13 Hidden Gems to Look for at Thrift Stores
When you're thinking thrifty, you've gotta know what's a steal and what's, well, junk. Here are some valuable things to look for at Goodwill.
Even for the avid bargain shopper, stepping into a thrift store can feel pretty overwhelming. Where do you begin? What are you even looking for? With racks and racks of clothes, housewares, shoes, toys and more, it’s easy to lose track of what brought you through those doors to begin with—and it’s hard to tell the difference between the junk and the good stuff.
But there are always a few diamonds in the rough. If you know the valuable things to look for at Goodwill, it’s easy to score a vintage-chic coffee table, a glamorous picture frame or a summer page-turner just waiting to be taken to the beach. These gotta-have-’em items can be found at any thrift store for a steal, and their timelessness makes them near impossible to pass up. And the savings you’ll rack up from buying them secondhand? Well, that’s definitely a money-saving tip that would make Grandma proud.
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Mismatched dishware is very on trend right now—and incredibly affordable at thrift stores. So if you find a few dishes short of a set or a pretty bowl here and there, it’s easy to build a shabby-chic collection of mix-and-match dishes that give your table depth, character and a fun color palette. Now all you’ll need is this info on how to set a table.
Vintage canning jars
Mason jars aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. And those blue-tinted vintage Ball jars? Well, those can sell for a pretty penny to collectors. Whether you’re looking to resell them, repurpose them as home decor or—dare I say—actually use them for canning, you’ve got countless reasons to scoop up a few if you spot them on a thrift-store shelf.
Try your best to ignore that garish clown face staring at you from the velvet canvas. If the artwork’s iffy but the frame is stunning, just pop out the picture and use that ornate frame to hang something you really love. Even outdated wood or metal frames can be painted a fun color to give them new life—and a new sense of style.
Solid wood furniture can be quite expensive when purchased new. But thrift stores are loaded with wooden desks, dressers, chairs and benches that have timeless style and a teeny price tag. Look for clean lines and good construction—if it’s simple and sturdy, it’ll fit in with the style of any home. And those unsightly brass knobs? They’re easy and inexpensive to replace to give outdated furniture a modern makeover. Bonus: Around 9 million tons of furniture ends up in landfills every year, so buying an item like this secondhand is a sustainable option that’s good for the planet.
If you see a vintage pink Pyrex bowl sitting on a thrift-store shelf, stop what you’re doing and put it in your cart immediately. Collectors go crazy for the pretty colors and bold patterns, and their resale value is off the charts. Even if you’d like some of your own, the cute factor and durability make them stylish, timeless kitchen workhorses. You might also want to check the boxes in your attic for these beauties!
When purchased new, heavy-duty cast-iron skillets, pots and pans can carry price tags nearly as hefty as their weight. But if you find them at a thrift store, you can bring home these beloved kitchen staples for a serious bargain. Even if they’re in rough shape, it’s easy to restore cast-iron cookware to like-new, food-safe conditions. And once you’ve reseasoned your pan, go ahead and whip up any of these amazing cast-iron skillet recipes.
Unless they’re building a library, people often get rid of books first when trying to declutter the house. That means thrift stores are loaded with popular page-turners for prices often 10 times lower than bookstores. So whether you’re looking for a summer read, historical fiction or your favorite sports star’s autobiography, if you don’t mind doing some digging, you can find a whole collection of books just waiting to sweep you away.
Even if it’s a bit tarnished, solid silver items can be polished and restored to like-new condition fairly easily—and they can be sold for a great price, depending on the current value of silver. Check to see if the piece is solid by tapping on the surface and listening for a high-pitched ringing sound.
Faux greenery, plastic pumpkins, heart-shaped dishes and other holiday decor sometimes have their own sections in thrift stores. While some of it might be a little gaudy (and who are we to judge?), you can usually find holiday staples with timeless appeal—Christmas-tree stands, festive dishware and ornaments—for mere cents.
It’s a tedious task, but thumbing through those milk crates of records can pay off in the end. Even though vinyl is making a comeback, many people are still trimming down their collections. Keep an eye out for unopened copies, rare pressings and albums from popular artists.
Believe it or not, Cards Against Humanity can get a little tiresome after you’ve played it for the hundredth time. A trip to the thrift store can mean stumbling upon a new game-night classic for super cheap. Just make sure to open the box and check that all the pieces are there and intact. If it’s missing directions, do a quick search on your phone to see if they’re available online.
Whether you plan to sell it or wear it yourself, it’s always a good idea to skim through the clothing racks for name-brand finds. Even better if it’s vintage! Keep an eye out for designer shoes, purses and accessories too.
Seafoam-green jadeite—popular in the 1930s—is making a big comeback in home decor. And while its retro style is reason enough to add it to your collection, it’s also really valuable if you ever want to resell. Look for McKee, Jeanette or Fire-King logos on the bottom of each piece—they’re among the most valuable brands of jadeite, with items reselling for as much as $100 apiece.