to purchase the bed for £2,200. In 2010. Coulson, a four-post bed specialist, saw the item listed on the internet.
He purchased the bed and approached TV historian, Jonathan Foyle for a second opinion. DNA testing of the bed's wood revealed that it belonged to King Henry VII, back in 1486. The bed was estimated to be worth over £20 Million and is the last remaining true Tudor Bed in the world.
Jackson Pollock: $50 Million
A lucky retired truck driver had one of the best days of her life. Teri Horton wasn't the type of gal who would go out of his way to prove a point about how authentic a piece of art was but she did it with the right painting. She found this painting at a California thrift shop and only paid five dollars for it.
Her intentions were to throw darts at it before it came to her attention that it may have been a real Jackson Pollock. She said,"who the [expletive] is Jackson Pollock?" Her story became a documentary, and the painting has been valued at $50 million.
Ansel Adams Prints: $200 Million
In 2000, painter Rick Norsigian purchased a set of glass plates that had been printed with images of Yosemite National Park. Norsigian loved the composition of the photos and was willing to fork over $45 to take home the works of art. He soon discovered that the glass plates were the work of famed photographer, Ansel Adams.
Norsigian started by selling prints from the work for $7,500 until he found out that his discovery was worth a mind-boggling $200 million. The family of Ansel Adams denied the authenticity of the work but various experts were able to verify the artists' hand-writing and dated the photos to the early 1940s based on cloud formation captured in one of the photos.
Egyptian Cat Bust: $80,000
This ancient feline was almost thrown away at a yard sale in Cornwall, southern England. It's 2,500 years old and originated in Egypt (why would you want to throw this gem away?). Once the yard sale ended it was leftover but the owners did end up throwing it away.
Fortunately, someone got ahold of the artifact dating back to at least 500 B.C. and it was authenticated by an Egyptian expert at The British Museum. It was auctioned in London back in 2015 and sold for $20,000. A London dealer would later buy it for $80,000.