The Hidden Goldmine: Thirft Stores
“Thrift stores bring in over 10 billion dollars in revenue each year”
(This post may contain affiliate links from Amazon.com and other affiliate networks. This means we may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link.)
Thrift stores are the places where you find good things for cheap.
Thrifting itself is more of a hunt than anything. Some days you’ll find absolute gold, and other days you find the typical household junk.
I find that’s what makes it awesome, like a real-life scavenger hunt.
I’ve been going to thrift shops ever since I was a little boy. My Grandmother used to take me and my cousins to the local thrift shop to see what treasures we could find, and we would then conduct our own version of a scavenger hunt when we got home.
Over the 17 years of my life, I’ve had the opportunity to find some pretty cool things.
Whether that be my working fish tank that houses my guppy colonies, to my all-time favourite Star Wars book Visions Of The Future, I’ve found just about everything.
Even now, whenever I and my buddies head out, we try to always hit up a few thrift stores in our travels.
As good as the stuff you can find is to keep to yourself, there's a HUGE opportunity to both create money, while also saving money at the same time.
It’s kinda the whole reason these specific stores were created in the first place.
The Brief History
The reasons why thrift stores have become so popular is because people can get in style stuff and better items for an extremely cheap price, which has worked wonders for people throughout the ages.
The invention of thrift stores themselves is relatively new to the world, only becoming developed around the mid 18th century. Before that, if you had any clothes with hole or that didn’t fit, you cut them up into either custom clothing, or sometimes blinds.
It wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution started to kick-off that and that people started to earn more than a few dollars a day that people could even consider buying some form of clothing. It was also during the Industrial Revolution that clothing became more readily available and easier to manufacture and people started viewing clothing as more dispensible
With the population growing rapidly as everyone rushed to move to bigger cities, living space began to get smaller and smaller, causing more people to throw away much of their unused stuff to make room to live.
This is where the entrepreneurs came in. They saw the opportunity to get all this stuff, that was mostly still in good condition and get it into the hands of people who need it more, and BAM you got your first second-hand store. Like an old version of Robinhood, getting people the stuff they need out of the goodness of their hearts.
As time went on, thrift stores began to grow more and more as fashion trends came and went, more stuff started finding its ways back into the second-hand stores. After the ending of WWII, the second-hand business began to boom and grow like crazy, because it was around that time where reselling used stuff began to be considered an ethical way of recycling.
Overall, in today’s world, second-hand stores are most popular with families who struggle financially and with immigrants who just don’t have the funds to purchase the latest and greatest. It’s these stores that give these people the ability to get what they want, for a cheaper price, locally and are in my opinion, a saving grace.
What To Look Out For?
Very quickly, before we get into the best things you can find at your local thrift store, I wanna go over a few “ground rules”.
Rule #1: Do a Back Ground Check On Your Store
As I mentioned above in the history section, thrift stores get their inventory from other people’s donations. And sometimes these donations can come with a little surprise hidden in them.
That’s right, I’m talking about bed bugs. These little suckers are super good at hiding in every little nook and crevice and can live just about everywhere. From couches to wall outlets, these little nasty bugs are the masters of disguise.
The worst part? It only takes one bug and you’ve got a major problem, as their extremely hard to get rid of.
One of my problems with thrift stores is that the risk of bed bugs are always there. With the amount of stuff coming to and from the building, it’s only an amount of time before the bug’s become a problem.
By doing a quick google or Facebook search about your local thrift store can usually tell you the answer if they got bugs crawling around, and that search could save you a disaster.
Rule #2: Always Check Your Item To See If It Works
This one should be a shocker but nevertheless it actually happens a lot. people just assume that it's at the store that if it'll work when like 99% of the time it won't.
This is especially true with electronics, it looks fine and it looks like it's in good condition but you could buy it and take it home and plug it in and see that it doesn't work and then Bam, you’ve just wasted your money.
I totally recommend just doing a quick plugin test before bringing up to the till, and you could also carry batteries with you to check other stuff that might use batteries to see if it works as well.
Rule #3: Make Sure Your Not Getting Ripped Off
Another kind of a duh rule but here me out. You’d think that since thrift stores are usually selling other people’s junk, that they’d have it priced fairly, but most times this isn’t that case.
I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve found something at a second-hand store and the price will be just about the same as if you were gonna buy it new.
I know they have to make money too, but these aren’t super high-quality items we’re talking about. These are usually other people’s junk that they didn’t wanna deal with and decided to get rid of.
My ultimate example of this is once I found a PlayStation 1 with one game and a controller and they wanted 100 bucks for it. I could not believe what I was seeing. They wanted a hundred bucks for something that probably doesn’t work and that you could find for a quarter of the price with more accessories on eBay.
If your willing to pay that an outrageous price, your just better off to buy it new. I usually try to source whatever I’m looking for on eBay while I’m in the store and a good rule of thumb is to not even consider it if its more than the listed prices.
Rule #4: Don’t Buy Something You’re Not Going To Use
This one is pretty crucial and straight forward. Even though it's at a wicked good price, if you don’t need it, don’t buy it. Or if you do buy it, just make sure you get its full use out of it and dispose of it when the time comes.
The reason I put this last rule here, is the cause of a situation I see in my home town. People go in and buy a bunch of cool stuff that they don’t end up using, and then a few months later they bring it back to the drop off for someone else to buy.
The next day, these same groups of people who go in to buy the sweet stuff end up purchasing it and the cycle continues. Over and over again until your amount of money slowly goes down.
Again, this isn’t all the time, but I know for sure I’ve seen the same people doing what I’ve mentioned above over and over again when I pass the thrift shop on my way home from work.
So What Are The Best Things To Look For?
To begin, these are in no specific order.
Like I mentioned before, thrift stores’ roots are with clothing, and that’s where I’m betting they’re going to stay.
Every person needs clothing, male or female, young or old, throughout your life you always going to have some sort of cloth on your back.
Meaning, there's going to be a constant flow of clothes going through the system. Sometimes you can find stuff that's in style and newer, but that totally comes down to city your in.
Second-hand stores provide a great opportunity to find clothing for whatever kind of style you're looking for, as all types of people donate their stuff all the time.
They’re also a super hotspot for finding that specific piece you need for say a Halloween costume or cosplay look.
This one might sound a little funky, but hear me out. All throughout kids' schooling years, calculators have been used. Now their actually required to have for certain maths and sciences, for some students they become a necessity.
The ace in the hole is that those kids won’t be in school forever and by the time they’ve gone out and graduated, that calculator will be long forgotten.
Some keep them while others end up in thrift stores, but never the less, if you happen to stumble across any and you do a quick eBay search, you might have struck gold.
Some Texas Instrument calculators that are in good condition can go for anywhere from 40 to 70 bucks for something that usually isn’t too expensive to buy.
Instrument TI-89 being my favourite hardcore math calculator because it allows me to do calculus with ease.
Like calculators, electronics have to potential to bring in decent money. They can range from cd players and alarm clocks to VCR players and DVD players. Since most of present-day movie watching is done on digital download, fewer and fewer people have a need for their old movie and music players.
Only this isn’t the case everywhere. VCR players in good condition can go for decent money, sometimes all the way up to 80 bucks.
There is one significant problem with electronics, they have to be working. Yes, you can sell broken ones for parts, but its the complete and running ones that go for the most gold.
If you do stumble across something electronic that looks to be in good condition, ALWAYS plug it in before buying (see rule 2). There's nothing more disappointing than bringing home something to have it not even turn on.
If it does power on and looks legit, after hauling it home and going through it to test that everything works, you’ll have passed through the riskiest part of thrifting.
These are my favourite things to look for. Books are the gateway to gaining knowledge and
escaping into worlds that are otherwise unimaginable.
Yes, you can get them from the library, but I’d rather just own it myself. It’s even better than I can find them for an even cheaper price.
One category I recommend everyone buy into is the personal finance category. You could literally pay 3.99$ for a book that can teach you how to way, way, WAY more than what you paid for it. I have, and it’s these little things that can pay off tenths-fold in the future.
Yes, mugs. You might be thinking “what the heck”, but they're a goldmine. Every person you know will have a cupboard full of em, and some are plain interesting.
And it's these interesting mugs that can go for sometimes as much as 20$, which if you consider that price you’ll have paid for it (which is usually very small) is a great return on your investment.
Mugs are also really really overlooked, and this is what you can use to your advantage. Especially if you can find retro Disney or retro cartoon mugs, you’ll be hitting the jackpot.
From what started out as a problem solver by good people, it has grown into a full industry in itself.
You never really know what you’ll find within second-hand stores, and that makes them even more awesome.
If you feel even the slightest urge to start thrifting, which the right background knowledge and enthusiasm, I can promise you won’t be disappointed.