The Most Valuable Items To Seek Out At A Thrift Store

Thrift stores aren't just the key to finding good deals on home items; they can also be a goldmine for those who know what to look for. The two types of items you should carefully seek out are vintage pieces and high-quality brands. If you're just getting started, acquainting yourself with certain styles or high-end furniture and decor brands can make sorting the trash from the treasure a bit easier. However, even if you're a newbie, it doesn't mean you won't come across something valuable. No matter which section of the store you're in, there's a chance you could find something worth more than what's written on the price tag.

Enjoying a day of thrifting can feel like an energizing treasure hunt with the right mindset. Patience is key, as it'll take some time to sift through the items and look for signs of value. For some, it's easier to spend one day going through it all, while others return regularly to tackle the search one aisle at a time. The more you research and inspect different items, the more adept you'll become at spotting worthy finds. To make the search simpler, pay attention to the list below to discover some of the most valuable items to seek out at a thrift store.

Antique globes and maps

Mapping has been around for over 5,000 years, while globes are a more recent creation, with many antiques of this kind being under a decade old. Although the vintage maps you find thrifting likely won't be as old as the pictorial system on clay tablets, plenty of treasures remain to be found. Some of these older pieces are made with high-quality materials with intricate detailing, making them unique and desirable to collectors. Additionally, antique globes and maps provide a glimpse into the past, adding to their value for history buffs. If you're lucky, you may even find a map with historical significance, like a depiction of an important battle.

Not all of these cartographic representations are created equal, however. Age and rarity are two of the biggest factors when determining an item's value. Furthermore, the current condition will play an essential role. Damage, discoloration, or missing pieces can reduce the value a bit, even if it's rare and antique. Looking at it geographically is a good place to start when narrowing down when it was constructed. For example, the Turkish government changed the name from Constantinople to Istanbul in 1930, so a map or globe with Constantinople would imply it was created before that year. You can also do a quick internet search to determine when the manufacturer made that particular globe. Globes over 100 years old are typically the most valuable.


Although many of the reads you'll find at a thrift store will likely be novels that were initially inexpensive to begin with, this doesn't mean you should skip over the book section. First editions are wildly popular with collectors, with some even selling for millions of dollars. Consider downloading a barcode scanner app to determine what your finds are worth, as each title's value greatly varies. Even if you find a popular book that's part of a mass-produced lot, it doesn't mean it's invaluable. If you catch any popular titles, check the first couple of pages to see if there's an author's signature.

An excellent starting point would be to look for classics like "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee or "The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Not only will these be easier to remember, but you have a better chance of discovering something highly prized. Even if they aren't first editions, some early releases can still get you a pretty penny. Although finding a first edition of J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit" would be unlikely, you may stumble upon the 1977 deluxe illustrated edition, which features special artwork and can be worth up to $150.

Vintage home decor

Vintage home decor and furniture may be decades old at times, but the intricate beauty tends to be timeless. With pieces from the past becoming more and more difficult to find, collectors are willing to splurge on the right items. Several factors come into play when assessing the value, such as the condition and age of the antiques. Furniture from the 18th and 19th centuries tends to hold more value than newer reproductions. Limited-production pieces, items with unique designs, handcrafted furnishings or decor, and objects made from high-quality materials are also highly sought after. Anything that took time and skill to paint, carve, or assemble by skilled artisans are prized possessions for many.

The home decor section of the thrift store tends to take up a bit of space, so it can be helpful to familiarize yourself with different historical periods and styles from those times. Look for signs of authentic aging, like patina on copper and bronze objects. Some wear and tear is acceptable and expected, though extensive damage or poor repairs may diminish the value. Examine items to see indications of human touch, like slight imperfections or paint brushstrokes. Examples of home decor brands to keep an eye out for include Frederick Cooper, Fitz and Floyd, Ficks Reed, Drexel, and Dorothy Thorpe.


It may seem unimaginable to come across an expensive piece of artwork while thrifting, but it isn't out of the realm of possibility. One man from Massachusetts purchased a small black-and-white drawing for $30, only to discover it was worth upwards of $50 million dollars (via Yahoo!). The two most important factors when determining value are the artist and the age of the artwork. A piece from a lesser-known artist may still hold value if it's an older art form, such as lithography. Familiarize yourself with different antique artistry styles and well-known creators to make it easier to spot the best pieces.

If you find a painting with a signature in the corner, enter a quick Google search for the name to see if it carries any weight. Don't forget to check the back for important information, like the painter's autograph or a list of previous owners. The material of the art can also provide clues. If you see an older-style painting on a newer-looking canvas, it may signify it's a cheap reprint. Paintings tend to be more valuable on canvas than on paper, and sketches tend to be less valuable than paintings.

Picture frames

When sifting through the artwork, don't neglect to pay attention to the frames. Sometimes, a painting may not be worth much, but the outer framing could have high-value potential. Although a nice frame could still be resold for a few extra bucks, vintage frames could earn you a decent profit. There are several designs that indicate value, such as the Renaissance cassetta, Baroque style, or the Rococo style.

To determine if you have a worthy frame or not, start by checking for signs of natural aging. For example, the wood on the back of an authentic antique should be darker and have uneven staining due to case oxidation. Pay attention to the weight when picking up the piece to examine it, too. Genuine pieces will be a lot heavier than their polyresin counterparts. Lastly, search for a label stating the creation date of the frame. It may be on a piece of paper, engraved in metal, or stamped directly on the back.

Sterling silver

Sterling silver has a timeless appeal and is often valuable because of its high quality, durability, luster, and malleability. Because of this, chipped edges, color fluctuations, and other impairments typically indicate that it's a substitute metal. Not only is silver costly on its own, but antique pieces made with it tend to increase in value over time. Additionally, rare items and those made with intricate designs will often go for more. Items made of this sought-after metal include antique silverware, dinnerware, jewelry, and home decor items, like candlesticks.

When you spot something with a silvery glimmer, you'll first want to check for the hallmarks or stamps often found on the bottom or back of the items. They'll indicate the silver content, such as "925" or "Sterling," though some older pieces may not have it. The only way to ensure its authenticity is to have it acid-tested by an expert. Because sterling silver isn't 100% pure, there may be some tarnishing, giving it somewhat of a "dirty" appearance.

Colored Pyrex

According to Food & Wine, 80% of homes already have Pyrex cookware in them, so there's a good chance you can find it while thrifting. The invention of this special glass was the first of its kind, as no other brands sold heatproof glass. Even better, it was affordable for most households. Today, these once-inexpensive dishes can sell for thousands if you find the right pieces. Some of their cookware was limited edition or has been discontinued, so collectors are more than happy to pay good money if you find them.

When looking through the kitchen aisle, pay close attention to anything with bright colors or fun patterns, as these will be the most valuable. To see if it is, in fact, Pyrex, simply check the bottom and look for the label. However, don't discount clear glass, as this signifies it's likely older and could still be worth something. You'll also notice that more vintage dishes will be slightly thinner than their newer products. To determine the worth, enter a descriptive Google search and see what it's been sold for in the past.

Old jars and bottles

The glassware aisle is seemingly neverending, with several jars and bottles to choose from, but not all of these glasses are created equal. In 2011, according to Julien's Auctions, a glass Coca-Cola bottle was auctioned for a life-changing $250,000. The value of these items varies greatly, with some only being worth $20 and others being sold for thousands. Antique jars and bottles in good condition will hold more value the older, rarer, and more unique they are.

Unfortunately, the bottles that will get you hundreds of thousands of dollars are extremely rare, some only having one in existence. So, realistically, you'll want to focus your attention on slightly more commonly available items. Your primary targets will be barber bottles, beverage bottles, medicine bottles, milk bottles, and beer or liquor bottles. Antique quart-sized mason jars can also carry more value, because many of them couldn't stand the test of time. Look for any glassware with unique shapes or designs that may signify it was handcrafted. If you're unsure, use your phone's camera to do a reverse image search.

Vinyl records

For those who still enjoy vinyl, there's nothing quite like finding your favorite artist to give you that dose of nostalgia. Even if you're in the digital age and don't listen to old records, you could be missing out on thousands by skipping this section. "There are certainly rare or original pressings, [like ones with] special colors and designs that have limited production runs," Don Inmon, head of product and brand at Victrola, shared with Martha Stewart.

Thankfully, most of the records worth the most will be from iconic bands and singers, making your search a bit less painstaking. For example, The Beatles' "White Album" sold for $790,000, because it was the first of 600,000 limited edition copies. That said, the other copies are currently on sale for a few hundred to a few thousand, so you could still get a piece of the pie. If you recognize any prominent names, search online to determine if you have a rare album or not. It's also a good idea to examine any records you find for signatures, which could easily add to the value, even those that are mass-produced.

Discontinued toys

As an adult, the toy aisle may be the last place you'd stop by when out shopping, though you may glance over and get an instant reminder of childhood when seeing an old Barbie you used to play with. Aside from sentimental value, old games and toys can be worth more than expected. Get familiar with the most popular toys of every time period so you know exactly what to look for.

When it comes to hunting down old toys, there are a few factors you'll want to keep in mind. Original packaging, complete sets, and items in excellent condition generally fetch higher prices. Star Wars action figures are extremely profitable and will get you more money than other comparable items. Other toys to keep an eye out for are Pokémon cards, original Barbie dolls, rare My Little Pony horses, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles merchandise.