How to Source and Sell Thrift Store Finds

You were thrift store shopping and you found some great items to resell… or so you think. What steps should you take if you want to turn that thrift store treasure into quick cash? Here are some rules on how to source and sell.

Sourcing Tips

table of items

Sourcing or knowing what to buy at the thrift store is a skill in and of itself when it comes to items found in estate sales, yard sales, thrift stores, op shops, charity shops, etc. While you can sell just about anything to the right buyer, recognizing quality and valuables in a thrift store environment is not as easy as it looks. This type of sourcing is an important method to learn. While you are sourcing objects to resell and learning how to source and sell, remember to choose items based on some basic rules.

Rule 1: Choose quality items. Quality isn’t always easy to spot but one tip is to ask yourself while you are buying… would I want this item? Would I buy it? What would entice me? What would repel me from this item?

Rule 2. Choose by condition. Simply stated choose something that is in good shape or if you can’t choose something that is in good shape but you know the item has value then choose something that you think will adapt well to restoration, cleaning or recycling.

Rule 3. Shop in thrift stores located in affluent areas as high end items typically end up in these locations.

Rule 4. If your gut says buy it, then buy it. You may not realize it but all of the time you have taken by shopping, researching, watching my YouTube videos has stuck in your mind somewhere. That information is helping you, even if you don’t realize it, to choose the great stuff from the junk. Can’t put your finger on why you like an item? Don’t worry, buy it now to sell it later. In the meantime, you’ll figure why it was a good deal or a nice piece as time goes on.

Here are some of my favorite thrift store items available to buy for resale. These are great items when learning how to source and sell. Clothing and shoes, Sports Equipment, Fine and Costume Jewelry, Glass, Ceramics, quilts, designer housewares, household items (such as china, appliances, kitchen tools, utensils), hardware and tools, buttons and small sewing items, craft supplies, vintage craft items, paintings, sterling silver items, cast metal sculptures, sturdy wooden furniture, designer items, period or era-specific items.

Consider the Down Time

What’s the Down Time, you ask? That is the time period between sourcing and selling. It is the time when you have purchased an item and it is in a holding pattern until you have time to clean it, restore it, research it, repair it, or list it for sale. This time period is important yet it is often overlooked. When something is sitting there taking up space, that space is valuable. For instance, if you had the chance to buy a 19th Century walnut partners desk or a gold jewelry pendant for the same price, the partners desk causes more issues during the Down Time than the jewelry pendant does.

The partners desk takes up precious storage space, must be covered and kept out of the way of any pet or any person that may damage it. The partners desk will do best if it is sold locally to reduce shipping costs but selling it in only one region will greatly reduce your pool of potential buyers. The jewelry pendant may need some security depending on its value like a home safe for storage but it can be kept in a small space and not take up too much room and it can be marketed in an online and global marketplace where shipping is not as much of a problem as the partners desk. When you are in the thrift store, look for items that are easy to store, easy for potential buyers to recognize and alas, easy to resell.

While the resale clothing market is overloaded with people selling soft goods, many resellers still believe that selling used clothing is a very good bet. Look for clothes with the original tags still attached to the article of clothing, look for brand name items, look for vintage items, particular tags, and unusual sizes. Clothes with tags are desirable because of the fact they were not well worn or used as much as other items. Tagged clothing can be more valuable because of the greater ability to resell these clothes near retail value. So never take off the tags if they are attached to the clothes.

Brand names and designer clothing bring great market interest like those from Ralph Lauren, Liz Claiborne, Prada, and others as well as high end store brands like Talbots, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, etc. When looking for vintage items at the thrift store, seek out vintage denim or jeans, vintage styles from the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, and 1990s, all of which are popular now, and don’t overlook the accessories like purses, gloves, shoes, leather carry-alls, back packs, hats, sneakers, scarves, etc.

Uncommon tags will help you identify age of a garment like union garment workers’ labels on shirts, dresses, or blouses which can clue you into the age of the garment. And don’t forget that small, large, or unusual sizes are a good deal because they are harder to find in thrift stores and can bring a greater return. Make sure clothes are dry cleaned, not stained, and free of odors before you list them or resell them.

Selling Tips

Selling is a rush. It’s an exciting part of the how to source and sell thrift store finds. Most people enjoy sourcing so much that it takes them a long time to get to the selling part of reselling and one of the reasons why this is the case is because they are so busy sourcing that they don’t get to the selling. Once a thrift store shopper starts selling, they can’t stop. It is such an exciting, confidence-building experience that it takes a back seat to sourcing. Once a reseller sells items consistently and they experience that selling rush, they find it to be the best part of the process.

Speaking of the selling rush, I advise that you don’t rush the selling process. If your piece is not selling immediately or shortly after it is listed, don’t rush to change the list price or to lower the price to attract buyers. Often it just takes time for the right buyers to see your listing. Let your listing legwork like description and photos do its job before you go changing prices, reconsidering listing descriptions, or changing sales venues for an item. Give the listing some time to attract buyers.

Seasons of the year, holidays, major events will all impact the selling market for objects so know when to sell and consider what would be the best time to sell your specific item.

Certain items sell best in certain arenas. This is an important part of how to source and sell. For instance, with high ticket items like artwork or fine jewelry, you may have to consider upscale selling venues rather than the quick selling venues. You may have to do more marketing to get these items sold and you need to be very well versed in the attributes or traits of the item you are selling to get high value items sold. A shiny piece of faux jewelry may sell quickly when a price is set low. For such items, you don’t need to much detail or information about the item. But, when you are asking a high price for a high quality and valuable item, you need to offer more information about why the item is worth the asking price.

You need to be well versed and clearly explain why the piece is special and why it is worth your price. Focus on those aspects of the piece that attract you to it and try to find the positive aspects of your piece that may be seen as a negative to others. If you are trying to sell a size 8 bracelet instead of a typical size 7 bracelet, don’t make excuses for the larger size bracelet. Instead, highlight the positive like “fits all size wrists” or “converts to an anklet” or “no need for an extender”. Be honest but think outside the marketing box when you list items for sale. Also, add information to your listing that paints a picture about the object to the buying community so they can see themselves buying the item from you.

Another tip on how to source and sell. Remember, a photo speaks a thousand words so make sure you are provide clear photos of all facets of the a piece like any marks, areas of wear, signatures, special features like high quality clasps or oversized gemstones. Highlight the details and the design while explaining those important points that a potential buyer may not know. You are the link between the object and the buyer, make that connection easy and your piece will sell for top dollar.

Categorize the same types of items together when you are selling them. For instance, if you are trying to sell American pottery from the mid 1900s online, you will probably find yourself using the same keywords in your online description and listings as you would for other pottery items of that kind. Since this is the case, why not do all of the listing legwork for similar pieces together, at the same time. If you have 5-10 earthenware planters, cookie jars, or trinket boxes that you are ready to sell from the same time period, consider listing the same items at the same and releasing them for sale at different times. Doing this at the same time saves you time and effort. Repeating the same task many times makes the job quicker than changing gears.

When it comes to how to source and sell thrift store finds, use your knowledge of the market and enjoy the process from shopping to sold.

Read More »