Sifting Through Other People’s Junk (Part 2)

Some fly guys.

Thrift stores, thrift stores, thrift stores…how I love and hate you. So, so much. Thrift stores are often many a teens first step into buying used goods, and it’s a habit that continues into adulthood.

Truth be told, I didn’t start thrifting until I went off to college. We had a few different thrift stores around: Humane Society, Goodwill, and YMCA. The Humane Society and YMCA were my absolute favorites. Since then, thrifting has become a full-blown hobby for me. Looking through crap people no longer wanted or needed for discounted prices is awesome! I frequent thrift stores far more often than I do flea markets (see Part 1 of this series on Flea Markets).

I used to visit the Humane Society shop next to my apartment so much that they would recognize me when I came in. Eventually the guy who ran the place would even let me in the back to go through movies they hadn’t gotten to putting on the shelves yet. Someone had passed away and his family donated boxes of Blu-rays—many weren’t even opened!

Can’t escape the Hokies

What I Usually Look For

When I go to thrift stores, I usually keep an eye out for three main things in particular: stereo equipment, tools, and office furniture. Of course, I look for other stuff (like music), but these are the big ones. Heck, I managed to find three guitar stands for $15~ at one of my local shops. Sometimes you’ll also find straight up goofy stuff that’ll make you chuckle.

Can I interest you in a steering wheel?

Audio Equipment

Stereo equipment is one of those absolute crap shoots. Knowing what is worth buying and what isn’t is like the Wild West. A LOT of what people donate could be best described as “Black Plastic Crap.” The subreddit r/blackplasticcrap is dedicated to weeding this stuff out. I’ll most likely talk about stereo and audio equipment down the road anyways.

Quintessential example of black plastic crap

Within this set of junk, I look for turntables and speakers. Occasionally I’ll find a sick CD player, tape player, or receiver. In fact, I currently use an ancient Yamaha I found at a Goodwill for my home theater. GOOD speakers and turntables are harder to find at thrift stores. The Klipsch KG3.5 I’ve been using for years I got at a local thrift store (who now is massively overpricing a lot of stuff). They’re still in great condition and sound amazing. My current record/CD set up is using some old Yamaha CD/Receiver shelf head unit I found in a Jacksonville shop. Although good finds can be hard to come by, finding them makes it worth it. Having an entire second-hand system is just cozy.

An overly dark picture of my current record/CD set up


New tools are expensive. I’m lucky in that my dad and grandfather have and had lots of tools. But as I dive deeper into hobbies, I need to find more and more. Thrift stores can be great for these! Few months back I found an old Black + Decker Workmate, and it works a charm. People will donate the strangest tools and sometimes really nice ones. I only recently started looking for tools, but finding something to give a second chance and isn’t from Harbor Freight feels good. Garage organizers can be had for CHEAP at thrift stores too! I really should mount the work light I bought…

Office Furniture

Now this category is A LOT harder to find. The standard desk and chairs you’ll find at your local shops will usually come from places like Office Depot or Staples. Chairs that hurt your back and bottom; desks that’ll fall over if you sneeze on them; and bookshelves that can barely even support their own weight. HOWEVER, sometimes you’ll find killer deals.

A few years ago, back when offices were shedding a lot of equipment because of COVID, a bunch of Herman Miller sit/stand desks started appearing at my local Habitat for Humanity shop. I nabbed one for something like $80! Sure they’re an older model, but I simply swapped out the top for a bamboo one and had a custom Herman Miller desk for under $300 (see my post on how I love DIY The Art of DIY – CHRSCRDR). This has been an extremely sturdy desk and the only way to make it better would be making it bigger. Sadly I’m limited on space. Keep an eye open and you can often find nice wooden desks, large metal ones, and old office get ups.

El cheapo Herman Miller with original top

Another piece of office furniture you can OCCASIONALLY find at thrift stores that’s worth getting is a nice desk chair. I’m not talking those crap gaming chairs or office supply store chairs, but stuff like Steelcase, Herman Miller, and Hayworth. These are the diamonds in the rough. Usually these get scooped up by office liquidators but the odd one show up here and there as donations from a home office.

Increasing Costs

Since thrifting became a huge thing, prices in thrift stores have started to go up. This is for a few reasons: flippers, online sales, increased costs of operation, higher traffic, etc.

Flippers are the bane of my existence with thrift shops. Sure, I’ve bought a few items here and there that I ended up getting rid of, but some people try and turn it into a side gig. I remember local dude would buy up almost all the half decent stereo equipment then post it on Craigslist (a website that’ll I’ll talk about in a future post). Pretty sure it annoyed the people who run the shop too. A lot of decent stuff has increased in price there tenfold, and often the pricing dude will put ACTIVE eBay listings to “justify” the price. Like, guy, these prices mean nothing; look at the SOLD listings first. It’s absurd when a thrift store prices things like an antique shop as well. I’ve seen furniture they get for free marked at over $750 because of who made it and then a piece of paper showing an internet price. So many expensive things will stagnate there until they hit the 50% or 75% discounts because of this.

Inflation has definitely hit thrift shops as well. Considering many fund missions, local projects, and charities, it’s no wonder prices climb.

Regardless, I’ll continue to check out my local thrift stores on a probably weekly basis…I promise I don’t have a problem! In my next post I plan on talking about pawn shops. I look forward to seeing you there!

The End (of this post)

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