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You Don’t Have to Get Up Early to Score Great Items at Thrift Store Sales

by Bryan Goodman and Jason T. Smith (06/17/13).

This vintage picnic basket was a real surprise to find 2 ½ hours into a thrift store sale. Based on the tag, it had been out for a week and was still available for only $11. The bottom divider was still inside, making it more desirable. With some quick research on the WorthPoint app, we see this is a $100 basket every day of the week.

The early bird gets the worm, but the bird who sleeps in can find some cool stuff, too.

A thrift store having a 50-percent-off sale can spread fear for some and cause elation in others. Regardless, this is what you can expect:

• At least a half an hour before opening, there will be a line, as many eager people will be waiting to trounce on a deal;
• All shopping carts will be scooped up within minutes of opening;
• A massive number of people will be moving throughout the store like children hunting for eggs on Easter.

Sound like fun? To us it is.

Every time Savers has a 50-percent-off day, we make sure we are first in line. Luckily, there are six Savers in Las Vegas and on sale day our only dilemma is which one to shop at first. Over the course of 12 hours, we hit all six stores and fill our SUVs to the point of bursting.

About 10 months ago, something happened. We realized we have enough product to list and last us for 18 months. We do not need to thrift all six stores on sale day. But trying to resist sale day is hard. Not wanting to pass up a sale, we developed a new plan: Let’s not rush, meet for a late breakfast, and then saunter into our favorite Savers around 11:30 a.m., a few hours after opening.

A good idea or just a waste of our time? No rush, no hustle and bustle, we just took our time. We easily grab a couple of carts (because by now, the early riser had left). Now it was our time to shop at our own pace. And guess what? There was still tons of great stuff to buy and flip.

This was the most relaxed sale day shopping we had ever experienced. We were confident we would find stuff, but were still amazed at the good acquisitions we made. This happened for two reasons: 1) They bring out new items to the floor all through the day; and 2) Many shoppers are looking for themselves, family or just to decorate their homes and buying for resale is not on their agenda. It is also a plus that we use not only our trained eyes, but quickly research for profitable items on our WorthPoint iPad app.

The following is about half of what we found, how much it cost, why we bought it and what we expect to sell it for.

1) Vintage Redmon:

• Picnic basket ($11): This was a real surprise. Based on the tag, it had been out for a week and was still available 2 ½ hours into sale day. The bottom divider was still inside, making it more desirable. With some quick research on the WorthPoint app, we see this is a $100 basket every day of the week.

T-shirts can be picked up for a couple of dollars. If they have key words or images on them, they can be resold for $20 or more.

2) T-Shirts:

• Life Is Good with golf theme ($2): Life is Good always sells, and the added keywords of golfing will boost the price and we’ll sell it for $22;
• Two Slipknot T’s ($2 each): A nine-member metal band that wears assorted masks on stage has a rabid fan base, affectionately referred to as “maggots.” Knowledge of a new album and tour slated for next year, estimates a selling range of $20-$25;
• Lamb of God T-shirt and a Cradle of Filth T-shirt. Two extreme metal bands which will sell around $22, probably to Europe;
• Tommy Bahama Rum T-shirt ($2): Obvious good brand, and the rum isn’t being produced anymore, making this shirt a bit of a rarity. Sell for $21;
• Hellraiser Pinhead T-shirt ($1.50): This one features a bunch of characters from the underground horror franchise of nine movies (and counting). Key to selling this shirt for more money than other sellers is to list many characters in the title. Sells for about $21.

These three Hawaiian shirts—including the red one on the bottom right like the one worn by Tom Selleck in the “Magnum P.I.” television show—will turn a nice profit.

3) Hawaiian Shirts:

• New Tori Richard ($6.50): Tori is a higher-end brand for the discriminating Hawaiian-shirt-wearer. Should be a seller at $40, but with original tag, will sell for $50
• New Hilo Hattie with tags ($5): Middle of the road, well crafted, mainstay in Hawaiian shirts. $40;
• Used Paradise Found Jungle Birds shirt ($4): This is the shirt that “Magnum P.I.” made famous*. Though you can still buy the shirt new for $60, we routinely get $50 for it in used condition.

A collection of warm wear. This sweater, sweatshirt and jacket will bring between $35 and $50.

4) Sweater/Sweatshirt/Jacket:

• Large track jacket ($6.50): Black with the Jamaican colors. This will be an easy sale at $45
• Winnie the Pooh sweatshirt ($3): Featuring Pooh wearing a scarf while it is snowing around him. Will sell quickly in late November fore $35;
• Phat Farm short-sleeve sweater, new with tags ($7.50): Having an original price of $64 will help sell this at $50.

5) Coffee Mugs:

• Cafe Du Monde (30¢): An institution in New Orleans for coffee and beignets. $15;
• Cowboy Stuff ($1.60): 3-D mug featuring cowboy hats, boots and lasso. $20;
• White Star Line mug (30¢): Reproduction of company that built the Titanic. $20;
• 1992 Tahoe Series coffee mug (49¢) Still researching this mug, but it seems to be from a race in the Lake Tahoe area in 1992. The shape of the handle is what originally caught our eye. Will sell for at least $20, if not more.

Coffee mugs, household and kitchen goods and advertising items can all be worth more than number on the price tag if you know what it is you are looking at.

6) Lighting:

• Stella Artois light-up sign ($6.40): It’s missing the plug ($7 to replace) but has a nice image of a pint of Stella. It will look great in home bar or man cave. $50.

7) Winter wear:

• Winter hat ($5): The kind where the flaps unsnap to cover your ears (think Elmer Fudd). Lined with weal wabbit fur. $32.

8) Household Goods:

• Emile Henry of France fondue dish with stand ($3): Wasn’t exactly sure what it was until we got home. Further research helped us identify what specifically. New, this sells for $100. We’ll sell for $50.

On a return trip to Cleveland for Jason’s mom’s 70th birthday party, he managed to squeeze in a trip to a thrift store with his folks, where his mom picked up another Magnum P.I. Paradise Found shirt for $4.

As you can see, there is a huge profit to be had on all of these items. We didn’t have to rush out of the house or fight to get a cart. It was a more relaxed sale day, yet it was a day that still yielded a great return of our time. The next time you don’t think you can get to the store by opening, don’t give up hope. Get there when you can and enjoy the scores that hundreds of others passed over prior to your arrival.

Thrift On!

Thrifting With The Boys


* Jason was working on this article during a plane ride home to Cleveland. The trip was for Jason’s mom’s 70th birthday party. His mom & dad picked him up at the airport and they all decided to go thrifting before dinner. At the first store, his mom picked up the Magnum P.I. Paradise Found shirt for $4. It is like he willed it to be there. Weird…


Bryan Goodman and Jason Smith are Thrifting with the Boys. They are motivational speakers teaching thrift store resourcing techniques at seminars throughout the country. They have a popular Facebook group devoted only to thrifting and have run thrifting excursions around the country.

WorthPoint—Discover Your Hidden Wealth

14 Responses to “You Don’t Have to Get Up Early to Score Great Items at Thrift Store Sales”

  1. Sandi Menzel says:

    Great article. Nice to know we don’t have to be first in line to get great deals. Love the “weal wabbit fur”. LOL. Nice photos too.

  2. Great article…very informative! Even a veteran thrifter like me picked a couple new pointers.

  3. Pat Lomans says:

    Sometimes buyers are so focused on acquiring specific items and in such a rush they do not see items of value in front of them. Other times, the shelves/racks need to be thinned in order to see what is there. I think this strategy works especially well when you have the confidence of experience, a full storage bin…….. and, dare I say this, a smart phone. When you can take the anxiety out of the shopping experience, you win!
    Love the article!

  4. Leo says:

    Awesome article…very informative!!! Keep them coming!

  5. Marcia says:

    Very informative! I liked the way the information was presented with pictures and reasons why the items were purchased and what the gentlemen expected to receive online when sold. Easy to read but well written, the points made clear and concise. I would like to see more articles from these “Boys”!

  6. Michael says:

    This is a great article – no matter when you get there, there’s so many things in thrift shops that sell for great profit. We used to walk right by most of them, but Jason and Bryan and the rest of the TWTB community have been a great help to us in branching out from the dress aisle!

    • Jody says:

      Yes, you can find great items, no matter what time you go to a sale. With garage/yard sales, I have gone at all times, early, mid morning, and even towards the end of the sale. We usually find great items at bargain prices no matter the time of day.Going around the sales closing time can be very productive, as the sellers are ready to get rid of everything, and you can usually bundle many items, and just offer a total low price. Most sellers will take it and be glad the items are gone. I have known other veteran “antiquers/collectors” who will take everything that is left for no price at all, and the seller is glad someone took it. Then the “buyer” sends the things he does not want to auction, or puts it in his/her garage sale. The better/good items can then be sold online, etc. Actually, it is amazing the quality/vintage items we find at yard sales, etc.

  7. Amy says:

    Informative as always! Thanks Jason and Bryan!

  8. thanks for all the information, great article

  9. Lori says:

    Great article–never thought of using Worth Point as a sourcing resource! Thanks!

  10. Celia says:

    I feel the same about estate sales. A lot of folks push to get in right away and then leave empty handed. Or they are looking for brand new items, not the mid-century stuff I love. There is still always great stuff after the rush.

  11. Ann says:

    Love the article! Useful information in a clear and concise format!

  12. Myrna Carter says:

    Another great read!!
    Thank you!

  13. Liz (Bonnie's sister from Montana) says:

    Hey Jason, Bonnie had a link to Thrifting with the Boys on her pc and I just finished reading your four Worthpoint articles. They are great! I think I need to subscribe to Worthpoint :).

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