Enjoy shopping at thrift stores, yard sales, and flea markets, and want to try your hand at buying things to flip? Here are the best (and easiest) things to buy and resell for a profit.
If you’re considering reselling thrift store finds, then make sure that you opt for items that are going to sell well and valuable items too.
The term “Thrift Store Flipping” refers to buying something from a thrift store with the plan to resell it for a higher price.
Thrift Store Flipping Tips
Once you know what to look for at the thrift store, you can better seek the buys with the most upside. Then, simply do a little maintenance and repair if necessary, clean them up, and resell them.
It’s impossible to guarantee a profit, but knowing what to go for can help increase your chances of making a buck or two from your hard work.
Here are several quick tips on how to ensure you turn a profit from your thrift store finds:
Always Check Online First
Your smartphone is your best tool when thirsting for a profit. Make sure you have a reliable connection when you’re out shopping because the best way to ensure a profit is to perform a quick search on eBay before you buy an item.
It acts as a pretty reliable barometer for an eventual selling price and can give you a baseline to work from. If you’re not sure whether a certain item is collectible, see how many are on eBay, the average current bid, and any available past sales information.
Just remember that condition can make a big difference, so base your research on items in similar condition (gently used versus new with tags, for example).
Check for Markings
Not sure if that pottery is worth anything? Check for stamping somewhere on the piece, look up the stamp online, and see how that corresponds to the resale value.
Kovels is just one of many sites with a great directory of pottery stamps organized by shape and letter. If you have a piece of jewelry, you can usually find a stamp on the clasp or on the back of a pendant.
Check jewelry marks against the ones on display at Lang Antiques.
Shop High-End Locations
Higher-end areas tend to amass higher-end thrift store hauls, so you might find better-quality and name-brand goods in those neighborhoods.
Use Discount Days
Thrift stores constantly need to rotate their inventory because of donations. Therefore, many shops have a day or two each month where items are deeply discounted to make room for the next batch.
For example, my local thrift store has 50%-off days throughout the month. The less you pay, the higher your profit after flipping.
Clean it Up
Always make sure an item can be cleaned before it’s sold. Delicate clothing with dry cleaning tags might not be a wise choice – unless it’s a high-end designer item, you’re unlikely to recoup its original cost, plus laundering.
Check for stains and smells first, and turn away from any garments that need more than laundering or the application of a lint roller.
When it comes to housewares, look for things that show little signs of wear, remembering that certain materials, such as glass, ceramic, and silver, might require a little polishing before selling.
Again, always compare your finds to similar items online, since certain materials sell better without polishing.
Consider Packaging Costs
Unless you get lucky or can do a fix and flip, margins for thrift store flipping can be pretty slim. Therefore, bear in mind anything that could cut into those margins. Always consider how the cost of packaging can affect your bottom line.
For example, which boxes you use can be more important than you might think. If you use a package larger than you need and have to fill it with packing material, you’ll pay more than you need for shipping.
Be Mindful of Shipping
Shipping can be a make-it-or-break-it cost for a flipping business. The larger and heavier the item, the more it will cost to ship.
Comparing your options will allow you to find the most cost-effective and convenient shipping method for your business. A few options to consider are:
Not only will ShippingEasy automate the entire shipping process with designed workflows, but they also offer you huge discounts. It doesn’t matter if you ship one item per month or thousands.
Choose the ShippingEasy Plus package, and you’ll receive up to an 85% USPS postage discount. Plus, you can try ShippingEasy free for 30 days.
Similar to the first two options, EasyShip syncs up with most selling platforms. That means once an order is placed, the shipping process can get started automatically.
With EasyShip.com, you can automate everything based on your preferences. For example, you can set custom rules that state all packages under 1 pound will automatically ship via the fastest option.
Or you can set it so any shipment within the United States ships through UPS. EasyShip.com helps make the shipping process, well, easy.
Ultimately, the amount you make boils down to your research. By confirming that an item is actually worth more than the thrift store price and that you can easily sell it at its higher value, you have a pretty good chance of scoring a profit.
Just remember that shipping and listing fees should be factored into the final cost of each item you purchase with the intent to sell.
Best Items to Turn a Profit
1. Books and Textbooks
Generally, individual books aren’t a huge moneymaker, but book lots traditionally sell very well at online auction sites.
Take for example a set of “Harry Potter” books: Used box sets in good condition (both paperback and hardcover) sell for around $30 to $50 on eBay, and you can find them considerably cheaper if you happen to snag a set in the thrift store.
Other popular box sets include “Anne of Green Gables,” “The Lord of the Rings,” “The Hunger Games,” and “Little House on the Prairie.”
Even if you find just one or two books from these box sets, they can bring in more than a typical paperback, since collectors could be looking to add to their current library.
Keep an eye out for college textbooks as well, since students might donate them without checking their resale value. Not all are worth a gold mine though, so make sure you check going rates on auction sites before investing your money in what might be an outdated reference.
2. Picture Frames
Thrift stores often have their fair share of art, and buying a piece for resale can be risky. Luckily though, if you look past the painting, you can see the proper opportunity: the frame.
Picture frames are always in high demand, especially when they’re large or ornate. When perusing racks of paintings, look closely at the frames and choose the ones in great condition. Larger frames are ideal for local sale, while smaller ones can be shipped to a happy new owner, with or without the painting.
3. Video Games
Video games can be nostalgic for gamers, and some popular titles and genres are in high demand.
Generally, the oldest and the newest games sell best, so avoid titles from outdated systems that haven’t yet gained iconic status, such as PlayStation 2 or Wii.
Games for the Atari 2600 and the Nintendo Entertainment System, on the other hand, can be in high demand.
For newer games, you might be able to make money on anything for a current system such as Xbox One, PlayStation 4, or Wii U.
4. Brand-Name Clothes or Clothing Lots
Thrift store clothing doesn’t always turn a profit – many people figure they can purchase used garments from the thrift store themselves.
However, you can drive up the price of that clothing if you search for brand names or if you’re willing to put together a clothing lot.
Brand-name garments sell well because people search for certain labels on online shopping sites such as eBay. It’s a great way for buyers to get the status of a label they love without having to pay department store or boutique prices.
Look for high-end designers like Coach, DVF, Calvin Klein, Michael Kors, and Gucci, as well as “mall brands” like Nine West, Express, Abercrombie & Fitch, and Aeropostale.
You can also opt for a clothing lot, which might bring in more cash through online auctions. For instance, assembling 10 maternity garments in the same size is likely to bring more interest than one shirt on its own.
What’s more, you can often save on shipping costs when listing items as a lot, rather than selling them one at a time. The best way to create a lot is to combine clothing of the same size and same type (such as maternity, summer clothes, or winter wear) and mix a few name brands in with lower-end items.
5. Pyrex and Glassware
Glassware is long-lasting, so you can probably find a ton at your local thrift store. However, the difference between just another set of glasses and those that can generate real buyer interest is in their status as collectibles.
Glassware lovers enjoy vintage Pyrex cookware, as well as glass in different shapes and colors, so keep an eye out for anything out of the ordinary.
If you can’t find cool blue glass or decorated cookware, look for full glass sets. A set of tumblers is usually more of a local seller than mismatched glasses listed one-by-one online.
6. Sporting Equipment
Brand-new sporting goods are expensive, so as long as they’re in good shape and without wear, rips, tears, or deterioration, people are often eager to snag items secondhand at a thrift store to save money.
These are also significant items to sell as lots since a mom with a hockey-playing kid might look for all of the gear at once.
A word to the wise, though–look for signs of sweat or unpleasant smells before you buy, since sporting goods might not be the easiest to clean.
7. Records and Record Players
Many thrift shops have an area for old records and record players, and both are highly collectible. It’s not unusual to find a record player for less than $10, and many sell for $20 to $50 on eBay.
Vinyl albums are very collectible as well–just use your online sleuthing skills and look up albums before you purchase them expressly for resale. You might be surprised at how much money diehard fans will pay for records.
8. Anything with a Tag
When making purchases to flip, a general rule of thumb is that if it has a tag, buy it. These items can be listed as “new with tags” on online shopping sites and can fetch much more than the same item in the same condition but without tags.
In fact, there’s an entire subset of online auction shoppers who only purchase items that still have their tags as a way to display their newness and lack of use.
If it has tags–whether a jacket, a pair of shoes, accessories, or housewares – you’re likely to turn a profit.
Where to Sell
The obvious choice for reselling thrift store items is via an online auction site such as eBay. It gives you access to a massive customer base and simplifies the selling process with online tools and a great mobile app.
If you have antique goods, you can also try selling them on Etsy, which is an online fixed-price marketplace for handmade, vintage, and antique items.
Amazon is becoming an extremely popular option for online sellers. If you’ve never sold on Amazon before, Udemy has an extremely popular course that walks you through how to start an Amazon FBA store on a tight budget.
If you resell often, look into local flea markets and farmers’ markets, where shoppers are looking for original antique pieces and fun knick-knacks.