Top 11 Thrifting Hacks To Find Hidden Gems

Thrifting Hacks: “Is This ‘Thing’ Worth Anything?”

We all love to hunt for treasure and hope to one day be one of those people on the news who get rich when they find some unique, rare or expensive item amongst the rubble. This quick tip guide will hopefully point you in the right direction before you end up filling your house full of junk.

1. Heavy = Good

Weight is something I find tends to indicate value well. Anything abnormally heavy can indicate more effort, design, materials required, etc. Anything that could be a precious metal when there are no other markings present like on silver or jewelry would be a good candidate for this approach. Pick it up and hold in your hand, compare it to another similar item that you are certain is not a precious metal to feel the difference. If there isn’t one, then it’s probably not valuable.

[Magnets are also a good way to “weed out” unwanted materials from the bunch because the ones you’re looking for like silver, gold, or platinum are not magnetically attracted… but neither is nickel so you rely on magnetism alone.]

Be careful when using weight to determine value because it does not apply to all categories. Some items such as old laptops (excluding the 1st-3rd generations) are not a good item to determine value by weight so do some quick research before you dive in headfirst.

2. Extra Markings

If you find brand emblems, markings or stamps on each separate piece of an item like each link of a watch, all zippers/buttons of a handbag, etc. then the item usually has more value and/or is more likely genuine unique or rare. On handbags, the high-end ones always have brand marks on each individual zipper, clasp or other metal embellishments throughout the accessory. Also look for serial numbers as this also indicates a genuine item whereas a fake may omit this trait.

3. Quality

The more finely detailed an item is or the more unique and perfect of a design displayed contributes to the rarity and value of the piece. This is especially true of more artistic figurines or other figurines or dinnerware. The quality of the artistry will be displayed inside and out on front and back, one-sided work on items usually means it holds little value.

4. Completeness

If you have a complete set of anything it is always worth more than just one piece of the set. This is true for most silverware, golf clubs and collectible cards however every once and a while the one missing one you have found is worth more than the rest of the set together so be sure to look up your items but don’t be surprised if the sole item is only worth a few bucks at best.

5. Flaws

If an item has flaws or errors like if a Pokemon card is missing a descriptive line or a baseball card is missing the name of a player then this is a very valuable item! People pay tens of thousands for these flawed pieces (not to be mistaken with broken/damaged flaws) because they are very hard to find. You can also find lists of flawed items that people are looking to buy right now on many different websites.

6. Certificates of Authenticity and/or Original Boxing

Having certificates that tell a story, gives more information or gives authenticity to the item is always more lucrative than those without. Look behind paintings and inside items to see if your item has one. Also, original boxing can be just as good as a certificate as it is essentially a certificate in itself by validating the item as genuine and can indicate a more accurate manufacturing or creation date.

7. Is It “As Old As Dirt?”

Older items that have older styles or tools used to create the item can be quite valuable as they can be more easily dated to a certain time period. More weathered items, so long as the quality is not too low, can help determine if the item is rare or collectible as well. For instance, if you find a glass challis that shows a bit of rot in the glass and is slightly lopsided the older your cup which increases its worth.

8. Signatures

Depending on who signed the item it could be worth a hefty amount of cash. Check paintings, pictures, and books especially and you could find a jackpot.

Other Things To Look For When Antiquing, Thrift Shopping, or Garage Sale Surfing:

9. Recalled Items

If you look up the type of item you have or associated brand name and the word “recall” see what items are similar have been recalled. You can then see if your particular manufacturing date or other stamp indicators have been recalled and you can usually get a full refund from the manufacturer for the item even without a receipt. Check out the CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) for recalls – you’d be surprised how many items you have in your home have been added to the list!

10. Books

Look for newer college books and medical idiopathic or identification texts like the most recent year ICM or practitioner/nursing handbooks. Scan the barcode with Shop-Savvy to see what your item is selling for and where to return it for profit. You can also go to a university library or college book store to get cash from their book buyback service for the most recently used textbooks or Chegg to ship them out for cash online. TI-83 or higher graphing calculators can also be returned for cash in this way as well. Avoid Bookscouter because although it has great reviews they really undercut the value of the item and many items you can receive profit for elsewhere instead of being given an option to “donate” the item to them.

11. Trust Your Gut!

If you’re not sure about something or if it looks like a lot of time was put into making the item or even if you just really like it and think it could be worth something, just get it. So long as it’s not breaking the bank there’s no worse feeling than passing up something that could have made you a lot of money. Of course, the downside to that is that you might similarly lose that money too. What I will usually do is I will grab anything I see of interest and then I’ll walk around with my phone to look up the value of each item to see what my profit margin would be.

Generally, I like to double my money on any investment or at least make a hundred dollars. If I don’t have my phone with me I’ll usually compare the items to each other and evaluate my desire to buy the item over another item until I narrow it down to my top 3 must-buy items. This is a good method for me because it prevents me from over-buying and avoid unnecessary or non-profitable purchases.

Helpful Tools and Apps

  1. My favorite and most used app/tool of all time is Shop-Savvy – definitely a must-have for and thrifter.
  2. Chegg, for books.
  3. Antiques and Collectibles, for pricing and identifying antiques.
  4. Ebay, to find the current market value of items.
  5. Etsy, for hand-made and craft price comparison.
  6. IAT. (Image Analysis Tools) uses your camera to identify unknown items.
  7. Google Lens also uses your phone camera for identification.

BUY iT! BYE iT! Sell your finds!

All of this aside everything is worth something to someone. Here are a couple ideas to empty your shelves of those lingering hard-to-sell items:

Bundle For Profit

If you have a bunch of items worth under $5 that you know someone would want but are not necessarily worth traveling out to get, value may arise from quantity. Gather 5-10 similar items or ones in the same general category that are worth 1-5$ and sell the lot for $20-30. Each item alone holds little to no value however when you place them together they suddenly gain value as a bundle.

Avoid Over-pricing

Don’t overprice the items – it is only worth what a pawn shop or person is willing to pay for it at the end of the day, despite what you may think or what it’s been sold for online. If you are stuck on hitting a minimum price-point for the item and don’t mind it taking up space then sitting and waiting for the right buyer to come along doesn’t hurt.

Sell A Deal

Always try to show or imply that the buyer is getting a good deal/discount or that they can turn it around themselves for a profit. People will almost always buy something if they think they can make money off of it themselves because it takes money to make money of course!

Broken, Damaged or Needs Repair

If the item is broken or you are unsure you can always sell an item for something as a “mechanics special” or “for parts” Make sure that you are clear about the problems or defects or if you don’t know what the problem is you need to let them know. You have to tell people what they are getting into so you don’t get people wanting refunds for not understanding how broken something was in reality. A good way to make sure they have read your description is just like with everything else, ask them! I hate wasting time or gas and I assume other people do too so do them and yourself a favor and ask before they take a loss by coming out to see it and before you pass up a better-suited buyer.

Top 7 Apps & Websites For Selling/Flipping Items:

  1. Offer-Up
  2. Letgo
  3. Nextdoor
  4. Craigslist
  5. Ebay
  6. Amazon
  7. Etsy

That’s all for now – good luck hunting!