By Patricia F. Doering
I drive a second hand car, wear second hand clothes, read second
hand books and watch second hand movies on a second hand TV. set. Everywhere I
go, I see second hand furniture, second hand rugs, second hand jewelry, second
hand utensils and second hand treasures -- the latter passed on and on from one
generation to another. Even one of my cats is second hand!
How many people do you know who have never visited a garage
sale, thrift shop or an estate sale? And when buying thrift store clothing in
the fifties was frowned upon (who would want to wear someone else's clothing?!),
today it's the chic thing to do. Not only is garage sale, estate sale, rummage
sale and thrift store buying the in thing to do, it's the best possible way to
find treasures and save tons of money at the same time. Where else can you find
name label clothing such as Donna Karan, Liz Claiborne, Armani or Escada
garments for around 40% less than retail? But even at that, you may have to hunt
to find expensive, name label items on sale. And although thrift store clothing
is usually far lower in price than what a vintage shop might sell it for,
finding something vintage in thrift stores may be difficult, unless you go as
often as you can or visit thrift store boutiques.
What's the difference between vintage, consignment items, thrift
store, resale or second hand items? Vintage is apparel from Victorian times--the
1800's) to the 1970s. Resale is generally used clothing or really anything for
resale -- meaning it has been used one or more times. These items can be one
year old or many years old. Consignment simply means that the owner of the item
has decided to let a shop owner sell it for her (or him); the shop takes a
percentage and the rest goes to the owner. Clothing sold on consignment can be
very high quality depending upon the requirements of the shop. On the other
hand, buying in thrift stores means buying used goods -- all kinds of used goods
where some items may be only a few weeks old to those dating back to the 30's or
before. Quality depends upon the individual stores. The word "second hand"
covers all of those categories.
Certain basic guidelines are recommended for novice buyers of
vintage, resale, consignment, or second hand goods. These follow:
(1) Locate the best stores in your area: for clothing, this can
be done online through a search of such words as resale shops, used clothing,
second hand, vintage, retro or even a short description of the item you are
looking for. Local yellow pages offer referrals under the words "used clothing"
which refers you to "Used Clothes, Used Vintage, Second Hand Dealers and Thrift
Stores." (You won't find much under "Second Hand Dealers," though -- at least
not in the clothing area.)
(2) Visit one or two stores in your area for a preview: choose a
store close by (or find one in a "posh" area) that has the kind of quality you
are looking for. Talk to the owner, find out how long the store has been in
business, ask about where the clothing comes from (consignment, purchases,
etc.). Ask about return policies. And perhaps most important, talk to some of
the customers about their experiences there and ask for referrals to other
(3) Buy because you love it: while the price is important, don't
buy solely because the price is low. Buy because you're crazy about it and you
love how it looks! Be sure to try everything on for size. But be careful --
vintage garments are often frail and may tear easily.
(4) Thrift store shopping: try to shop in thrift stores on
Tuesday through Friday but seldom on the weekends. Why? Because the stores have
more time to price and sort by the end of the week and secondly, on the weekend
you'll be in competition with weekend shoppers. Our favorite day is Thursday.
Ask about special sales and discount days for students, the military and
seniors. And check every item carefully before purchasing. Stains can be hard to
see in some of the moderately-lit stores. As a result, ask if the store has a
return policy; some do and some do not.
(6) Consignment shopping: if you are searching for top-of-the-
line clothing, it again pays to pick a store in a very good area. Wealthy women
consigning clothes will probably choose the closest store to their residences.
Go "off season" or halfway through the season when the owner may be tired of
what she is wearing. For consignment furniture, you will need to visit several
stores to find the kind of quality you desire. You can save lots of money in
furniture consignment stores. And in many cases, the furniture looks almost
brand new. Inventory changes often, so go often. And as persistent second hand
shoppers say: "go early and go often." And, happy shopping--enjoy yourself (and
all of those treasures)!
Patricia F. Doering is a publisher and editor of several San Diego, CA
SECOND HAND NEWS, an online newsletter which is currently available free of
http://www.bargainlink.com/newsletter/index.htm She was formerly a public
is a published writer of travel and bargain shopping articles and is listed in
Who's Who in Communications.