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Great Secondhand Shopping Finds

Updated on January 2, 2015

Secondhand Gold Mine

Secondhand shops - thrift, consignment, and vintage stores to name a few - can be found almost anywhere. Furniture, clothing, art, housewares, building supplies, and so much more can be found if you open your mind to the possibilities. And it does take an open mind! If you like the shiny and new, you might be disappointed. However, shiny and like new is out there for anyone willing to look for it.

To help you see the potential out there, I'm sharing my favorite secondhand shopping finds. I'll update this as I make new discoveries, so check back often.

Wool Sweaters for a Project
Wool Sweaters for a Project | Source

The R.E.L.I.C.S. Thrift Shopping Method

Whichever kind of shopper you are, there is and art to it. Author, Ronda Polhill, wrote The R.E.L.I.C.S. Thrift Shopping Method, a quick read that outlines how to find high quality thrift store gems and for those who are interested, resell them through a variety of markets. I really like her idea of a "running start" so new sellers don't have to learn the hard way like she did.

The Two Minds of a Thrift Shopper

Grocery Shopper vs. Treasure Seeker

I like to split my mind into two parts (figuratively of course) when I'm thrift shopping.

The Grocery Shopper - I have list of what I'm looking for. I'm on a mission. My expectations are still pretty broad, but I know what to look for - such as the wool sweaters pictured here that I found for a project . I may or may not find the right match even for open-ended criteria, so when I'm thrift shopping, I'm also not on a timeline. I may have to go back 4 or 5 times to find just the right thing.

The Treasure Seeker - My inner gold miner is digging for any shiny thing to catch my eye that I know I have a place for. The treasure seeker sometimes has to be reined in, because I can find things I love, but if I don't have a place for them when I get home, they will soon find their way back to a donation bin. That being said, several items I'm sharing here were found with my treasure seeker's eye while I was looking for something completely different.

Which one are you (most of the time)?

If you're a thrift shopper, what's your favorite strategy for finding treasures? And why?

Print by artist, Nancy Nemec
Print by artist, Nancy Nemec | Source

Original Artwork - "To Wit To Whom?"

This is one of my all-time great finds. I was sifting through the picture frames at Goodwill when I came upon this original intaglio print. I recognized it for what it was because my Dad is an artist and specialized in this art form for a time. This print was numbered and signed. I hadn't heard of the artist before, but I immediately loved the owl print with a little bit of a retro feel. I was powerless to walk away from it. When I got home, I looked up the artist, Nancy Nemec, and learned she was a reasonably well-known artist from New Hampshire who died in 2003. Her print was worth much more than the $7 I paid for it, and it's a beautiful addition to my personal art collection.

Intaglio Printing Process

My dad has a whole studio with all of the tools of this impressive process in the basement. Art meets chemistry in this amazing art form!

Hardanger by M. Lobenstein
Hardanger by M. Lobenstein | Source

Frame Your Own Work for Less

A few years ago, a friend taught me how to do hardanger stitchery, a traditional Norwegian form of stitchery involving simple embroidery and cutwork. I thought my first piece deserved just the right frame, but I couldn't afford the cost of professional framing.

It took a few visits but I finally found just the right frame. Originally, it was a commercially framed Beatrix Potter print, but it didn't take me any time at all to remove the original contents, stretch my stitchery on a mounting board, and have it hanging on the wall in my home. I don't think I could have found a more perfect frame if I had gone to the frame shop and paid 20 times what I did for this one.

Tossed & Found: Where Frugal is Chic
Tossed & Found: Where Frugal is Chic

From decorating your home to dressing yourself in style, this book has tons of information for how to do it affordably with thrift shopping and a sharp eye. Tossed and Found is highly rated on Amazon and is a great resource for the new thrift shopper!

Antler earrings by M. Lobenstein
Antler earrings by M. Lobenstein | Source

Repurposing Jewelry Components

I love to look at the quirky jewelry that ends up at secondhand shops. The shops are getting a lot better at recognizing quality pieces and have begun to charge bit more, but who wants to pull apart and repurpose the really high quality pieces anyway? No, this post is for the unique pieces that might be missing a clasp or in their original form are just too out of date to be saved.

I made these earrings from two beads I took from a seriously eclectic necklace that didn't know any more if it was earthy or kitschy or just plain ugly. Any guess what material these beads are? They're a weathered cross section of deer antlers, and I think they make a simple, woodsy looking statement that complements almost any outfit.

Secondhand Neckties

Two Necktie Roses made by M. Lobenstein
Two Necktie Roses made by M. Lobenstein | Source

The Big Ass Book of Crafts

Or another great place to find patterns and tutorials for necktie and other upcycle crafts is The Big Ass Book of Crafts by Mark Montano. It is on of my favorite go-to sources for inspiration and instructions for everything from clothing to home décor and more.

He does so much with upcycled items, it's exciting just to page through it!

You may be noticing a trend here. I love crafting with secondhand articles. And neckties are among my current favorites. So much so that I made these roses from neckties and a little hot glue. I also searched until I found more than 100 other creative projects and inspirations to use them for.

Visit 101 Recycled Necktie Craft Projects You Have to Try in 6 parts including bags, clothing, accessories, home décor, holiday décor, and a hodge podge.

Fishing for Cookie Jars


One thing you can always find at secondhand shops are cookie jars. Some are cool. Many are not! This happens to be one of the cool ones (at least I think so). I use cookie jars around my house to hold things like t-shirt rags for quick clean-up jobs and other small things that just need to be contained. I am able to match each one to the décor of the room and have fun with it. Click here for my article A Cookie Jar in Every Room - Cute, Kitschy, and Oh So Practical".

In doing a little research, I'm pretty sure this one is a Brush Pottery cookie jar. Some of these cookie jars sell for up to $100 in perfect condition. Mine has a few small chips so it probably isn't worth much in any antique or auction market, but it looks really fresh and fun on a shelf in my wine rack.

Great Stuff at Amazon

Secondhand Chic: Finding Fabulous Fashion at Consignment, Vintage, and Thrift Shops
Secondhand Chic: Finding Fabulous Fashion at Consignment, Vintage, and Thrift Shops

If you're not sure what to look for when shopping secondhand, this book is a great place to start. Find out where to find quality gently used items and how to recognize them when you find them!


Cute, Convenient, and Economical

Repurposed Wool Sweaters

There are plenty of documented uses for wool sweaters, so don't despair if you accidentally tossed your favorite sweater in the dryer. I like to look for wool sweaters secondhand (they frequently end up there because of the shrinkage, called felting). I wash the sweaters again in hot water and dry them in a hot dryer when I get them home to felt them as far as I can. This process tightens the wool fibers and shrinks them down, making the wool durable and easy to cut apart for repurposing. People always ask me if I made the design on this bag, and I tell them "No way. I would never work that hard." The work was already done for me.

I made this bag from a Colors de Benetton sweater that was solid charcoal gray with that funky pattern across the bottom and the cuffs of the sleeves. I just incorporated it into my bag design. My next wool project? A queen-size patchwork quilt. I can't wait to snuggle under it on a cold winter's night.


Thrift Store Jenga Becomes a Camp (or Family Fun) Tool

I lead a summer camp every summer for about 40-50 young people. I'm always on the lookout for new tools to use as ice breakers, rainy day activities, and to get feedback on how the camp went. I spotted this Jenga game at a local thrift store and inspiration struck. I remembered seeing Jenga used as a tool to test student's knowledge of what they had learned during an activity. I spun that and have now customized one game to be an all-in-one get to know you or evaluation game.

Visit Customize Jenga for Camp Ice Breakers and Evaluation to learn more about how I did it.

Link Party Connections

Here are parties and blog hops this page is linked to. Click on any of them to find hundreds more ideas, recipes, crafts, and much more!

Some readers might still need to be convinced that great things can be found at thrift stores and that the time sifting through the "junk" (remember, one person's trash is another person's treasure) is completely worth it. So please share...

© 2012 Monica Lobenstein

What's the coolest thing you've ever found at a thrift store?

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    • Zeross4 profile image

      Renee Dixon 4 years ago from Kentucky

      There is nothing more exciting than a day out thrift shopping! This is something I enjoy SO much. I never leave empty handed, and find all kinds of great stuff. This is one of my passions, so glad to find someone who also enjoys it! One of my favorite finds were some vintage Moses bookends for $1.00 that I resold on Ebay for close to $90.00! I was able to find my baby some very nice outfits at our local thrift store (about 10 outfits) for just $10.00, some great brands and they looked brand new. One of the outfits alone would have cost that much at a retail store (probably more though). Loved your lens!

    • CrazyHomemaker profile image

      CrazyHomemaker 4 years ago

      I'm a huge fan of thrifting. Great lens!!! The coolest thing I found was an Oneida silver plated platter for $2. I get designer clothes at a great price. Also I mix and match sheets unless I can find a whole set.

    • lesliesinclair profile image

      lesliesinclair 4 years ago

      Nice idea for using Jenga and a whole bunch of other swell ideas!

    • jacquiobrien profile image

      jacquiobrien 5 years ago

      I love thrift stores too! I like to get clothes for all my family, books, CDs, DVDs and craft materials such as knitting yarn.

    • Carpenter76 profile image

      Carpenter76 5 years ago

      Love second hand stores :) yesterday my sister (also loves it) found me a goblet from Greece.

    • hungry-deer profile image

      hungry-deer 5 years ago

      Some very cool and rare vintage clothing and nice antique pottery. I love them very much. Great lens!

    • lbrummer profile image

      Loraine Brummer 5 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

      One of the many ways to save money. Garage and estate sales are a couple of other opportunities to find real treasures. Blessed!!

    • MikeRobbers LM profile image

      MikeRobbers LM 5 years ago

      books... I've bought dozens of them from second hand stores and i gotta say the feeling is great.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Terrific lens, super job!

    • Countryluthier profile image

      E L Seaton 5 years ago from Virginia

      Great lens! Blessed by COUNTRYLUTHIER, a kindred spirit when it comes to thrift.

    • Lynda Makara profile image

      Lynda Makara 5 years ago from California

      I love going to thrift stores too. It's a thrill when you find hidden treasure. Once I got a vintage Swarovski crystal necklace and bracelet for $6!

    • Teapixie LM profile image

      Tea Pixie 5 years ago

      Designer clothes that I could never afford otherwise. Honestly, there are days when I stand in front of my husband and say, "This shirt is from so and so, this skirt is from the second-hand store, the shoes are from my mom. I did buy my underwear first hand!" And then I laugh and laugh. I love second hand. I want to try your sweater bag - great idea.

    • profile image

      antoniow 5 years ago

      Fantastic lens, I really enjoy it! Squidlike

    • ForestBear LM profile image

      ForestBear LM 5 years ago

      thrift stores are great! Have found many great things over the years. Cool lens, thank you for sharing

    • AcornOakForest profile image

      Monica Lobenstein 5 years ago from Western Wisconsin

      @Virginia Allain: I agree. It's totally guilt-free and if I decide I don't want something later, I can take it back. Most days, I'm only out a small donation to a good cause.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 5 years ago from Central Florida

      My husband always says, "we don't need anything," but I find terrific vintage or one-of-a-kind things in thrift shops and yard sales. So much fun and it doesn't cost that much.

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 5 years ago

      Oh my, one can never tell what they will find secondhand and in thrift stores. It is an adventure, for sure!

    • kristalulabelle profile image

      Kristen 5 years ago from Wisconsin

      LOVE thrift store shopping. The better deal I get, the more excited I am!

    • Pam Irie profile image

      Pam Irie 5 years ago from Land of Aloha

      What a cool page! Thrift shopping is one of my favorite pastimes! The neatest thing I've gotten from a thrift shop....honestly, I couldn't pick just one. :)

    • AcornOakForest profile image

      Monica Lobenstein 5 years ago from Western Wisconsin

      @Scarlettohairy: Thanks for the visit and the like! I looked up Majolica... Beautiful pieces! I love the bright colors!

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 5 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      I have found so much cool stuff. The coolest? Maybe my Majolica chicken and ducks. They are gorgeous! Your stuff is way cool!

    • profile image

      trendydad 5 years ago

      secondhand can be the best in most cases, nice lens

    • profile image

      Tarra99 5 years ago

      We call the thrift shop the "treasure store"...cause you never know what you'll find. My hubby just found 2 dehumidifiers for my co worker for $4.50 each...and they work! :o)