Browsing a second hand store, or perhaps more properly, a secondhand store, can be a delightful way to spend an afternoon. You can find nearly anything you might be looking for, usually at a great bargain. Whether you’re searching for vintage clothing for a costume party, dorm furniture for your college student, or a favorite toy from your childhood, check out your neighborhood second hand store. You may be pleasantly surprised at the variety of items you find.
The most common type of second hand store is a general merchandise store such as Goodwill. The Salvation Army and other charities often run thrift shops as well, so ask around to find out what stores are open in your area. This type of shop is stocked entirely with donations from the community, and the merchandise offered is as varied and unusual as what you might find at a garage sale. They generally carry clothing, toys, books, household linens and décor, and often carry one-of-a-kind handmade items that you won’t find anywhere else. Some stores may sell camping and sporting equipment, medical equipment, or any variety of miscellaneous items that have been donated.
Consignment shops and flea markets operate a little differently than charity stores. The owner of the shop provides the building and the sales staff, then rents booth space to individuals who have items to sell, but don’t want the hassle of running a garage sale or placing a newspaper advertisement. The sales profits are split between the proprietor and the individual seller, so prices at consignment shops tend to be a little higher, but the quality of the merchandise tends to be higher as well. Flea markets, and some consignment shops, can be general merchandise stores with a wide variety of items available, but many consignment shops choose to specialize in one type of merchandise.
Specialty shops are a great place to look if you know exactly what you are searching for. The proprietors are extremely knowledgeable about their specialty, and may be able to locate your item from another dealer if they don’t have it in their own shop. Antique furniture is very often sold in specialty shops; collectibles and memorabilia are commonly sold here as well. Other types of specialty second hand stores might include children’s clothing boutiques, used book stores that operate on cash or trade, vintage music shops, and sporting goods resellers. The variety is endless; simply ask your friends and neighbors to find out what treasure may be available in your neighborhood.
When shopping at a second hand store, there are a few final tips to keep in mind. Nearly all second hand stores have a “no refund” policy; merchandise is sold as-is, so it is up to the buyer to thoroughly inspect the item for damage before buying it. The antique and collectible markets are glutted with fakes, copies and forgeries; if you are not sure if a particular piece is authentic, it is wise to do a little research first. If the piece is exceptionally rare or expensive, always ask an expert or an appraiser before you buy. Finally, when you find an item you simply must have, remember that prices at second hand stores are sometimes negotiable, so don’t be afraid to ask for a lower price, and you may walk out with a real bargain!