How to Find Vintage Items in Thrift Stores

Apr 23, 2024

Even before Macklemore made it a thing, I’ve been a huge fan of thrift store shopping. Nothing beats the opportunity to find unique and valuable items in some of the more unexpected places. Although I’ll admit, any of the thrift stores in Joshua Tree wouldn’t exactly surprise me as a source of fantastic finds.

Still, I can’t get enough of the hunt. I’m constantly intrigued and motivated by the idea of finding something rare. Plus, you never know when you might come across something that you can flip and resell at a higher retail price. 

But, not everyone knows how to find good deals at thrift stores. Honestly, it does take a bit of practice and a keen eye, as well as just knowing what to look for. So today, I’m sharing practical tips on how to find valuable vintage pieces in thrift stores. Whether you're looking to update your home or rental property, or simply love the thrill of the hunt, here’s everything you need to know!

How to Find Vintage Items in Thrift Stores

Plan Ahead

Before you head out in search of vintage pieces, make a plan. A good place to start is with a list of the thrift stores near you. You can come up with a loose itinerary to ensure you’re able to make the best use of your time and hit all the best spots. 

It’s also a good idea to bring some bags or boxes, and even some newspapers for wrapping with you, in case you need to pack things up more carefully to transport them home. 

Know What You’re Looking For

Whether you’re looking for unique home decor to decorate your space or valuable items to sell for a profit, it’s important to know what you’re looking for before you walk into a thrift shop. I recommend looking for items you are passionate about whether that be vintage kitchenware, glassware, decor, books, jewelry, and so on. 

Many thrift shops and vintage stores are filled with hundreds of items, sometimes stacked high and deep. You’ll get lost in the chaos if you don’t have specific items in mind. Enter each store with a goal in mind, that way you can direct your attention to certain areas of the store. Not only will this save you time, but also patience as you look for pieces to take home.

Closely Examine Each Item

If you have a good eye for unique and valuable finds, you’re one of the lucky ones. Most of us have to put in a bit more work to figure out the value of most pieces we come across. In these situations, it’s important to know how to research items. 

Your phone is a great tool to use when thrifting for vintage pieces. To learn more about an item, you can Google distinct markings. Or you can use Google Lens, a photo search tool where you can take a picture of the piece and compare it to similar images to learn more about it, including how much it might be worth.

Know How To Spot A Fake

Depending on what you’re looking for and what you intend to do with it, it’s a good idea to know how to spot a fake. Some dupes are easier to notice than others. And remember, just because something looks old, doesn’t mean it is. 

A fair bit of research beforehand can help, but one of the easiest ways to spot a fake when thrifting is to Google “how to identify authentic (item)” and then compare the results to the item you found. 

Thrift Often

One of the best tips I can give you on how to find vintage items in thrift stores is to go often. Many thrift stores rely on donations to stock their shelves. This means that those shelves are constantly being filled with new items. If you don’t find something (or even if you do) the first time around, keep trying. When it comes to thrifting, a bit of persistence can pay off big time.

What To Look For When Thrift Shopping

Vintage Cookware

Cookware is definitely something to look for, whether you’re hoping to add to your collection or resell it for profit. Look around for especially unique cookware, as well as certain brands, like Pyrex and Le Creuset to potentially get your hands on high-quality, valuable pieces. 

Le Creuset, a brand of enameled cast-iron cookware, is definitely something to keep an eye out for when you go thrifting. They’re usually pretty easy to spot, given that they’re typically clearly marked with the name Le Creuset.

These heavy pots last for years and years, so you might want to keep them for yourself if you find one. Or if you come across one in good condition, you might consider reselling it. Some of them are worth several hundred dollars!

Vintage Dishware

Just like with cookware, there are some pieces of dishware that can be considered great finds. Whether it’s silver or crystal, the key is to find the real thing. 

Waterford Crystal has been a mainstay in elegant dining for centuries. But not everyone is gung-ho about owning fragile, fancy, vintage glassware. 

If you’re lucky enough to find a set of vintage Waterford Crystal, grab it. But before you take it home, check to make sure that it’s the real deal. Here’s a great article on how to identify real Waterford crystal.


I’m not talking about the popular titles you can find at just about any bookstore. If you’re on the hunt for unique, vintage items, look for older hardcover books, signed first editions, and other rare finds. These make for the best bookshelf and coffee table decor. The better condition the book is in, the more valuable it’s likely to be. And, of course, if you’re not sure about the value of a book you find, Google it!

Vintage Artwork

You might get lucky and come across some rare, valuable artwork while thrifting. Since a lot of thrift stores rely on donations, people have been known to donate art without knowing its true value. 

If you come across some artwork in good condition, look for the artist’s signature or other defining characteristics that you can use to learn more about it. Even if it’s not worth much, you can find some fantastic pieces to use as decor in your home.


Flipping furniture works much the same as flipping houses. The key is to find pieces in decent condition that you can easily restore and then either use in your home or resell for a profit. 

I recommend knowing ahead of time what kind of furniture you’re looking for. And of course, make sure you have a way to get it home!

With some persistence and a bit of luck, you can find some great vintage pieces at thrift stores.

Whether you’re thrifting as a hobby or hunting for valuable pieces to resell for a profit, thrift shopping is always a fun experience. With these tips in mind, your next trip could be full of fantastic finds!

Before you go, check out my post on What is Eco-Friendly? Thrift shopping is an amazing way to support the environment and reduce your carbon footprint! Then head over to the blog for info on everything from thrifting to flipping a house for profit.