Month: March 2017

Where Do You Hunt, Part 2

Where do you hunt for treasure? I have found that thrifters, much like fishermen, are reluctant or downright impossible to pin down on their “best spots”.  While I don’t wish to give away any of my specific locations, I did want to share my observations on types of hunting grounds 🙂

I first wrote about garage sales and thrift stores; now I’ll share what I’ve noticed about flea markets and then online treasure hunting.

Flea Markets

Ah, flea markets.  By flea market I mean a true flea, with pop-up and changing vendors, sometimes moving locations, and hopefully even some outside booths.  (Contrast this with thrift stores that call themselves flea markets, but have permanent structures, and really are just a thrift store with a cute name).

My city has a long running flea market open on the weekends most of the year; the outdoor ‘booths’ are only occupied from March-October.  While the indoor portion has some anchor vendors, some of the inside and all of the outside are weekend people who pay a fee to occupy an assigned space.   It has an amazing array of trash to treasure and is not for the faint of heart- my flea sports a head shop, a flag vendor that sells Confederate flags next to Nazi flags, weed flags, and gay pride flags, and a truly amazing array of people to watch.  It also features fresh fruit stands, people crafting leather goods and signs on request, and sock sellers (this is a mystery to me that I have seen at other fleas.  Why socks? They aren’t expensive or hard to find, but there’s at least one vendor of just socks at every flea I’ve been to.)  I’m fortunate in that there are several regular sellers that carry toys; I go here as often as I can since it’s a bit of a drive and only open on the weekends.

Best Finds: Many 1980’s My Little Ponies; a new in package My Pretty Puppy; Hearts for Hearts doll with full outfit; Fenton glass vase; recurve bow for personal use; My Pretty Pony for 3.00!

Biggest Drawbacks: Need to arrive early for best picking; never knowing what sellers will have; finds are often dirty; people can be a little too interesting depending on the area

Best Strategies:  Be ready to bargain and chat with vendors; carry small bills, and be willing to dig through items.  If you know you want something get it quickly, but if the price isn’t right you can try hanging around and making an offer as they close up; few vendors want to lug all that home with them!


Next I’ll talk about shopping online at places like Ebay (or Evilbay, as it is sometimes known to collectors!).  It’s a big enough topic to deserve it’s own post 🙂


Where Do You Hunt?

Where do you hunt for treasure? I have found that thrifters, much like fishermen, are reluctant or downright impossible to pin down on their “best spots”.   And as a thrifter myself, I share that reluctance.  I’ve spent untold hours exploring grungy charity shops, strange flea markets where the people watching was far better than the merchandise, and odd neighborhoods with just the right age homeowners selling off 80’s toys.  I don’t want to share only to have you get there before me and get all the ‘good stuff’.

Of course, that position becomes a little awkward as a blogger whose express purpose is sharing things…

So I thought I would share my general observations about different locations.  This also works in that most of you probably don’t happen to live in my city; hopefully my observations will be relevant for your area, too. Today I’ll talk about garage sales and thrift stores; next, flea markets and online sites. Please chime in with your own comments and observations!


Garage Sales

These are definitely a mixed bag.  First you have to find them.  Then, they have to actually have the things you are looking for, and finally, the price has to be realistic.  Not to mention you have to get up early if you want the best things!  I have dedicated whole days to garage sales only to come home with nothing in the toy or vintage area.  That being said, I’ve also gone to a few where I hit paydirt, and found useful items for my home or family along the way.  And when the price is good, it’s often very very good- spare change for excellent vintage stuff that to the owner is junky old toys and housewares. I like to find church sales and neighborhood sales to help ensure there is enough there to look at.

Best Finds: Nice Bitty Baby doll for 50 cents(!); set of 10 vintage Culver glasses for 2.00 that now grace my bar at home; various pieces of vintage jewelry for .50-1.00.

Biggest Drawbacks: Time needed to hunt; small sales with nothing you are interested in; crazy prices from attached owners:)

Best Strategies: Be early; be willing to dig; have change and small bills on-hand; learn your neighborhoods and keep track of regular church and neighborhood sales

Thrift Stores

These are my mainstay as a thrifter, collector, and reseller.  Their strength is their reliability, especially chain charity stores such as Goodwill and the Salvation Army.  They receive a ton of stock, they are open particular hours, and they often (but not always!) have reasonable prices and a pricing scheme you can understand.  Items are usually stored/displayed in a meaningful way, too, so you can concentrate on your own areas of interest.  However, those strengths lead to one of their biggest weaknesses- everyone hunts there!  Often you have to be early or lucky regarding getting the best things.  And they sometimes don’t take good care of their items- many is the beautiful piece I have found in pieces, carelessly jumbled on a shelf or stuffed in a bag of other porcelain items (why?!).  Sometimes they even damage the item themselves with their pricing methods (I’m looking at you and your sharpie markers, Goodwill!).

I have developed a couple of regular circuits I travel depending on the amount of time I have where I routinely check for items. I find that each store has its own personality and often seems to specialize in certain types of items.  Some are great for toys, some for furniture, others for dishes and knicknacks.

Best Finds: Numerous 1980’s My Little Ponies for 2.00-10.00 a bag; American Girl Doll for 4.00; gorgeous vintage yellow and cream dresser 1970’s dresser that is now my buffet for 35.00; half my work wardrobe with no piece over 10.00…

Biggest Drawbacks: Picked over merchandise; broken items; sometimes silly prices in non-chain shops; sometimes in questionable parts of the city

Best Strategies: Be early/ know when they put out stock; shop often; explore to find the stores with the best prices or pieces; know the discount days/cards/ specials they offer

Next I’ll talk about flea market adventures and online sites.




Practicing Patience

I am currently on the hunt for a specific item. As a thrifter this is always a somewhat trying proposition; I obviously don’t have control over what comes up for sale. And if I haven’t mentioned it before, my main job is being a counselor at a public high school. So while I love what I do I am not exactly lush with expendable income.

At least once I day I am scanning a couple of sales websites, refreshing searches and buy-it-nows. I am also making sure to visit the thrifts I know tend to carry like items as often as a working mother of two can get out of the house (have I mentioned thrifting is sometimes an escape?).

Where does that leave me? Practicing patience. The price I am willing to pay is somewhat low for the item and I will need to be lucky and quick. I have been tempted to compromise. One of the dangers of second hand shopping can be buying more because it is so much cheaper that the new price. I have wound up with too many things too often, only to end up selling or donating them after they have taken up my time and space and I realized they weren’t quite enough of what I wanted.

But, I remind myself that I have seen this item sell for the right price before. I remind myself that I have many lovely things and now only have room for the right things, if I want to strike that balance between collection and clutter. And I remind myself that the hunt is often the most enjoyable part of the game.