Thrifting is one of the activities that I really enjoy doing, especially after I learned how to find valuable items at thrift stores. I’ve been thrifting for a long time as a hobby before I’ve decided to turn it into my full-time gig. And every now and then, I’m still getting surprised with what I find at thrift shops. Maybe this is the reason why I enjoy it so much. It’s like a never-ending scavenger hunt game for me. I think I’d still be thrifting even if I meet my FI numbers.
Even though I often find valuable items at thrift stores, I have not been that very lucky yet to find an item that could change my life like what happened to this man who paid just £20 for a Philip Treacy bag that has a distinctive Elvis Presley print designed by Andy Warhol.
He bought it at a charity shop in Oxfam in 2012 and that bag could sell for so much money. According to him, two private buyers from China expressed their interest in the bag and had offered him an incredible £350,000 and £250,000. This was way back in 2012 and I hope that he had sold it for a very hefty amount.
I have not been that super lucky (yet). But since I thrift a lot, I still find items that I can flip for a considerable amount of money. And once in a while, I still find highly valuable items at thrift stores.
If you are an avid thrifter like me and if you want to level up your thrift game, then check this guide on how to find valuable items at thrift stores.
Start with Specializing in a Few Items
Thrift shops can be overwhelming for newbies. I’ve been doing this for a lot of years and until now I still get overwhelmed whenever I go to thrift shops. There’s just a ton of items scattered around the place and it’s hard to stay focus.
When I first started thrifting, I only buy and sell second-hand designer bags, mainstream brand bags, and also non-branded leather bags. So whenever I go to thrift shops, I just ignore everything else and I just usually go straight to the bag area. And over the years of buying, selling, and authenticating bags, I got so used to checking the quality and authenticity (for most items that I see at thrift shops). And I learned how to easily identify which one is authentic and could potentially sell for a lot of money in just a matter of a few minutes. Of course, there are certain items nowadays that will take a longer time to authenticate such as the super fakes. To save time, I skip brands that I know are counterfeit favorites such as Louis Vuitton.
A few years after, I then moved on to buying and selling clothes. I’m still new with clothes, but since I’m familiar with a handful of bag brands that also create clothes, I started by looking for those brands until I gradually learned the other brands. So, whenever I’m scouring the racks, I focus on looking at those highly valuable brands that I know.
Specializing in a few items at first could make buying items at thrift shops a less overwhelming experience and it could also build a strong foundation once you decide to explore other items that you could sell in the future.
Continuously Expand and Improve Your Knowledge Base
As I have mentioned, I started with buying bags, but now, I have moved on to buying and selling clothes and accessories. I built my knowledge base by simply doing the following:
Follow all big brands on Instagram
This is very easy since all you have to do is to follow one brand and all the other suggested brands will appear shortly after.
Follow second-hand vintage sellers on Instagram
Aside from following the brands, follow second-hand sellers on Instagram. This will give you exposure to vintage and archival pieces. You won’t see the vintage and archival pieces on the Instagram accounts of the big brands as they are of course pushing for the sales of their new collection. Following the accounts of vintage sellers is very important because a lot of items at thrift shops are vintage.
Use Pinterest to look for the pictures of vintage, archival, and new pieces. Create boards and organize them neatly so it will be easy for you to browse your boards in case you need to look for a reference.
Buy Old Fashion Magazines
You can only buy old fashion magazines online because they’re not available in stores anymore. Sometimes, I see pictures of old fashion magazines from the Instagram accounts of vintage sellers that I follow.
Google and search for the brands that you want to be very familiar with. Google will be your best friend once you decide to do this as your side-hustle or full-time gig.
Browse Online Shopping Platforms
Aside from womenswear, I also sell menswear and my goal is to specialize in streetwear in the next 2-3 years. One of the websites that I find very helpful is Grailed. I always check their ‘Staff Picks’ section and also their latest article about the most expensive items sold on Grailed. This helps me identify which brands to look for when I go to thrift shops or when I buy online. I also browse the individual webpages of those garments to check the pictures of the featured garments one by one. This is one of the ways I improve my skill in authenticating garments.
Blogs, Forums, and Online Stores
I often browse blogs, forums, and other buy and sell websites to read about vintage and archival pieces and also to improve my skill in authenticating items.
I do all of this stuff on a daily basis (Yup! Daily!). I usually do this before I go to bed or after lunch when I’m too lazy to do anything else but browse the internet. I need to ensure that I learn something new every day so whenever I go to a thrift shop, I will have more chances in finding valuable items. If you don’t know what to look for, you might end up staring at a highly valuable item without even knowing it.
I know that this is a very tedious thing to do but this is something that you can’t skip if you want to do this gig.
Check All Racks
If you sell second-hand clothes like me or if you’re still in the process of building your inventory, once you’re at the thrift shops, you have to check all the racks. Yes, all of the racks. You have to check the clothes one by one. This is the most grueling part especially if the thrift shop is not air-conditioned. So to lessen the discomfort, only go to non-airconditioned thrift shops in the afternoon when it’s a bit cooler or just go to air-conditioned thrift shops.
Go to a LOT of Thrift Shops
To increase your chances of finding highly valuable items at thrift shops, you have to visit a lot of stores. It’s like the lottery, the more you visit, the more chances of winning. Start with visiting the ones near your place and then explore the thrift shops in your neighboring towns. Once you get to save a bigger capital, visit other places or neighboring countries. I often fly to other islands in the Philippines to go thrifting (don’t ask me where LOL it’s my trade secret). Once in a while, I also fly to neighboring countries in Southeast Asia to go thrifting (also a trade secret LOL).
Know When To Go
The best time to go to thrift shops is on their ‘New Arrival Day.’ This is the day when they display their newly received inventories and this is the best day to score highly valuable items at thrift stores. Be warned though, it’s going to be a very crazy day! It’s madness I tell you. People are literally running around and checking all racks.
As years go by, more and more people are discovering that there’s money to be made in thrifting and this attracted a lot of hustlers. Sometimes, people lined up as early as an hour or two before the shop opens. It’s like the Apple Store during the first day of the sale of the latest iPhone.
They want to be the first ones to get in so they’ll have the best chances of scoring the holy grails of the day. I tend to avoid this day which I know is not good for my business because I hate the craziness that takes place.
Rinse and Repeat and Enjoy!
By the way, I find that the process is basically the same regardless if you’re thrifting for clothes, shoes, bags, accessories or art. Yes, even art! Aside from clothes, I’m slowly building my inventory of Japanese art since there’s a growing number of Japanese surplus shops in the Philippines.How to Find Valuable Items at Thrift Stores Click To Tweet
Do you also like to thrift? Have you found any valuable items at thrift stores? Feel free to share your tips and recommendations in the comment section below.