Yes, it’s true. Thrift stores can be department-like but full of junk.
I swear, people will throw anything away without even looking at it’s condition. And since thrift stores’ goods are donations, the employees don’t bat an eye. There have been some really gross clothes, furniture and knick-knacks at my local thrift joints.
However, if you can spend a bit of time and really use your eyes, there are some great finds. A lot of things can still be in the package or have original tags.
Recently, I have built quite a collection of thrift store purchased movies. Even more recently, I have started to compile a book collection. It is like going into a library! (A very unorganized library…)
So here are my tips about starting movie and book collections from your thrift store…
#1 Check the Quality of DVDs
Yes, you CAN purchase DVDs at a thrift store.
Like shopping for any used item, you must meticulously check the quality of the DVD you want to purchase. And sometimes, there won’t even be a disc inside the case because unfortunately, people steal.
When I find a flick that I would like to buy, I open the case to see if a disc is inside. Then, I pop it out to check the back. Again, like other used items, there may be a bit of light scratches or scuffs on the DVD.
I will usually buy it if the scuffs are barely visible or if there are fingerprints I can wipe off. Some discs are just dirty with who knows what on them and could be cleaned as well. And other discs have big scratches and filth on them, and are really not worth the trouble.
See the difference?
The choice is ultimately yours on which discs you deem worthy of your purchase. 😉 I think the highest I have ever paid for a secondhand movie is $5 and that is actually high! If you’ve read my previous Thrift Store Tips article, you know that there are sales at these places. So a movie “regularly” priced at $2.99 would be $1.50 at 50% off. In my book (besides free of course), that is the best price for a lightly used, sometime new DVD.
#2 Creating Your DVD Collection
I have found quite a collection of movies at thrift stores; some don’t even look like they were every used. I even discover a couple of DVDs that were still in the plastic from the original store. SCORE!
Now, if you go “thrifting” as often as I do, you could spend A LOT of money on movies. If you can control yourself, maybe only buy up to 5 each time you shop. Even better, set a budget for your movie spending for each thrift store trip. There may be other things that you really need more one week and so your “extra” may be less.
If you like/love lists, then write out the flicks you want to find. A list is a great reference for what you want (or your kids would want), and you can cross out ones you have purchased. Sometimes it is easier on my busy brain to write these things down because I often cannot remember what I have at home. I was in a Chick Flick mood awhile back and when I started looking out for that genre, that practically flew off the shelves. However, it wasn’t until I made a list that I could keep track of what I had and didn’t (no more head scratching).
At a store like Best Buy or Target, you probably would never buy that many movies (unless it is Black Friday). However, since you would only spend $5 max on a movie, you could purchase many more than you would at retail price. And, if all you want to look for on your next secondhand shopping trip are movies, than start up that stockpile!
And course, you will shop when there is a sale. 😉 Doing this, you could possibly get new or only slightly used movies for $1.50 a piece! Slowly but surely, you will have an amazing collection of “new” thrift store movies.
Entertainment at budget prices is the best!
#3 Check the Quality of Books
There are a few more specs needed when checking a book’s quality. You have the cover, pages AND binding to check.
A lot of people write their names on the inside of the book cover or on the first page. That really isn’t a big deal because it won’t affect reading the book. Glance and flip through the book to see if you notice any writing or underlining. However, if it is crazy marked up and highlighted, I won’t buy it (it would be too distracting).
Hardcovers are more well liked than paperback books because you can read them more than one time before the book starts to break down. The binding can still break but they are a bit more “hardy”. Open the book and look at its’ spine. Sometimes they will be ratty or even unattached from the pages. You have to decide if it is worth buying in this condition.
I have been trying to find hard covers of the Harry Potter series for awhile, but because they are so popular, it has been difficult. A month ago, I finally found one (even though it was the 3rd book). I was so excited that I only flipped through the pages and didn’t even look at the binding. When I got home, I discovered the majority of the pages were unattached to the rest of the book (it was only $2 so that’s not a big deal for me). However, overall this hardcover book is in great condition, and I’m sure I can glue this section back together.
Paperbacks are probably more readily available at your thrift store because they are cheaper. They will either be brand new or look like they got chewed up by the family dog. The quality (either good, fair or bad) is more obvious when you look at paperbacks. I usually only go for them if there are no creases on the spine because that means they haven’t been read yet.
Like DVDs, there are many books that are still brand new from their original store. It is not as easy to tell because most books don’t get wrapped in plastic. So you have to use your judgement more when looking at book quality. But they will usually be “new” if there are no creases, no writing, no paper-yellowing, and (unfortunately) no book smell. 😉 Some people donate books they received as gifts or one they bought years ago and never read. So there is a good change there are mass amounts of unread books at your secondhand store.
At one of my local thrift stores, they have a antique/classic book section. You can be more lax with the quality in this section because these books CAN be very old. However, most of these old classics are in fairly good condition. Most people take very good care of their books, especially one that are already old! These are the books with the smell! The first thing my mom does when she is looking for books is smell them. 🙂 This section will also have classic novels or poetry you can add to your collection (Dickens and Austen, here I come!).
#4 Creating Your Book Collection
Some sections will have multiple copies of the same book because they used to be popular but people tend to only read them once (Twilight anyone?). However, if you have to choose between a book you have been looking for (when there is 1 copy) and one that always has multiple copies, it’s obvious what choice you will make. 😉
A lot of people will buy a book, read it once, and then donate it. So there could be a whole series or collection by a specific author sitting on the shelves at a secondhand store. I found multiple series I knew were donated by the same person because they quality is consistent and their name or stamp is inside the cover. There are times when you may score and find an entire series all together, but most likely you will have to go “hunting”.
As with finding DVDs, it seems to work better for my brain to write a list of the books I want to find. The perfect example of why you should write them down happened to me last week. Earlier I mentioned I have been looking for books from the Harry Potter series. Last Saturday (I left my list..grr), I found the 6th book and I was 99% positive I did not already have it. I purchased it, came home, and there it was on my bookshelf. BIG sigh…at least it had been half off so I only spent about 3 dollars. However, on the plus side, the one I just bought was in way better condition than the one from a previous secondhand purchase. 🙂
Collecting a specific series can be difficult because there are others out there like us who may be looking for one book in series. Then, you might find the 1st and 3rd book, but the 2nd and 4th are nowhere to be found. If you are looking for very popular books (like Harry Potter), it is going to take time and patience to complete your collection. I am still missing books 4 and 5 of the Harry Potter series and have been searching thrift stores for months. That’s OK! Sometimes the search is fun and we are “collecting” remember?
Speaking of patience, it is necessary when you are combing through a thrift store book section. It is much larger than their DVD section, and they are not very organized. Most secondhand stores divide up books into genres which helps but series are regularly not together. Because of the size of most thrift store’s book sections, you could easily spend a few hours looking at the various books, head tilted to the side. If time is not your friend (or you have kids), stick with your list or pick only one genre/bookcase to search on one trip.
Most of the time, the children’s book sections will be smaller and easier to look through. So if you are crunched for time one trip, stick with this section because how many less books there are. I love looking at kids books because it makes me all nostalgic. And now that I have a child, I find tons of books he will get to read in the near future.
Gradually, you will begin to mark books off your list or find gems in the antique book section. With patience and perseverance, you can compile quite a unique collection of books for your home. Like with DVDs, you will get the best prices when shopping a sale at a thrift store. A very thick and in-good-condition book could be $7-$8 “regularly” priced, but on sale at %50 they would on be $3.50-$4. For books at a retail price of $30, this is an ABSOLUTE STEAL! Some stores have a clearance book section where you can find good reading material for $0.50!
I hope these tips are helpful as you secondhand shop. Remember, the list is super helpful when you are collecting. AND, ways to entertain you and your family doesn’t have to be expensive!
Let me know in the comments if there are other tips you find helpful when shopping at thrift stores. 😀