Everything that makes it into a thrift store has some value to someone, even if it's just the profit from its sale going to a charitable organization. But, spotting the items that have a high value to you or a potential customer is an art. Researching what is valuable, before you hit the stores, being able to spot replicas and establishing a thrift store routine will assure that you spot all of the available finds.
Collectibles, including Glassware, Ceramics, Pottery and Art
Purchase a few “What is it Worth” books or look at online guides to familiarize yourself with brand names, artists, designs and foundry stamps and marks.
Research the ways that an antique dealer or museum curator dates glass, pottery and art by sight, by speaking to one or all of them, in your area, about attending lectures that include being able to spot replicas and dating items of value.
Pick up all of the interesting items in a thrift store and check it for cracks, chips, maker's marks and signatures. Just because you don't find the piece beautiful doesn't mean that it is not of value.
Speak to all of the thrift store managers, in your area, to determine their delivery schedules, stocking schedules and when they run special offers on collectibles, glassware, ceramics, pottery and art.
Clothing and Accessories
Familiarize yourself with what's popular right now by purchasing fashion magazines that feature current designers of both women's and men's clothing and accessories or going to the popular shopping spots and looking at the labels.
When you go to the thrift store look for clothing with original tags and crisp clean labels. The crisp labels will let you know that the item has not been worn and washed repeatedly.
Locate special occasion clothing and accessories that was purchased and worn for one occasion and then donated. $600.00 dollar Mother of the Bride dresses for $10.00 are always a great buy and special occasion dress material can be re-purposed to create an elegant table cloth or runner easily.
Ask the manager about color tag promotions on clothing. Buying a purse or dress on Tuesday might mean 50 percent off the already low price.
Other Items of Value
Research what construction items are currently selling for by visiting a salvage yard. Sinks, counter tops, faucets, lighting fixtures and wood have all become renewable items and most old items can become new again with very little effort and expense.
Art books, crafting supplies and some toys are valuable and often donated after very little or no use. Look for gift sets including any of these that have not been damaged by age.
Look at items that are priced below $5.00 and ask yourself what value it has. Explore re-purposing options that take minimal steps and money but add value.
Look over everything carefully, most thrift store managers know how to price their items but you never know what they might miss. Use your smartphone to look up items that you spot in the store and you think are interesting. Some phone apps are also a useful source of information and pricing; others allow you to scan barcodes to identify items and prices. Ebay offers a free program that will tell you what an item has sold for.
Thrift store shopping is always "buyer beware" check for the correct markings and labels on all purchases.
Based in Covington, Tenn., Cheryl Torrie has been writing how-to articles since 2008. Her articles appear on eHow. Torrie received a certificate in travel and tourism from South Eastern Academy and is enrolled in a computer information systems program at Tennessee Technology Center at Covington.