As I've mentioned, I LOVE to thrift! I've been shopping second-hand regularly for many years, and could easily furnish quite a few houses with my treasures. :) It's a great place to find picture frames, candlesticks, decorative objects, trays, fun bowls and even lamps and art. And I love the hunt!
Several of my customers have asked about my shopping trips, and the one thing I keep hearing is "I've tried, but I never find anything." While there are certainly times I don't find anything either, I have learned a few "thrift store secrets" that really help!
Secret 1: Know Your Store
If you are looking for a particular type of item, think about the person likely to have owned it. For example, I love old crystal. Generally, it's something that is owned by older women. As they start downsizing (or have helpful relatives doing it for them!), these items will generally get donated to the thrift stores that support hospice or animal rescue. Thrift stores that have trucks for pickup often receive more furniture, while chain thrift stores sometimes see more donations from people who will automatically go to the most well-known store. PRO TIP: It's been my experience that "chain" thrift stores have hired processors that don't always know the value of a piece, making it possible to get real treasures. Volunteer thrift stores usually have a core group of people who either know EXACTLY what they are looking at, or have the time to research it.
Secret 2: Intrinsic vs Actual Value
If you are thrifting for resale, always look to brands as that is how people will recognize (or search for) what they want to buy. Brands I look for are Pier 1 Imports, Pottery Barn, William Sonoma, Wendell August Forge, Le Cruset, Glassybaby, Inland Glass, Imperial, Fitz & Floyd, Mikasa, Viking Glass, California Pottery and of course vintage Pyrex. Personally, I usually look for intrinsic value - what that piece means to me. As a result I will often pick up less valuable items with great subject matter, or unbranded decor items with a fun shape. PRO TIP: I always carry a mini black light flashlight; popular Uranium glass glows green, and valuable vintage Fostoria crystal will glow ever so slightly yellow.
Secret 3: Look Everywhere
One way I can usually find things is I look everywhere! Thrift stores can be a jumble, so you never know what is hiding. I once found a very valuable Swedish Orrefors votive holder just hanging out with some power tools. Sometimes things get misplaced, and sometimes people just set them down in odd places, so it's always worth looking! It's a great way to find "pieces" too. Often dishes will be missing their wood trays (check the wood section), or nice candle cups will get placed with the drinking glasses. PRO TIP: If you find something you really like, look EXTRA hard for similar pieces. Quite often you can find an entire collection spread out all over the store!
And a bonus tip: shop by weight. Heavier often means better quality, and in the case of glassware it's less prone to chipping. Generally, I avoid mass-produced or made in China items, focusing on vintage and American or European made. If you love it, buy it! Thrift stores change over quickly. :)