Thursday, April 18, 2013

Are Thrift Stores Running out of "Good Things" to Buy? The End of an Era?


We've debated Goodwill's controversial decision to hire eBay coordinators to sell their more valuable donations online. With more media dedicated to reselling than ever before and hundreds of people joining in, can supply keep up with demand? I get a lot of questions about this via e-mail and Twitter. Here's one from fellow toy-nerd @williambwest: (read it from the bottom up)


My Answer: HELL NO, absolutely not. We are not running out of stuff to buy or sell as resellers. There is still plenty go around for others who thrift as collectors or for household essentials.

Practice & Experiment: Thrift Stores are not the only places to get merchandise or satisfy household needs for less. Remember curbsides? Yard sales? I just got a haul of goodies for free! I'll follow-up with creative ways to find merchandise/essentials.

Blah to Competition: I don't approach reselling competitively.I'm curating a collection, I have a brand and a mission that's unique and purely Me, no one else can bring that to the table. I evolve and update. I'm too busy worrying about my own quality to think about what others are finding that I'm not. Let others in on the game, there's plenty to go around and everyone deserves a chance to make a living.

Anyone Can Do it? Some resellers have an elitist attitude toward others who haven't been reselling as long or don't have as much knowledge or skill at it. I think anyone can be a reseller, their own way. If you're following your own path with it and being successful without hurting anyone else, I don't see the harm.

I'd love to discuss regional difference in the comments. I live in North Florida and the picking is PLENTIFUL in this state. I could go out right now and fill my car to the brim with excellent goods to sell if I wanted to. I realize other locations don't have as many thrift stores, yard sales, or good things/vintage things to sell.

Do you feel like supply will run out where you live? What's thrifting like in your area?
Daily thrifting updates, information, & Inspiration: Follow Thrift Core on Twitter and Facebook.

75 comments:

  1. Interesting post. For a few different reasons, I only shop pretty close to home so that can be limiting, but I think if you have a good eye, good thrifts are bound to come your way. Just yesterday I found a Sascha B copper/enamel ashtray at a thrift store. Very cool. I will say garage sales have been in a slump for a few years; can't really expain that. I do know they are a lot of work for not a lot of money, unless your have furniture to sell. I stopped having them myself for that reason.

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    1. I had one successful yard sale when I had a huge accumulation of stuff, including electronics, to sell. Without electronics, furniture, etc. that will sell for a lot they're not worth the time. I do love to attend them to get merchandise to resell for less than thrift stores.

      I think you're right about having an eye for it, that and the fact the good stuff will slip through the cracks all the time even with stiff competition.

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  2. In my area of CO thrifting has really slipped since the economy took its last nose dive. The thrift stores are so much more busy than they ever used to be, prices are higher, and good stuff is getting harder and harder to find.

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    1. The prices have gone up around these parts too but they were already steadily on the rise along with everything else. Luckily down here there's so much selection I can arrive early or hit up many thrifts in a row and still yield goods without so much competition that I can't find good items. Thanks for your feedback from CO Laurie!

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  3. I've never found anything awesome when I thrift around here. Not just for resell, but not even for myself.

    I always thought it was just my area though (coastal Georgia), because other people have awesome thrift hauls and I'm just like.....I can't even find and interesting t-shirt, most less wonderful kick-knacks that I MUST have. A few crafty friends of mine find huge canvases and full bags of yarn and unused paint and art markers at their thrift stores. I'm lucky to find a book I don't already own that I want.

    Now I've had some better luck finding thinks I like/love at antique stores, but they are always way out of my price range.

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    1. Have you tried switching up the times of the day/week you go to stores? It's hard with a fixed schedule but sometimes that pays off. That's the nature of thrifting, sometimes it's a bust, sometimes it's a treasure trove.

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  4. Van, Im from Florida too! I think it depends what thrift store you go to. Some of the more independent urban ones just put everything out and cheaply priced because they just do know better or care to bother. And then I hit the older communities (Pinellas county is the oldest county in the united states, average age), I can always get good stuff at the thrifts stores there. People die and then their whole house hold gets donated because either they have no family, or no family nearby to clean out their house. The smaller thrift stores are usually run by older people who dont consider that kind of stuff anything cool or vintage, because they have that kind of stuff in their house and they think they are current. haha.

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    1. Thanks for the feedback, I keep getting tips to check out Pinellas. When I'm in South Florida where more retired folks live(Sarasota/Bradenton) visiting my best buddy I always score hardcore at their flea markets and thrifts. I love thrifting here, I'm trying to recover the photos from when my mom and I thrifted all the way up and down Florida, from Jacksonville to Homestead. Took one whole day. It was awesome.

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  5. The cycle of buy & sell & resell is so massive and has been going on FOREVER. It is a market that will never stop or run out in my opinion.
    Becky :)

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    1. I feel the same way. Thanks for the feedback Becky!

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  6. Thrift stores here have increased prices somewhat. Most of our thrift stores are in the lower income areas of town, so prices haven't gone up excessively high. They are busy but I don't seem to have any trouble finding items to sell.

    I definitely see how you could feel your inventory supply drying up if you are a niche seller. I think to be successful you have to be constantly learning about new things, new items that will sell. There will always be HOT sellers that the thrift stores never seem to have because Petunia Picker was there at opening with her scanner and snatched up all the goodies. Don't go in looking for those items. If your thrift store always has a plethora of glassware, learn about glassware that sells. If it has loads of ceramics, learn about ceramics. There is always money to be made that others have overlooked.

    Don't forget eBay as a source of inventory as well. I have purchased quite a few items that sell for peanuts on eBay and flip them for a nice profit on Etsy.

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    1. I was thinking the same thing and forgot to address that in more detail in the post, a niche reseller would be having a harder time right now for sure. I haven't hit up eBay for goodies in a while but you're right, you can get lots on there for a good price to resell in other venues. Antique malls around these parts also have lots of pre-picked merch at great prices that I buy and resell on Etsy.

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    2. I do make the antique store/flea market rounds as well the last week of the month. I sometimes feel like a vulture, but am looking for the booths that are moving or going out of business. It's amazing the differences between what folks can't sell locally and what sells online.

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    3. It really is, I sell things for 3-4 times more than it was priced for in the antique mall booth online sometimes. It's making me re-think my strategy for the booths for sure!

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  7. Thanks for addressing my Tweets, Van! I think my fear comes from the fact that I'm a niche seller. Your supply runs the gamut from furniture to robots to tchotchkes. I mainly sell action figures and 80s/90s toys. Since Generation Y has come into disposable income, they're all trying to buy back their childhood. Since I have a niche, I get nervous because there's only so much of that to go around. Also, there's the matter of time - I did a lot better when I was unemployed, as I could just drive across the state. Now, with a 9-5, all the good stuff's gone by the time I get off work.

    That's just the things as I've seen them. Then, there's what the stores are doing: one chain I visit has started asking for your zip code when you make a purchase. I asked why, and was told that the owners wanted to know where people were coming from. This is somewhat dangerous, as non-local zip codes show them that their stuff is worth the travel. One cashier even told me that minivans of people come down from PA every Monday morning, waiting for the store to open so that they can buy the toys. Since implementing the zip code question, I've seen prices shoot up.

    We also assume we have an equal playing field. Some of these other resellers, especially the book scanners, seem to have some sort of arrangement with the stores. I'm not sure if it's profit sharing or what, but I've seen them allowed into the back areas that are supposedly "employees only". On top of that, the employees seem to be putting aside certain merchandise and bringing it out for those customers to dig through before it goes on shelves. I know this all sounds like sour grapes/conspiracy theories, but I've been watching this transpire for the past year.

    I'm not just looking out for myself - I made the "mistake" of giving some pointers to another thrifter, who has since decided to buy up EVERYTHING. I thought there was enough room for everyone, but not when someone fills their cart with everything they see. When I say "Everyone can't do it", I mainly meant that for niche sales. I know what to grab because I know toys, and I have an eye. That, however, means nothing if someone else just buys everything, assuming *something* they grabbed will make up for all the unnecessary stuff they got.

    -Laurie, I tried to thrift in Denver/Englewood last year, and everything was sky high. That's the only place I've visited where the Goodwill was priced like a high-end boutique!

    -Adrienne, I've been trying to expand my knowledge. Seeing the potential of toys drying up,and no good barcode-era book will ever be left behind, I've been studying up on cookware and rare VHS tapes. Still, now *I* feel like the "imposter", inching in on someone else's niche.

    I still do it because it's fun, but it's also got a side of anxiety to it that I don't remember from the beginning. I'm anxious by nature, so maybe it's all in my head. That's why I asked the question, to see if anyone else had been thinking the same way. Thanks!

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    1. Good point, William, about giving pointers, because I do that myself. It's unfortunate that we have to watch out for that. I admit I still do that because I like to share information, but you have given me something to think about.

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    2. I did neglect to address the niche seller's issue in the post. I might be singing a different tune if I didn't sell a broad variety of items. The competition is not that fierce here, I've never had a thrift store ask for my zip code, that's craziness!

      I feel you and PurpleTucker on giving out information. I have created my own competition with this blog because several of the people (my count's 6 people right now) in my antique mall have told me they joined because they read my encouraging posts and tips on it. I've given tips to others personally that have gone on to use them to success. I haven't felt threatened because no one's mimicked my style exactly. I feel confident in my brand, being myself and embracing all my weird juxtaposing interests helps me stand on my own.

      For instance, my homemade price tags featuring a scan from a 1980s Transformers comic book on the front. :D

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    3. I enjoy giving pointers as well but mostly on my blog. I don't have the patience in person to give pointers or walk someone through the thought process of choosing items to sell. I definitely wouldn't have the patience with someone who then proceeded to snatch up everything in site! Thanks for the reminder to think about the info I share with others locally.

      I wouldn't feel like you are an imposter inching in on someone else's niche. You are just branching out and exploring other options as other retail businesses do. :)

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    4. I agree with Adrienne, I wouldn't feel like an imposter. We evolve and do what we must to survive, if it's there for the taking, go for it.

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    5. William, you don't need to feel like an impostor, esp if you're taking the time to learn about different niches. After all, we all had to start somewhere, and usually that means finding a popular niche that somebody else discovered.

      The cream rises to the top. I find a lot of people want to jump on popular bandwagons, but they really have no clue what they're doing, nor are they willing to learn the ropes properly to make it profitable. Not even all the folks who have those scanners (full disclosure: I'm one of those scanner people) necessarily know what they're doing. A lot of resellers (esp those of commodity type items) don't keep track of their costs, and just keep lowering their prices to get a sale, not realizing that they are pricing themselves out of a profit.

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  9. I live in VT, work in NH, and have family in Maine. So I call New England my home. I am still finding lots of thrifty items: yard/garage sales mostly, possibly because there is only a certain time frame of season that they can occur around here. I also do the Goodwill, etc. rounds, and have notice price changes, but once in awhile (mostly clothes), I find something worthwhile. Rummage sales and flea markets are also good, church and fundraiser sales, etc. I get Thursday's paper where the weekend sale ads are run, and also any free papers that may have similar information.

    I think you do have to have an eye, and I gear more towards what I like myself rather than "everything". If it's more interesting to me, the more I will know or find out about it; the more I have to share with a potential customer. I'm always willing to share! :)

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    1. I always neglect to check out the church and rummage sales, I have an internal log of favorite thrifts to hit up for what I'm looking for and yard sale in my Historic neighborhood often yields gems. I also have a list of numbers from people I've met at yard sales/flea markerts/thfits that I could buy lots of vintage from if I needed to fill up quickly. Thanks for the kind words, I'm the same way, I try to sell only stuff I actually love, not merely things that will sell.

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    2. I'm sure I will continue to give out pointers; it's in my nature to do so. Plus I love to collect, and will also find items to add to a collection I have going. I have even bought a beautiful pottery mug from you, Van, that was stamped VT on the bottom. That sits on my desk at work with pens in it. Thanks for all you do.

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    3. I'll keep giving pointers because I sincerely love to help others be healthier, happier, and successful. Thank you so much for the kind words! They mean a lot, been second-guessing my writing and leaving many posts unpublished, so it's very reassuring to know it's getting out and helping others. :) Glad you're enjoying the mug, too!

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  10. I don't want to come out *too much* about what I do now, but I work for one of the major thrift stores and despite everything that would suggest we SHOULD be running out of good stuff, it's not going to happen. The most important thing about thrift stores and thrifters is that we RECYCLE. Most of the people in this country are not hoarders, we grow tired of things, need a change, fall in love with something else. We move, we break up, join households, we die. People and life never stops changing, and when things change, we shed the STUFF that no longer belongs in our life.

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    1. Thanks for sharing your tips from the inside, Mich. I agree, it's a cycle. Consumers buy and purge, there's an abundance of Stuff to go around.

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  11. What an interesting question! I do worry every once and awhile, especially with my focus on estate sales, that there will be fewer and fewer ones like I like as time goes on. But then I think of how much STUFF was made in America between 1900-1990, mass produced, sold everywhere, bought everywhere and just figure as long as it's not destroyed, there will almost ALWAYS be another 1950's dress or 1960's couch...think about how heirlooms turn up in garage sales 100 years after they originally entered the family's possession... i try to keep my chin up about it anyway, because what'll I do for fun if the junk runs out! :)

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    1. Agreed, mass production ensures there's still plenty of retro goodies around. Antiques would be trickier.

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  12. It's never going to happen. People have been collecting, consuming, buying and recluttering for years. Okay, so there aren't the 1920s and 1940s clothes I used to find as a teenager but there's still loads of good finds to be had. x

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    1. I've found things from the 40s but not likely any from the 20s, that's awesome! :D Too bad those aren't around in abundance anymore...

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  13. I'm not a for-profit reseller, but I run our school's yearly rummage sale and if I find an item in a thrift that I know I can resell for a lot more, I buy it and donate it to our sale. In my opinion, there's not a shortage of stuff overall, although there may be shortages in certain niches.

    It runs in cycles. For example, several years ago, we could barely even give away vintage patterns that were donated to us--if they sold, we got about 10 cents each for them. Now I rarely see them any more at thrift stores and if I do, they're much more expensive.

    Another example is the vintage glassware I've been collecting for 25 years. I started the collection because I liked the style and I could find it ultra-cheap at garage sales and thrift stores. About 10 years ago, the prices exploded and you could only find it at high prices on ebay. Once the recession hit, the prices dropped drastically and I'm now seeing the occasional piece at thrift stores again. I talked to a woman who runs a resale shop I visit, and she told me that she didn't even bother displaying her collection in the shop because no one is interested. I was able to fill in a few missing pieces in my collection for thrift store prices.

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    1. It's all about evolving and finding the right place to sell your wares, you're right. I can sell my small vintage housewares and accessories for 2-4 times more on Etsy than I can in the antique mall. What's being collected and what isn't changes all the time. I don't sell mushrooms and owls like I use to, for instance, but unicorns are hot right now.

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  14. Im in Australia and certainly for what I specialise in there are goodies to be found. Particularly if I took a trip interstate I cold easily fill a trailer or truck. As for smaller items and the particular clothing items I'm looking for I am up against somewhat, but that's not due everyone being out there and going for it. It's because my business is very niche, so persistent work on sourcing from locally, interstate and globally is a constant for me.

    What does concern me (I know this is going to come off elitist) is that I've seen so many people popping up with FB stores. They lack knowledge to reference eras, age, make etc. I've spoken with some of them on they've quite openly have questioned what defines eras, retro, vintage, questioned if the whole "vintage" thing has longevity. They've basically admitted to seeing others do it and not knowing much or or anything at all and giving it ago. Whilst I commend people on a give it a go attitude what irks me is that they're pricing/valuing is way out of whack. It concerns me how it potentially undermines those who have been in the business for some time and have years of knowledge and experience.

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    1. Thanks for sharing feedback from Australia, it's awesome that the hunting is good out there for at least some niche sellers/collectors! I wasn't sure about that since I've heard complaints before.

      I feel like the people in the biz for years with all of that knowledge and experience under their belt have nothing to worry about. They have the upper hand, they're pros at staging and selling their wares. They know exactly what to find and where to find it. They know where to find their buyers. I do agree though that it can make the competition tough when less knowledgeable sellers price valuables for too little.

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  15. I've been reselling vintage collectibles off and on since eBay began. I do now lean more towards clothing but if something I know catches my eye and I can send it easily enough i'll pick it up. This is what I know.

    Short answer no. Its still out there in spades. I do think you need to keep up with the times. Which actually means keeping up with the trends and where the money is at. I'd be a fool to expect the James Bond lunch, metal Marx toys and other baby boomer items at thrift stores today (even estate sales) But on the other hand if you look at prices most of it is dropping in price. Now if I'm smart enough to move along and look for Teenage Mutant ninja turtle sheets and rainbow mugs. I'm in a plentiful land of easy accessible collectibles that have a good turn around.

    Its the same in every area of resell. Like for example. I have to stay up on recent trends and recent designers and tags. A Juicy couture fan doesn't want the velour track suit from early 2007. Its old hat, they want the more mature updated look Juicy has to offer (I go to the mall once a month and do "shopping assignments I also need to know retail prices.). Conversely I spend a lot of time on fashion boards and I watch some sellers to see whats up and coming in retro.

    This is a business and you have to keep up to date and if you need too. Switch on a dime.

    As for region. Arizona does not have toys. Period. Especially vintage toys. I started reselling in New Mexico and emphasized on toys. I'd be dead in the water 15 years ago if I hadn't been able to switch. On the other hand we gotta a lot of rich women more than willing to send their clothes off to Goodwill every season. I'm moving to Portland in a couple months and I can't say I'm looking forward to the switch I know I will have to make in my reselling business. Especially since I'm going full time again. But I'll do it and who knows maybe it will be even better there.

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    1. Thanks for sharing so much about your methods and what thriftings like in AZ! Very informative and interesting. I wonder if thrifting competition is still in Portland with the large population of creatives out there...

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  16. PS I really don't believe in the if you love it, it will sell idea. I have sold things that I have no idea why anyone would ever want them. Items that make me say WTF??!! And if it will sell I'll buy it. Like for instance I sell curlers to pageant moms and they sell well. I certainly do not love them and they won't work with my dreads. But they sell every single time. I'm a business woman and if will sell I'll buy it. Its the same thrill when it sells as a Vintage barbie maybe even more so.

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    1. I've also sold random things I didn't expect people would want, reselling is so weird and unpredictable that way. I could be earning more, more easily, if I simply bought what I know would sell. Instead my direction and approach is artistic. I'm selling my brand primarily, a lot of my repeat customers come back for the things I love, the items I've curated to fit my playful aesthetic. No shame in buying to sell though, I certainly encourage resellers to go that route as well. Make that money!

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    2. Van, there are generally 2 schools of thought about reselling. One school believes you should be more of a niche seller and build up your expertise in that niche so that you become the go-to seller for those particular types of items. The other school believes that you should sell anything and everything that will make you money. What I tell people is to find what works for them. What works for one person, won't necessarily work for another. I've seen that over and over again in all my years of selling online. I love that you sell items that are true to your aesthetic and personality. That is your unique brand. Even if someone were to copy it, it wouldn't come across with the same authenticity as it would be coming from you. Stay true to yourself, whatever that may be :0)

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    3. Van,

      I love your brand! Just so you know.:) And I believe we live in two different worlds. You sell on etsy. I don't believe a throw up whatever you have and call it good is going to work for Etsy. People want exactly what you are doing. The same applies (if not more so) in antique stores. When I antique shop I'm looking for myself and I naturally gravitate towards the stores or booths that work with my decor. Heck I'm in the habit of walking past certain booths in antique malls because I know they don't have what I want.

      I sell on eBay. Right now I'm not niched out because there are very few niches on eBay that benefit you to BE niched out. Thats about to change for me at least for part of my inventory. Its the one small area I have found that having a look and a brand pays out in spades. Its called getting the attention of the most allusive of buyers. The teenage to college age girl. Which BTW spend a lot of money on clothes as I'm sure you could guess.:) They need to be sold the product. They like newer retro styles like for instance high waisted shorts from the eighties. But they're just insecure enough that seeing a pair of high waisted shorts thrown on the ground and a picture thrown up doesn't appeal to them. No they need to SEE a girl their age in those shorts. They like a cool name with a cool lay out and some cool girls rocking some truly crazy items. This branding can pay out in spades. I'm waiting until Portland to even take this on.

      I have to say I dearly love selling clothes. I've worked around fashion for years and years. Its in my blood. So don't let me lie to you and tell you I don't sell what I love. BUT I'll buy whatever I need to, to survive and on eBay thats ok. Especially in clothes. This has been a fascinating comment section!! Thanks for letting me blather on about what I love!! Internet selling is an amazing tool and we have so many readily available for us now its really almost a miracle!

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    4. Serena: Thanks for the kind words, I admire and encourage both type of resellers. It's all about finding what works for you and what will earn money to keep us going. No shame in the game.

      Kari: That's one thing that's held me back with clothes, it's best to have a model or at least a dress form for them. They're satisfying to stage, but take more work and time is money. I may let myself move toward that niche once I've sold a bulk of my housewares first! Glad you came to add to the conversation with your insight as an experienced eBay seller. I'll be selling from their soon, I'm selling off my personal comic book/nerd stuff collection since it's all readily available online now and not vintage enough for Etsy. I'll be a niche nerd seller :)

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  17. A few weeks ago, I was buying a flip alarm clock in my local goodiwll. When I went to pay the girl told me to hold on and called a guy to the front. Apparently someone "new" was pricing things and she wanted to check and make sure what I had wasn't valuable. Like...if it was they were going to change the price on me?? WTF. Anyway, the guy let me buy it as is. It was quite annoying. So in other words, at my goodwill they hired someone to watch for treasures that should cost more. *_*

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    1. See, I don't frequent the Goodwill here, as there are fewer of them than other chains, but I'm not surprised by that. It was always my understanding that all the good donations to the Goodwill ended up on the website. I could be wrong, but that's what certain circles have told me, and that's what the Shop Goodwill website would seem to support.

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    2. I would have wanted to box her!

      I went to Salvation Army & got a great vintage owl stationary set, ceramic, $1.99 per item, was on the shelf with the collectibles. I got to the counter, lady tells me it's all priced wrong. I got angry & argumentative with her, she said each item was $7.99. I think I ended up telling her she was going to charge me $1.99 because that's what it was priced & it's not my fault if someone priced it wrong, that's what it's priced. I don't remember. But I was really hostile about it. I was in a really bad mood that day. But the area is really sketch baggie - abandoned stores everywhere, drug addicts roaming the streets, even the dollar store has a security guard. So IDK if I scared her? I felt bad walking home.

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    3. Marcia: Dayum, that's cold-blooded if they start doing that regularly!

      Will: A lot of good finds still slip through the cracks, and not all stores are selling online yet. I've found some amazing goods for great prices at some Goodwills and sometimes even get a lower price if I'm lucky.

      Thrift-a-lot: Did you end up getting your stationary at $1.99? Haha! Unless I REAAAALLY want something I can't bring myself to argue hardcore over prices at the thrift store. I just leave the item if I can't get what I want for it. I do always politely ask for a discount or deal. That's pissed people off a bit, but oh well, never hurts to ask ;p

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  18. I won't purport that toys are more difficult than other niche, but there are other factors at play that I think some people are forgetting. For instance, toys are essentially meant to be consumed. Bashed, abused, enjoyed - all of that. Once that's done, it's almost a coin flip as to whether they're thrown out or "given to the less fortunate". I fear the landfills are full of things I'd consider goldmines. Then again, that could be said about most of the stuff we find. I just really feel it's the effect of the pickers/pawn stars/storage wars craze. Once the bottom falls out of that market, the looky-loos will move on to the next big thing.

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    1. That's the hard part with toys and perhaps why I choose to collect rather than sell them, they're hard to find without missing parts. It seems like my toy collecting buddies find the best pieces in the best quality at yard sales, makes sense, the toys they find were probably bought down safely from the attic, barely used.

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  19. William I used to sell toys and only toys over fifteen years ago. I'd be making a zero profit if I had continued to niche myself like that. Your going to have to expand if only to stop the frustration level you are obviously at. I also had to learn a long long time ago. If its meant to be its meant to be. I don't even bother being the first in a store or a estate sale. I have no desire to be that competitive. Besides I don't have to be because I have all kinds of weird little niches that most of Arizona doesn't even know about. In case your wondering if its working for me. I do this very very VERY part time (typically about 40 items in my store consistently). I made well over a $1000 last month I average about 300 to 500 every two weeks. I'd say I put in maybe $100 to buy those items (thats a very high estimate). My thrift stores have no idea what a Anthroplogie brand is but they think Ann Taylor Loft is gold (anthro prices at $50.00 to $300.00 Ann Taylor Loft caps out at $50.00) They couldn't possibly stay up on all of it. But I can. Study, read blogs like Vans. Join reselling groups. Troll eBay completed items like there is no tomorrow.

    Check out this blog. Read the friday posts. eBay the items people are talking about in the completed section.
    Join this facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/groups/154102484620736/
    they just posted about Ralph Lauren vintage caps going for well over $2,000. You think Goodwill knows that?

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    1. Thanks again for selling all this awesome info! You're reminding me of all the good stuff (and extra money, aah!) I pass up. It tempts, but I couldn't sell that way, it made me feel empty. Just like you I haven't made a point of being the first at sales, you can do this organically and still yield excellent finds as long as you're open-minded and consistent.

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    2. Kari, I couldn't agree with you more! There is no need to be rude or pushy when it comes to buying to resell. I cringe every time I hear about resellers behaving badly. I am always very low key about what I do so I don't draw any attention to myself. As a fellow eBay seller friend I know has said, "If I were meant to have it, it will still be there when I get there." That's my philosophy.

      As for expanding your inventory - like every other business out there, you always have to be willing to change as the marketplace changes. The supply and demand for items will change, and you have to be willing to change with it also. No business is ever set in stone. Otherwise it will become stagnant and die. But that's the beauty of having your own business. There is always something new to learn and experiment with :0)

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    3. I believe low key is so SO important (especially thrift stores!)! I've known resellers who are so rude and obnoxious or even so loud and upfront that especially in estate sale land their go to items to buy would get marked up because the estate sale people knew exactly what they bought and what they would pay for it. Now me on the other hand am always in and out. Super polite and I try really hard not to be noticed. Of course there was the one time when I had a niche no one but no one knew about. It was vintage underwear and nightgowns. I'd get them for pennies and sell them for hundreds. Its really hard not to notice the woman who buys all old underwear! They figured it out soon enough and I had to move on to my next big kill. Of course I still find them and a one of many many niches was born. Its time and experience and wisdom. Its part of reselling whether people like it or not.

      I really believe if it was meant to be, it was meant to be. Of course hand in hand with that is the early bird will get the worm. Bt you don't have to be an insane freaked out obnoxious pain to be that bird.

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    4. Agreed, I don't have it in me to be rude. There's enough stuff out there for everyone, if you can't have it at the price you want, move on to the next thing.

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  20. I don't think we are running or going to run out of good stuff. Some times it feels like that for sure, but I just remind myself that its cyclical and it will get better again and so far I haven't been disappointed. And I agree Van, anyone can do this, but no one can do it like us!

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    1. I love to see how everyone brings their own spin to it, and the challenge of figuring out how to stand out in my niche. It keeps me creatively satisfied.

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  21. It's hard where I live. Most garage sales in the city, everyone seems to think they are a collectibles store. $10 for a Ghostbusters glass from the '80s? I get them from the thrifts for a buck! Even the antique markets charge $5! Living in the 4th largest city in North America there is a ton of competition & you can't be everywhere at once.. you just gotta get lucky, so it seems, or have scandalous hookups or be a scumbag old woman pusher at estate/thrift stores to score everywhere. BUTTT.. there are still opportunities & places to shop if you are in the know. A Fire King Tulip bowl was $25 at a garage sale - the smallest one. It'd be much easier to be a reseller in a smaller setting, IMO. Downtown is not the place in thrift stores on the subway line.

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    1. The closet Flea Markets are over an hour away, antique markets almost 2 hours.

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    2. I've been to yard sales and flea markets with boutique/antique malls prices, too. Funny how it's inverted in the antique mall I sell in with lots of the retro things I like to buy for a few bucks. It's been hard to hold back, may give in this weekend...

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  22. So here's my take. I'm in Arizona and I've definitely noticed less "goodies" at the thrift stores and I've certainly noticed the prices increases in many items, making it more difficult to resell. However, as always, things are overlooked and "goodies" still can be found.

    I can't stress enough how much estate sales are my bread and butter. Things are usually clean, in good shape, and not overpriced. Yard sales can be hit or miss and the flea market can be good as way. Local auctions are also a great source. The auctions around where I live sometimes sell "junk" which turn out to be treasure after a little cleaning.

    There's plenty of "goodies" to go around, you just need to adapt and continue to learn about new products. The adapting is part of the challenge of reselling and it's partly why I continually enjoy learning about new products and how to resell them!

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    1. I need to make a habit of getting to more estate sales! I just don't schedule them in and when I get to them later in the day the scores are hard to come by. It really is all about adapting, just changing the times/days you go to thrifts can make a huge difference.

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  23. Yes, supply has definitely dwindled where I live (Sacramento area, Northern California), and it makes me so angry. I mean, I know it's the way of the free market, blah blah blah, but it's getting kind of ridiculous. I love vintage things and rely on thrift stores, garage sales, etc. to furnish and decorate my home with them, but nowadays you need to be very very lucky to find the kind of vintage things (especially furniture) that used to be so plentiful a few years ago. And it's not just furniture. I have a box full of gorgeous vintage handbags that I've collected over the years from thrift stores, but nowadays I haven't found a single one at any of the stores we frequent!

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    1. I've heard it's definitely more competitive in your area. There are more collectors and buyers for vintage out there, versus over here where more locals prefer shabby chic/junker/antique style.

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  24. I think the most important thing to possess is KNOWLEDGE, and that takes time and skill. I am quite new at this and am always learning. The skilled thrifter has a lot of background information and can look at a pile of stuff and pick out what will sell. They know labels, pottery marks, brands, artisans, artists, valuable books, manufacturers etc. I think when you are at this level, thrifting is also more efficient. What I like to read about is what people find that sells well. It's all an education to me. Will we run out of stuff? Nope, because people will always be consumers!

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    1. Thanks for your feedback. I agree, we always have to educate ourselves, learn, and evolve in this field.

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  25. PS Van, you get a lot of spam in your comments. You might want to go to comment moderation! I finally had to do that also.

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    1. Yep, I see's 'em. Gotta turn on the damn moderation again. Didn't want to but the spammers force me to it.

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  26. So glad you brought up this topic, Van. Love it!

    I personally believe that as long as people are buying new things, the thrift stores and garage/yard sales will always be full of stuff. After all, given our consumer-driven economy, people will always end up buying or getting stuff they end up not really using and donating them to the thrifts or selling them at garage sales.

    I know eBay sellers all across the country, and you're right, there are regional differences. Out where I am (San Francisco Bay Area), a lot of the thrift stores, esp the chains, can overprice their items, but treasures can still be had because no one, not even Goodwill employees, know about every single item that passes through. I find that a lot of thrift stores will mark up things that they think are worth a lot (when many times, they're not), while pricing more popular or expensive items at lower prices. Around here, all the Salvation Armies have regular sales every weekend, when certain items will be marked anywhere from 30 to 50 percent off. You can find great deals on those days. Then you also run across some independent thrift stores that usually price their items reasonably. One of my favorite independent thrifts always holds 50% off sales at least once a month on their already reasonably priced merchandise.

    Another source for secondhand that I'm starting to explore are live local auctions. A lot of eBay sellers claim that they find the best deals at auctions because they allow you to buy up box lots of items. Of course, there will always be items that garner a lot of bids and end up selling for a lot, but you can always find stuff that generate little interest that you can snatch up for a steal.

    In all my years of selling on eBay and buying secondhand (at garage sales, thrift stores, rummage sales, estate sales, etc), I have never gone out thrifting and not come home with a bunch of stuff to resell. You will always find some overlooked treasure at these sales, as no one is an expert on everything. I've come to the conclusion that there will never be a shortage of things to buy for reselling; you may have to dig a little deeper, but you will always end up finding treasures :0)

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    1. I need to look into local auctions in the future, that's one source I haven't tried yet. Thanks for sharing all the detailed information from your area. Very helpful!

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  27. What an illuminating conversation!

    I'm a collector, not a reseller, and in the two decades I've been picking things up, I've noticed a reliable temporal shift in the things people value.

    Twenty years ago, few people were interested in mid-century teak furniture, and avocado and harvest gold were still popular punch lines. Now folks fight in the aisles to grab all that sixties and seventies stuff no one was interested in when it was merely out of fashion.

    Right now certain eighties and nineties-era items are beginning to come into their own as collectibles for many people. They are also plentiful at thrifts. Items from the past decade, though, are of little interest to anyone except parents like me -- and yet, in another decade people will fight for the Littlest Pet Shop toys my little daughter currently plays with and that we'll donate back to the second-hand stores when she's done with them.

    This cycle might continue as it has for the better part of a century, with older items becoming true antiques and belonging to that market, while other items three or four decades old make their rolling entrance into a shifting vintage market.

    The pity is that so many things manufactured in the past decade, and increasingly so over time, are made so poorly that they aren't likely to be of interest to any future generation of collectors, even if they manage to last that long in a household cupboard. This includes most household utensils and tools. I'm sure this was true of earlier eras, particularly in the mass-manufacturing era since WWII -- much of what we now value is the stuff that has simply survived long enough to become collectible -- but I'm having a hard time imagining much from this era being of interest to the future. It's no surprise to me that the only items from the eighties currently considered collectible are frank nostalgia items like toys and clothes: the dishware, furniture, etc. was (and is) so poorly made and in such quantities that it's not even good enough for landfill.

    I will say, though, as a collector (and not coincidentally as someone who grew up in relative poverty), that it amuses me a little whenever resellers complain about prices going up at second-hand stores, estate sales, garage sales, rummage sales etc.. The prices have gone up in large part because thrift stores and other folk know we're their target market. It's the people who buy second-hand clothes, toys and kitchenwares because they can't afford new who are the ones getting gouged. Not collectors like me and resellers like many of you, who've merely priced ourselves out of some of our own markets.

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    1. I often think of the same thing, wondering if mass-produced items from today will be collectible into the future. Seems unlikely, pop culture right now doesn't seem to generate the cult following it did two decades ago. That and quality of households especially seems inferior, but only time will tell.

      As for the thrifters who hunt for housewares out of necessity, since they're not usually seeking the items thrift stores priced higher because of their value, I think they're still finding a lot of what they need at the right price.

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  28. You bring up some great points, Amy. My mom grew up was from an era when women would go to their local dressmakers to make them a whole new wardrobe every season. When she later became a seamstress and would go to the mall to look at clothing, she would always lament about the poor workmanship and construction of the clothes she saw there. The sad thing is, the quality has only gotten worse. I guess that's why the handmade movement has taken on a life of its own. People are tired of mass produced goods that break down after x number of uses and lack any kind of pride of craftsmanship.

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    1. It does feel like quality can't get any worse with mass-produced food production/clothing/furniture. I'm glad indie movements are taking off to fill the void in craftmanship. It's thriftier to pay more for something that will last in the long run than to buy the cheap version that will have to be replaced many times over.

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  29. I am a picker/seller on Ebay in the Chicago area. I have been at it for nearly 15 years. In the past few years, quality merchandise is becoming harder and harder to find. I mostly sell clothing and used to sell quite a few games, collectibles etc. My strong belief is that the merchandise is being sorted before it ever reaches the thrift store. This is true regardless of the chain - Unique, Village, Family, Sal Army etc. I'm not sure whether it is the stores pulling the good stuff or the drivers sifting through it before they reach the store. Either way, as an example, I haven't found a game to sell in at least 5 years. I used to find a few per week. Musical instruments are non-existent as well. Does anyone else have this same issue? Also, does anyone have any ideas on how to stop it?

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