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Thrift Store Treasure Hunting Guide

Posted by Calvin Made on

Finding valuable items during a thrift store visit can be financially rewarding, but it’s also a lot of fun. Knowing what to look for and what to avoid can save new thrift store shoppers a lot of time and energy. The advice in this short guide provides general rules for helping beginners simplify the shopping process. There are many exceptions to these rules, but they can be used as a starting point for new treasure hunters.

The three basic types of item evaluation used while shopping are browse, inspect, and research. A shopper starts by browsing the inventory visually until an item is identified as being possibly valuable. Condition, age, brand, quality, and other visual cues can be used to quickly identify items for further inspection.

Once identified, the item should be inspected by hand and identifying marks should be located including brand, model, origination, and dates. Overall item quality should be accessed using details such as materials used, assembly, stitching, design, etc. Country of origin can also be used as a quality indicator such as Swiss-made watches or Italian-made clothing.

If the item inspection warrants additional inquiry, research should be conducted. Item research is best obtained using an Internet-capable smartphone. Searching previous listings on is recommended for most accurate data. Additional information can sometimes be obtained from store employees.

Focus on items containing a model number, brand, or other identifying marks to reduce research time. Examples of items most difficult to research include unmarked art, collectibles, and kitchenware. Avoiding these type of items can save a lot of time, but such items can often reap the most reward.

Items are usually worth more when in original packaging, and condition almost always affects value. Smaller items are more usually more profitable due to shipping costs. Avoid items that are damaged, heavily worn, or have missing pieces unless they can be easily cleaned, fixed or replaced. Always test products if applicable, most thrift stores provide plugs for testing electronics.

The purchase decision should be made after all factors are evaluated, including purchase price. The lower the item cost, the less investment risk involved. Use these tips to get started and expect criteria to change as experience increases. Be prepared to make mistakes, but these tips should minimize errors and start beginning treasure hunters in the right direction.