10 Things to Look for Every Time You Visit a Thrift Store
My friend Katie and I have lots of things in common, including our love of thrift stores.
When we were in high school, we often drove to a shady part of town to get our fix of all things thrifty. My love for thrift stores run so deep, in fact, that when I was on vacation in Atlanta for my birthday recently, I went thrift shopping. My husband is definitely not into this pastime, so I left him at the hotel and enjoyed several incredible hours browsing through racks and racks of somebody else’s old stuff. It really is the little things, y’all.
You never know what you’ll find during your treasure hunt, but here are 10 things you should always be on the lookout for at a thrift store. (See also: To Buy or Not to Buy? Criteria for Thrift-Store Clothes Shopping)
T-shirts are a dime a dozen — you can buy them almost anywhere you shop — but new tees are not in the same league as thrift-store T-shirts. For starters, a thrift-store T-shirt is well-worn and lived in (I understand that is off-putting to some people, but that’s why detergent was invented), which is exactly how a tee should be. Second, the sizes are truer than today’s sizes; I wear a small, and it’s hard to find a new, small shirt that fits well both in length and width. Vintage tees, however, are always the right fit. Then, of course, there’s the selection. When I buy a T-shirt from a thrift shop, I’m almost guaranteed that I’ll never run into anyone else who has the same tee. That can’t be said for the tees I buy from the major retailers from which I buy new T-shirts — and I hate seeing someone else in MY clothes.
You can buy thrift-store pants to wear as pants, but I buy thrift-store pants to turn into shorts. The selection of pants at a thrift store is usually full of funky prints and styles, which work much better as fun summertime shorts. I often just cut them off, but sometimes I have them hemmed so they look good as new. It never fails that someone asks me where I got them because they like them so much. Total win.
You don’t have to tell me that the furniture at thrift shops isn’t generally the kind of furniture you would put in your home. Because I wouldn’t either — at least not in its original condition. But with a bit of creativity, the most mundane thrift-store furniture can be repurposed and turned into coveted conversation pieces. For a few ideas on what you can make out of everyday furniture that you might find at a thrift store, check out this article on repurposed furniture and décor from Martha Stewart.
If you’re an avid reader or a collector, a thrift store is an excellent place to find your next great adventure. These vintage books make great gifts or cheap alternatives to new novels when you’re traveling or heading to the beach. You never know when you’ll find that diamond in the rough, either; you could stumble upon a first edition that might be worth a pretty penny. Make a habit out of looking inside the cover to discover the print date.
I like cool, quirky drinking glasses. I once bought an entire set of Archie comics juice glasses from a thrift shop that always seem to put a smile on people’s faces when I serve breakfast at my house. And just the other day, I found a few Garfield glass mugs from a McDonald’s promotion in the 90s that I just had to have. Sadly — and this is one of the downsides to thrift shops — the collection wasn’t complete, so I had to leave empty handed. If I reeeally wanted the glasses, though, I could have scooped up the three that were there and then searched for the missing glass on eBay. Alas, that little angel on my shoulder that often whispers in my ear that I “do not need this” was working overtime that day.
Yes, silver — real silver. Not every sorter can tell the difference between stainless dinnerware and the genuine stuff, which means that real silver can sometimes land on thrift-store shelves. You may not have any use for a single spoon or fork, mind you, but don’t discount that silver is worth the same price no matter what shape it takes.
Artwork is another item where you can win big. Even if the piece doesn’t have any true monetary value, it’s worth something if you like it. So are frames, by the way. Look past that hideous velvet painting, and you might find just that awesome picture frame you’ve been searching for.
8. Home Décor
I’m in the process of redesigning my bedroom, and I was on the prowl for two cool lamps. I didn’t find any that struck my fancy at a thrift shop (mostly because I couldn’t find a pair), but it was still the first place I looked. Lamps are great finds at thrift shops because if you like the base, you can totally change the rest of it to create a whole new look. Vases are another great home décor item to look for at the thrift shop. Every one I own was previously owned by someone else.
9. Vinyl Records
Whether you’re looking for nostalgia or that overlooked record that could be worth a decent amount in an online auction, you should take a few minutes to flip through the box of vinyls. And if you find an original copy of Michael Jackson’s "Thriller,” I will gladly accept it as a gift.
My favorite vintage belt came from a thrift shop — I’ve had it for nearly 10 years, and I’m going to cry when it breaks (which may be soon). But my search for accessories doesn’t stop there. In particular, I like looking for old political buttons and random jewelry. Speaking of jewelry, the next time Mother’s Day rolls around, instead of going to the expensive jeweler, stop by the thrift store first. Trust when I tell you that you never know what you’ll find. If you stumble on a really great piece, not only will you save a lot of money, but you’ll give your mama a gift with character and thought. In my opinion, that’s better than any mass-produced, high-end item any day.
What do you look for when you go thrift shopping? Any amazing finds you want to share? Let me know in the comments below.