How to Avoid Wasting Money and Get the Most Out of a Thrift Store Visit.

Collectors know the thrill of the hunt at thrift stores, also called charity shops, hospice shops, second-hand stores, and consignment or resale shops. Vintage clothing, jewelry (watches, earrings, necklaces and pins), baskets, plates, china, furniture and even artwork all can be found. Shopping smart can reap rewards. Here are our top 10 tips on how to avoid wasting money and how to get the most out of your thrift store visit.

  • Take batteries with you to see if toys work.
  • Watch out for price stickers that might be hiding flaws or chips.
  • Don’t buy a smelly rug. Sometimes, the smell can’t be washed out.
  • Watch out for worms in wooden pieces. The tell-tale sign is tiny pin holes in very old, slightly damp wood. I have a friend with a table that actually had very small, almost transparent worms hatching in her dining room.
  • Chipped cut glass is hard to spot. Run your hand over the rim. You should be able to feel any chips or cracks that follow the indents of the pattern. There is no way to repair pieces.
  • Find a pretty paperweight? Watch out for cracks. Millefiori weights sell high but are often forged. Find a good one? Don’t put it on a sunny table. They can start a fire.
  • Check clothing for stains. As with stinky rugs, the stains may not wash out.
  • Looking for furniture bargains? Measure before you go shopping. A narrow staircase, low ceiling or sharp turn may turn an indoor table into an outdoor one.
  • Watch out for fake store signs, especially tin ones. If the price is too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Feel free to pick up items but remember if you break it, you buy it. If you have children with you, be sure they know the rules: hands behind back, ask for help for a closer look; wait outside the booth if you are bored.


Bonus tip! If you admire items, you will often get extra nice attention from the dealer, especially if you can show you like antiques and collectibles. If it happens to be a gift for your grandmother be sure to say so!

Here are some recent thrift store finds:


Longaberger milk pitcher

Longaberger milk pitcher, Woven Traditions Classic Blue pattern, 32 oz., 7 in. h., $40.


Salvaged iron and wood pulleys, perfect as a “farm style” accent, three varieties, $30 each.

toy tin typewriter

Toy typewriter, tin, 1950s. Have an aspiring writer in the family? Might be the perfect bookshelf gift, $20.


Vintage cast-iron mailbox, adds character to your porch, $38.

Currier & Ives dishes and service ware

Currier & Ives dishes and service ware, evokes dinner tables of the 1950s–1970s. Prices vary from $10 for a plate, to $9.50 for a cereal bowl, to $65 for a gravy boat.

Amish quilt

Amish quilt, a perfect accompaniment for the upcoming chilly fall nights, $285.




3 responses to “Kovels Top 10 Thrift Shopping Tips”

  1. Babycatcher says:

    An additional item to bring when shopping- a tape rule. I collect Ethan Allen Furniture, and i haveto know if the piece will fit the space i planned to put it. Ive found $300 pieces for $80 in great condition!

  2. Hookman says:

    More hints : Take a magnet for checking metals, a magnifying glass for reading small labels and marks, and if you collect specific items like coins, it doesn’t hurt to have a reference book with you.
    If you go “antiquing” or browsing often enough, you should prepare a “kit” (shoulder bag) with these things in it. Include some Kleenex, wet wipes and hand sanitizer.
    Sometimes with pottery or China, you have to wipe clean the bottom(clear it with the seller first) in order to read any under-glaze marks or impressions.
    You could leave your bag near the front door or in the hall closet so it’s “ready to go”.
    Most importantly, Have Fun ! Good Luck !!

  3. Stoutcat says:

    “Chipped cut glass is hard to spot. Run your hand over the rim. You should be able to feel any chips or cracks that follow the indents of the pattern. There is no way to repair pieces.”

    This is not true. There are wonderful artisans available who can repair chipped and cracked glassware to make it look perfect. Of course, it will cost a bit to have it done, but if you find some gorgeous high-end piece that has a minor chip or nick, don’t walk away because you think it can’t be fixed. It most certainly can. I use a company in Idaho, and they have repaired many antique glass pieces for me so that you can’t tell where the flaw was. There are good people available. You just have to look.

Leave a Reply

Featured Articles

Skip to toolbar