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Finding Treasures and Bargains at Thrift Stores
Living on a Budget
Saving money was always high on our list of priorities growing up and as a young adult setting up a new household. As children, we often visited junk yards, thrift stores, yard sales and the classifieds ads looking for used appliances, bicycles and other items with useful life left in them. We were fortunate to find vintage autos, used boats, tools, toys, furniture and more items that we put to use after a good cleaning and a fresh coat of paint.
Gemini Ranch Collectibles and Furniture
That experience carried forward through the years encompassing my weekends and evenings going to garage sales and attending auctions. After I experienced that first auction surrounded by treasures from the past I was hooked. That would ultimately drive me to open my own furniture and collectible place in an historic downtown storefront in Texas.
The Time to Buy
The best advice I can give about browsing through an antique store, flea market or resale store is this: "The time to buy an antique is now." Never expect to find your beloved item if you return to purchase it at a later date.
There have been many times I hesitated on a purchase only to think about that item for months, sometimes even years later. They aren't making any new antiques, only replicas.
Hull dinnerware, popular in the fifties was found one item at a time over a period of years. Eventually I had enough pieces to use for holidays and special occasions. Used instead of the delicate China and fragile special occasion dishes, this sturdy dinnerware would withstand oven temperatures and daily use. It's hard to find these days.
Finding bargains can be a lot of fun. There's even a television show featuring American Pickers who drive across the country seeking "rusty gold and barn fresh treasures". This pastime can become addictive.
This Flare Ware pattern is from the nineteen sixties by Hall China, one of the oldest manufacturers of dinnerware in the United States. The warmer works and the pattern matches my modern holiday gold-trimmed dishes.
Vintage American made dinnerware is a favorite of things I collect, often discovering them one piece at a time at garage and estate sales, auctions and thrift stores. Bringing these treasures home, soaking them in a warm, sudsy bath and preserving them gives a feeling that I'm rescuing a piece of history.
Hull Mirror Brown Teapot
Some of the dinnerware popular in the fifties was the Hull House 'n Garden dishes which came in a variety of colors including turquoise, green, orange and mirror brown with ivory foam trim. The dishes were sturdy, versatile, and oven proof and included serving platters, mixing bowls, teapots and pitchers. I collected an entire set one piece at a time when they could still be easily found. These days finding this pattern is rare.
Burgundy Lace Pattern
Going to Auctions
Auctions are a good place to learn a little about the history of each item. A good auctioneer will tell something of the story that goes with vintage pieces to entertain the audience and build up the demand. I've spent many Friday nights at Alan Jones' auction in Fort Worth, TX featuring French and English furniture brought over in shipping containers.
Tuesday nights there was an auction in Garland where the native Texas auctioneer had a great sense of humor. When the bidding got intense over a particular item he often said, "The buzzards are circling."
Most auction houses allow a buyer to register before purchasing items, with or without a tax exemption number. They issue a paper placard with a number that is used to record the items a person bids on. Contrary to what you may fear, scratching your nose will not usually obligate you with a purchase. For rookie buyers, the auctioneer often asks, "Are you waving at someone or bidding?" before they scream the word, "SOLD!".
Etched Depression Glass Goblets
Two Drawer Mirrored Oak Dresser
I even shopped during my vacation visiting thrift stores like Goodwill, Salvation Army, Donation Station, Friends of Strays, Junior League and anywhere else that looked promising. Shipping items back to Dallas was a regular activity during that week in Florida. I discovered that St. Petersburg and Clearwater are great places to find items. Many retirees who move there downsize their households to get rid of excess items.
Burl Walnut Triple Mirrored Dresser
Ribbon Candy Patterned Glassware
This patterned glass vase is from the late eighteen hundreds in a pattern called Ribbon Candy. It came from an estate sale where the seller's sage words of advice sent me into a land of discovery about items and their history.
Researching Item Values
Collector Series books were the source of values before the internet. They listed approximate market values and the history of the pattern. Items can be easily researched on line now. Finding approximate item values can be done by looking up the latest sales on eBay auctions. Be sure to check the sold prices rather than checking the list or asking price. An item is only worth what the market will bear.
Tobacco Items and Old Rotary Dial Telephone
Do you enjoy shopping at collectible, antique or thrift stores?
Vintage LP Album - Elvis' G.I. Blues
Jewel Tea Mixing Bowls
English Oak Bookcase
Rookwood Vase from 1907
My best purchase came from a local thrift store for under ten dollars. Comparable Rookwood Items in this style are valued around a thousand dollars. The vase has a distinctive manufacturer's mark on the bottom with the Roman Numerals VII, indicating the year 1907.The embedded letters, KVH, stand for the artist Katherine Van Horne who signed the piece listed in Kovel's Collectible Value Guide.
This is the kind of bargain you might hope to find when shopping. But for me, the hunt for treasure will always be the best part.
Gemini Ranch Collectibles and Furniture
Shutting Down the Store
"You'd better get down here," she said. "Downtown is on fire." The phone call came from one of my neighboring merchants at midnight when we sat together on the sidewalk and watched the stores burn. We weren't allowed inside our stores while firefighters from three local stations battled the blaze. Hampton cleaners, next to my store, suffered extensive smoke damage when the uninsured candle shop next to them burned completely to the ground. The next day another fire raged across the street affecting several more buildings with extensive smoke and water damage.
Reconstruction took a full year during which businesses like mine dwindled and others closed. The cause of the fire was eventually determined to be faulty electrical wiring. A year after the devastating fire broke out, I closed my business for good and continued working my day job.
© 2012 Peg Cole