Tag: thrifting

Thrifting Finds this week

Sorry for the long hiatus.  As a school counselor whose husband is a teacher, the March-June time period is quite hectic.  Things have finally slowed down, and I was able to celebrate yesterday with some productive thrifting.


I did my usual rounds and had time to hit several stores.  I was able to find something worthwhile at each one (I love weekday thrifting!).  My take from yesterday includes some things for the family and some things to resell.

The butterfly rearing cage is for the kiddos.  We have several Passiflora vines and Asclepias (native gardening is another interest of mine) and I’m hoping to rear some caterpillars this season.  All the milk glass came from the same thrift- someone clearly had a collection!  I think it will look amazing in my dining room, and if I fall out of love with it I can probably resell it for what I purchased it for.  Most is unmarked, but one of the vases is a Randall Co piece.


The silverplate goblets are Reed and Barton, and a combo use- I want to practice cleaning up silverplate, and there seems to be a market for them on eBay.  However, my husband declared that he needs a chalice (eye roll).  So those might stay, although we’ll see…  The cute little ring holder is a Takahashi of San Francisco piece I picked up for .99.  I’ll either resell it, or it will find a home by the kitchen sink for my rings.  The fish are chopstick holders and will be staying with us- time for a Thai dinner night!  No maker’s mark but they are charming and the color compliments the dining room.  The sphere on the stand is actually a Moon globe by Replogle.  I love astronomy and had to have it for .99.  Oh, and the cute little bag is a Bungalow 360; it might get quickly resold on Mercari as a test of another platform besides eBay.


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.

How I Collect

How I Collect


There are many different types of collector.  Some people are completist, having to have the entire set, entire years’ worth of items, or even everything ever made for a particular line.  Others will pick and choose different runs or sets and happily let the other toys pass by.  Some people I know of have different parameters, for instance I know of a few pony collectors who are only recreating their childhood herd, or only collecting ponies they find in thrift stores.

As I was drawn more into the world of toy collecting, I realized pretty early on I needed some limits to be comfortable.  There were hundreds of different My Little Ponies made in the 1980’s, and there have been more ‘generations’ of ponies since then.  While I love my toys, I draw a line at having a toy filled house.  Because my interest was first sparked by remembering childhood toys, I have concentrated on those items.  This helped to keep my collection small and somewhat within my budget- a plus as I was in graduate school at the time!

However, as I joined communities I saw many ponies and other toys that were awesome.  Things I’d never seen as a kid, or had known about but didn’t have.  I looked for ways to expand my collecting, but within limits.  After keeping a few ponies with planets and stars as symbols I decided to collect celestial ponies (any pony with a celestial symbol).  At the time I was also teaching an Earth Science course at the local community college, and so the celestial ones also fit in with meaning there (you study space when you study Earth Science, in addition to the Earth itself).  I decided against collecting any non 80’s (G1 or generation one) ponies, as they came along after my childhood toy days were over.  If you combine my childhood heard with the celestial ponies you would have a sizable but not unmanageable (for me) collection, and I liked the defined boundaries of it.

Acquiring Ponies

But..what about all the pretty and unusual ponies that didn’t fit those two categories?  Sometimes you see pictures of something amazing and you just want it.  I gave in to that a few times and had a few odds and ends ponies that I thought were cool.   Sometimes my collecting parameters overlapped with other, interesting groups.  For example, Night Glider is a gorgeous pony covered in stars and planets- covered because she is also a Twice-as-Fancy (TAF) pony.  One of my childhood ponies was Diamond Dreams, a beautiful Merry-Go-Round (MGR) pony.  The more I looked and enjoyed these ponies, the more I wanted others done in that style.  After looking over those groups I decided to include them, as they were small (6 MGR ponies and 12 TAFs).

I do, however, have a specific way I like to acquire my ponies- by thrifting!  I especially love buying dirty and discarded ponies and cleaning them up.  The cheapest way to do this is often to buy lots from thrift stores and flea markets, taking a chance on the contents.  This aspect really appeals to me for a variety of reasons.  I love fixing old items up and seeing their quality shine through.  I love finding things other people didn’t value and revealing their coolness.  I love a bargain, and wanted my thrifting to pay for itself.  What I didn’t realize when I started this was how this aspect keeps my collecting under control.

Because I bought lots and resold the ponies I didn’t want, I have been able to have a variety of ponies and toys pass through my hands.  I get the joy of researching them-their names, who made them, etc.  I get to hold them and shine them up, and then, I let them go.  I have found that for me much of the pleasure of collecting anything- My Little Pony’s, Fairy Tail birds, American Girl dolls- lies is seeing the items, touching them, and fixing them up.  Owning them isn’t actually as important to me as seeing them and researching them.  I still get the thrill of the hunt; a major pleasure for any collector, I think.  I get the excitement of finding something, the thrill of a package in the mail, the joy of opening up a new toy- but without the crowding of my spaces or the pain in my wallet.  I also really enjoy knowing I am passing along these items to new homes and the people that have been looking for them.  This helps me remain satisfied with my small collection.

So, how do you collect?  Does your collecting fill a shelf, a room, or your house?  Are you a completist, or do you just collect what catches your fancy?