Whether searching the offerings at an estate sale or combing through the aisles of a thrift store, society is obsessed with the idea of “the find.” Every junk yard and flea market offers a real treasure hunt for anyone willing to do the work.
With the right approach, thrift store flipping – the practice of purchasing items from a thrift shop with the intent to resell them – can go from a hobby to an income stream. No, not every trip is going to yield a long-lost Picasso, but learning more about thrift store flipping just might give you the incentive to look a little closer the next time you’re checking out the local store.
Thrift Store Flipping Tips
Once you know what to look for at the thrift store, you can better seek out the buys with the most upside. Then, simply do a little maintenance and repair if necessary, clean them up, and resell them. It’s impossible to guarantee a profit, but knowing what to go for can help increase your chances of making a buck or two from your hard work.
Here are several quick tips on how to ensure you turn a profit from your thrift store finds:
- Always Check Online First. Your smartphone is your best tool when thrifting for a profit. Make sure you have a reliable connection when you’re out shopping, because the best way to ensure a profit is to perform a quick search on eBay before you buy an item. It acts as a pretty reliable barometer for an eventual selling price, and can give you a baseline to work from. If you’re not sure whether a certain item is collectible, see how many are on eBay, the average current bid, and any available past sales information. Just remember that condition can make a big difference, so base your research on items in similar condition (gently used versus new with tags, for example).
- Check for Markings. Not sure if that pottery is worth anything? Check for stamping somewhere on the piece, look up the stamp online, and see how that corresponds to resale value. Kovels is just one of many sites with a great directory of pottery stamps organized by shape and letter. If you have a piece of jewelry, you can usually find a stamp on the clasp or on the back of a pendant. Check jewelry marks against the ones on display at Lang Antiques.
- Shop High-End Locations. Higher-end areas tend to amass higher-end thrift store hauls, so you might find better-quality and name-brand goods in those neighborhoods.
- Use Discount Days. Thrift stores constantly need to rotate their inventory because of donations. Therefore, many shops have a day or two each month where items are deeply discounted to make room for the next batch. For example, my local thrift store has 50%-off days throughout the month. The less you pay, the higher your profit after flipping.
- Clean It Up. Always make sure an item can be cleaned before it’s sold. Delicate clothing with dry cleaning tags might not be a wise choice – unless it’s a high-end designer item, you’re unlikely to recoup its original cost, plus laundering. Check for stains and smells first, and turn away from any garments that need more than laundering or the application of a lint roller. When it comes to housewares, look for things that show little signs of wear, remembering that certain materials, such as glass, ceramic, and silver, might require a little polishing before selling. Again, always compare your finds to similar items online, since certain materials sell better without polishing.
- Consider Shipping Costs. Unless you get lucky, margins for thrift store flipping can be pretty slim. Therefore, anything that could cut into those margins should be avoided. Always consider how the cost of shipping can affect your bottom line – for example, you might be able to sell fitness equipment, but if it’s heavy, it’s going to cost you a lot to ship. Heavy or odd-shaped goods might work better for local resale, rather than online auction sites. The same can be said for bulky or delicate items, since you may need to pay for insurance.
Ultimately, the amount you make boils down to your research. By confirming that an item is actually worth more than the thrift store price and that you can easily sell it at its higher value, you have a pretty good chance at scoring a profit. Just remember that shipping and listing fees should be factored into the final cost of each item you purchase with the intent to sell.