Many people on a budget—that’s everybody nowadays—and those who are supplementing their income are shopping at thrift stores like Care & Share Thrift Shoppes, Goodwill, The Salvation Army and others. Some are buying for keeps and others are thrift store shopping for profit and reselling. On my YouTube channel, I feature real life stories of thrift store finds and share insider information about how to identify just about everything from fine and decorative art, antiques, furniture, lamps, clocks, collectibles, toys, etc. I show buyers and sellers how to learn the true value on thrift store finds and how to make money.
When and Where to Shop & Sell
While the topic here is thrift store shopping for profit, when and where you shop in this arena are very important. When you shop relates to when “new inventory” arrives or when the thrift store is the most or least busy. When are large scale items brought onto the showroom floor is a question that many resellers and thrift store shoppers want to know. I advise that you don’t overlook these large items like tables, chairs, chests of drawers, china cabinets, exercise equipment because these items represent some of the best deals found at thrift stores.
Most thrift store owners want big items off the floor as quickly as possible to make room for more saleable items. Understandably, not everyone is prepared to take a large item home with them, but this doesn’t mean large items aren’t valuable. While these items take up considerable space in the thrift store, they are typically priced very low or priced to move. Recently, a client of mine purchased three tables for $20 each or $60 that were mid-century modern designer tables worth $2,000 for the set. I featured this Real Bargain in a recent video.
Where you shop may be a small boutique style charity thrift store or a very large department style thrift store like Goodwill or The Salvation Army. It is always a good idea to shop at those thrift stores located in affluent neighborhoods. Why? Because more commonly the donated objects in these areas may be of higher quality or greater value. It is more typical to find gently used items, name brands, and trending items that have been donated to the thrift store of an elite community.
Finding online places for selling your thrift store treasures is the big question. Fortunately, there are many good answers to this big question. There are many places –online and elsewhere– where your stuff can bring very good money. For instance, Ebay.com attracts many eyes to an online listing with a huge customer base and global recognition. Read my 3 Tips for Selling on eBay post. Handcrafted, vintage and antique home décor items sell well on Etsy.com. Chairish.com is a good resource for higher-end home design items and Rubylane.com offers buyers a platform to sell collectibles, jewelry, and antiques to smart shoppers. Amazon.com invites sellers to sell all types of items from sewing items like craft materials to vintage collectibles and antiques.
Tools to Bring with You
If you are thinking of embarking on a thrift store treasure hunt, you’ll need some tools when thrift store shopping for profit. Like a good metal detector or magnifying glass or loupe that is necessary for any treasure hunt, there are some essential items that you’ll need when searching for valuable items at the thrift store. Check out the tools in my treasure hunting kit that I suggest including a loupe and diamond tester. You’ll need a reliable internet connection or a wi-fi hotspot and a fully charged. These are necessary so you can search the internet right in the store –look up an artist name or take me with you shopping during a video call. I can be your personal shopping assistant.
Bring cash or a credit card, 10x magnifying loupe, tape measure, bags just in case your local thrift store does not supply them, brown paper and tape just in case you buy something fragile like china, rope just in case you have to secure a purchase in your car trunk or back seat, pen and paper, and water or a snack if your shopping spree goes for more than a few hours. Time flies when you are thrift store shopping. Again, check out my suggested tools if you need assistance.
In-store shopping tips are many and while some sound borderline unbelievable, they prove helpful and I know them all. When thrift store shopping, be sure to check the new arrivals area first, get two carts if that’s allowed upon entering the store because you will need the room, be friendly and respectful of the store personnel as they can be your best friends if you are looking for something specific, and cover up the stuff in your cart as you shop.
It is hard to believe but thrift store shopping is competitive. Like you, other shoppers are trying to purchase the best items on the shelves too. So, you will want to keep your shopping cart items to yourself while you are shopping. It is a good idea to bring along some old towels so you can cover up in-cart items while you are walking the aisles. If you can consolidate what you are carrying like a coat or handbag, that will help keep your hands free as you shop. Try to have your own purse contents in pockets and leave your purse home if you can. Wear clothes in layers that you don’t have to remove versus wearing a warm coat that you will end up taking off and carrying around as you shop.
Consider whether the items that you intend to buy can be easily repaired or cleaned, if needed. Don’t overlook items like costume jewelry, accessories, clothing with original tags (a.k.a., the thrifting holy grail), and items that are not your style. Just because an item is not your taste that doesn’t mean that someone else won’t like it. You want to find the items a the lowest prices that are worth the most. These are the easiest items to resell because you don’t feel bad parting with them. While shopping at the thrift shop, look for marked ceramics, signed artwork, and items made of good materials.
Use all your Senses including Common Sense
When thrift store shopping for profit, check the item thoroughly, and I mean thoroughly, for damage; the kind of damage that cannot be repaired. Tears on a seam or light wear can be repaired with ease but major damage to an item means you are going to have to invest time and/or money into making this item usable or saleable. Use your nose—if you smell mold or mildew or any musty, damp, pets, or unpleasant smell—leave the item at the thrift store. Some odors are impossible to remove. I’ve been known to say, “If you can smell it, you can’t sell it!”
Your eyes will attract you to items that are lovely to look at but your sense of touch will reveal quality. Use your sense of touch to see if an item is what it looks to be. Pick up items and see if they are heavy like comparing a lightweight piece of glassware to a heavy piece of crystal. Run your fingers over a hand-painted china plate to check for glaze skips or ceramic chips. Feel the texture of a quilt, blanket, or tapestry—is it Cotton? Polyester? Wool?
Check out the size of any thrift store clothing right in the store. Try on pants, jackets, shoes, etc. on-site so you don’t go home with something that doesn’t fit or is mis-labeled. Check the pockets of thrift store clothing as I remember a client who found a pair of diamond earrings in a pants pocket purchased at a thrift store.
When you are thrift store shopping for profit, there is much to profit and a lot to learn. Learn it all here.