Thrift Store Must Haves

Sometimes, when I walk into a thrift store, I just don’t know where to start. Dishes, clothing, crafts, books… there is always so much stuff to look over! But, it is usually the more “valuable” things I am looking for. I love antiques and I have a house full. But, I also love art and I have a house full of that, too. And I love little, weird, quirky things that make you laugh right out loud! And yes, I have a house full of those, too! I have a house full of just about everything! But when I am out in my element and knee deep in thrift store nirvana, there are a few things that I keep an eye out for that are extra special. I have a list of items that I keep with me for such days and refer to it often. On this list are things that have an extra bit of worth because of their resale value. I sell things on Facebook Marketplace, Instagram and on Ebay. So, if one of these things are found, they get cleaned up, photographed and listed!!

Now, I have to admit, I have a thing for plates. I think it started when my grandmother gave me her old china… all 10,000 pieces of it. She claimed she got it all just for going to the movies. Every show she went to, they would give her a dish. Before she knew it, she had 10,000 pieces. I use the set mostly for decoration and occasionally, I will break it out for a holiday meal. But, when I found the design offered for sale on Ebay, I couldn’t believe how much they were asking for it! I told my children that this set of dishes would be their inheritance! Since then, I keep an eye open for those dishes along with others from the same era and earlier. I look for the huge serving platters and the teapots. If there is a large matching set and the price is good, then I will scoop it up. When selling these items online, I am always surprised by the offers to buy them because the people often have the same set and are looking for the exact missing piece that I offer! I also like dishes that have rare designs or even comedic ones. Quirky works for reselling at a decent price. When I have a dinner party, the dishware rarely matches because I am always eager to show off the unusual plates and bowls. So I mix and match and create a stunning table!

Depression glassware is something I have been collecting for a very long time. I have butter dishes in pink and plates in green plus an entire dinner set in amber. It became very valuable in the 70s and it is harder and harder to find. But, I look for any glassware that is dated from the 1920’s and 30s. Another favorite is orange juice glasses. The designs from the fifties are colorful and fun. White milk glass and carnival glass are other favorites to keep an eye out for!

One day, a man knocked on our front door holding a very long metal stick and asked if he could “poke” around in our backyard. I said yes and asked what he was looking for. “Bottles” he happily  exclaimed. It seems our old house was a pharmacy long ago and it was the tradition to dig a hole behind the business and throw your trash in it. Obviously, a pharmacy would have plenty of glass bottles! After a few hours, the man brought out quite a pile of ancient old glassware and bottles and he split the stash with us. I had never investigated bottles before and was quite astonished at their history and value. Ever since that day, I have been a collector of old bottles. Canning jars, powder and makeup jars, and teeny tiny bottles are fun to find and they make a beautiful glass display standing on a window sill.

Coffee Mugs are fun to look for and there are many to choose from in a typical thrift store! You have to pick a coffee mug theme and stick with it or else you will have cupboards overflowing. Old teacups that are no longer with their entire sets are favorites. They have a fragile feel normally adorned with flowers and some gold. Mugs with beloved cartoons or their characters are also one that may not hold huge value, but they are entertaining. Coffee cups that come from the 50s and 60s each have their own styles with those made from glasbake and white milk glass fetching some decent cash.

Cookie Jars are another thing that if you find them, grab them! Many people have made collecting cookie jars an obsession and they can be hard to find. They come in all sorts of different sizes, shapes, colors and characters. If you are lucky enough to find one from the 1940s or 50s, you could be looking at over $100 value! They also make kitchen decor whimsical and fun!

Silverware is in abundance in thrift stores. As an artist, I load up on cool looking pieces as I make plant hangers and wind chimes out of them But, if you come across a piece that is pure silver and not plated, you have found yourself a valuable piece. Real silver can be identified in a pile by its tarnish and the fact that it scratches or dents easily. You can find kitchen platters or serving pieces, cups and even costume jewelry are all full of real silver. You may have to do a little digging, but it is worth it.

Thrift stores have a zillion books and they are sold at fantastic prices. Although I buy books to read, there are lots of books that are good for collectors to be found. Look in the first couple of pages of the book to see if it a first edition and what year it was published and printed. The cover of a book can also give the age of it away. If there is artwork, such as the ones on the Nancy Drew series, it can indicate the decade it was printed. You can also find a massive amount of encyclopedias on the book shelves. If you find a full set, they can go for quite a bit.

Board Games are fun to collect. Original Monopoly games, Barbie games, Operation and Clue can be sold for five time what they were bought for way back when! Some board games in excellent condition have been sold for over $1000. The older the better is the motto for value.  

Now, these may not be the most collectible things ever, but thrift stores are usually overloaded with holiday decorations. You can find some really fun and interesting decorations to add to your own collections. Some will be old and remind of the ones your grandparents had. I have found decorations that had their original price tags still on them, yet the thrift store price was 90% lower! Many are in great shape and can be used to regift people or use them in Christmas packaging.

I have to admit that I don’t know much about the value of Electronics, but I do know that many people collect them. Old video games, play stations and stereo receivers  are items that have high price tags on Ebay. Vacuum tubes from old TV sets and television sets themselves can be found occasionally at a thrift store. Buy them!!! Then, resell them!!! Sound equipment, speakers, microphones and amps can be cleaned up and resold also. Other things to look for in the electronics aisle are old cameras and equipment, vintage calculators, telephones and tech-related toys. They could be worth a bundle.

If you are selling anything you find at a thrift store, always do a search of the item online so that you know what price to set. Thrifting is not only fun, but you can make quite a load of money!

Back to Blog
Leave a reply