If you spend a lot of time on personal finance sites, you know the value of thrift stores. From brand name clothing to appliances, they can be treasure troves of useful items that cost a fraction of what they would at a department store.
But did you know that your thrifting hobby can also be a source of income?
For many, thrift store reselling or flea market flipping is a great way to earn additional cash, build up an emergency fund, and pay down debt. With some planning and forethought, you can make those yard sale finds turn a profit.
Thrift store flipping
Once you know what to look for, sorting through piles of discarded clothing or tchotchkes becomes more manageable. While there’s no way to guarantee a profit, these tips will maximize your chances of finding an item that will sell rather than a dud:
If you think an item might be valuable, whether because of a brand name or because it just looks important, look it up online before paying for it. The eBay app makes it easy for sellers to find an items’ value while they’re still in the store. Search for similar items by including the brand or style, such as “Tiffany Lamp”. Then refine the search and look for “completed listings”. The results will show you previous versions of that item that have been listed and whether or not they sold. You’ll be able to see if an item is a high-value item or if it sold for just a few dollars.
Look for brands or markings
Even if an item looks unremarkable, it’s sometimes worth looking up its markings. For instance, there are very niche markets that eagerly look for specific china or glassware makers that aren’t household names but command high prices.
Choose your location wisely
Look for thrift stores in higher-end areas, where the wealthy residents donate better brands and furnishings. Estate sales and town flea markets can also be a goldmine for valuable inventory at low rates.
Be on the lookout for discounts
Even thrift stores discount stock to make room for new donations. From 50 percent off sales to frequent shopper discounts, ask around to see if your shop has any deals coming up.
Clean it up
A lot of clothes end up in thrift stores because of minor things like stains or a missing button. Examine each item for marks or chips and see if it’s something you can repair cheaply. For high-value items like cashmere sweaters, dry cleaning can be a worthwhile expense, and you’ll recoup the cost many times over.
Keep shipping in mind
Shipping and fees can sometimes double your expenditures, so make sure that every item that you buy can be resold for at least three times its value so that you get a decent profit. If you’ll get a smaller margin than that, it likely isn’t worth your time.
Items to look for
Some thrift store finds sell better than others. When planning your next thrifting excursion, focus on these key areas to maximize your chances of finding valuable inventory:
While individual books don’t sell very well, sets of books sell very nicely on eBay. In shops near colleges and universities, textbooks often get donated when they are worth a good deal. Check titles on your phone before purchasing to get an idea of their value.
Frames are extremely expensive and are great thrift store finds. For the most part, ignore the painting or artwork and focus on the frame. Ornate and intricate models of every size are always in demand and sell well on Craigslist.
When people clean out their kids’ room, many collectibles get discarded that are highly sought after. Breyer Horses, American Girl Dolls and classic Barbies frequently end up in thrift stores and sell extremely well online.
Dishes, pots and pans and china are great items to pick up at secondhand stores. Good brands are often donated and sit on the shelves of stores for weeks, but buyers are looking for those exact items on eBay.
Older video games, like those for the original Nintendo, have a high nostalgia value and typically get lots of bid in auctions.
Whether you plan to sell online on a site like eBay or plan to sell locally on Craigslist, thrift shop flipping can be an excellent way to earn additional income on your own time.