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!
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
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.