What to Look for in Thrift Stores to Resell

My post about Starting a Side Business Flipping Used Furniture seems to have been of interest.  I’m so glad!  So I thought I’d follow it up with some examples of what to look for when you’re out at thrift shops or scouring VarageSale and Kijiji.  These are the sorts of items that can be easily transformed for little investment and flipped quickly.

what to look for at the thrift store to resell

Some of these items can be picked up for only $5 or $10 and it’s numbers like that which make sure you have room for profit when you resell.  Under each image I’ll link to some examples of how these pieces can be made over.

desk redo

EXAMPLE: Secretary Desk Redo


EXAMPLE: Vintage Dresser Redo

EXAMPLE: Pink and Gold Dresser

chair redo

EXAMPLE: Craigslist Chair Makeover 

EXAMPLE: Barstool Makeover

TIP – People always need inexpensive furniture for children’s rooms.  Kids outgrow their items quickly and people often wish to find things that will suit them short term, for little investment.


EXAMPLE:  Goodwill Brass Lamp Makeover

repurposed luggage

EXAMPLE: DIY Suitcase table

EXAMPLE: Vintage suitcase bar cart.

side table

EXAMPLE: Thrifty End Table Makeover

Starting a successful business is more than an idea and some get up and go.  To make it work, you have to think about your costs, think about your customers and market effectively.  This information is meant to give you a few ideas for what to look for in thrift stores to resell so you can begin planning and thinking this over.  If it’s right for you, I hope you dive in and make some coin!  Being able to work at home has enriched my life in ways I never expected.  I wish the same for you as well.  Good luck!

*Values shown are for illustrative purposes only and will depend on the market in your area.

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  1. You gave a list of items that “could” be done, but you haven’t actually done any of this. From your earlier post, you haven’t sold ANY furniture that you’ve redone. HGTV had a show called “Flea Market Flip” where the contestants did this very thing. Bought used stuff at a flea market, redid it, and sold the redone wares. Because of time constraints, etc. they often LOST money of the deals as the artsy contestants had more imagination than is practical. Buying was “easy”, but selling was tricky. Doing something that YOU like is very different than knowing what the general buying public is willing to buy. Selling online is even worse since furniture doesn’t ship easy or cheap. Far easier to sell at a live craft show / flea market, but even still not everyone can dedicate the time to travel and have the skillz to sell face-to-face.

    • You’re right Tesla – I haven’t sold any of my furniture as I stated in my post. We are still using it all. I have bought and sold other collectibles online, however. TV shows look impressive but as you said, they are on tight timelines and don’t always make the best logical decisions – they make decisions based on what makes good tv. You’re also correct in that to make this work, your revamp jobs need to appeal to a good amount of people. Bright purple furniture isn’t going to sell as easily as white furniture. It’s interesting to note as well that sometimes a piece doesn’t even need a makeover – maybe what it needs is to be held onto until the seasons change. Something that’s bought inexpensively at a moving sale in December might sell best to a student leaving for college in the fall. The good thing about VarageSale is that it’s an online platform that reaches a local area so buyers can pick up from you or you can deliver. There are bunches of people in my local area who are doing this successfully as well as selling at live markets. A few even have brick and mortar stores.

    • I am researching how to start a furniture flip business. Your comments and thoughts are interesting and I understand your points , that being said what would you think would be a good idea for starting this type of venture ?

  2. Hi,
    I was hoping you could give me some pointers on what to consider when think about the market and customers..also the style of furniture and colors..I was thinking on sticking with black, white, and grey and also natural wood stains..I really love doing the shabby chic style but I wasn’t sure if there was a market for that.

    • There are a lot of people locally here in Calgary who sell the shabby chic style. Personally, I think that trend is slowly dying down. I don’t think you can ever go wrong with white and other neutrals. Wood stain is coming back so if you can do a great job that might be a good option too. Good luck!

  3. I have been wanting to do this for several years now. Getting ready to semi retire and need extra income. I have down loaded everything I could find on pinterest for ideas. I don’t know how may times I saw things on the side of the road of houses that was being trashed. Did not have any where to store them. But now I will and those babies are going to be mine next time! Thank you for the encouragement.

  4. That is my problem, also…a place to store everything. I am going to hit some 2nd -hand stores today to see what I can find. I began practicing this art about 4 months ago with some good results. A good idea is to use your own furniture. My lingerie dresser, end tables and wooden sewing boxes turned out great! Just an idea to get started…

    Thank you

  5. I was glad to see your idea posted in Pinterest, so read through some of the replies. I have been buying furniture pcs for several years, as well as smaller items like book shelves, bread boxes, candle holders, etc., painting and selling with good success. So far, however, I have sold only at consignment stores, but now after finding out people like my things, I am ready to branch out and live dangerously – like Craigslist…whatever. Just a note, I have used basic colors like black, gray, English brown, which sell, but found that current popular colors like coral and turquoise on a small pc of furniture – tables, benches, etc., sell really fast from my current consignment store. It’s been a lot of fun, though I don’t make as much as I supposedly would if I went on-line. Just haven’t made the change yet, but will soon just to see what happens. Prices I pay at thrift are always under $10, usually between $3 and $6…Minnesota has the BEST thrift stores ever.

    • Thank you so much for your comment Jeannie! I think sometimes people forget to look at small items. I always snag up things I know are worth more. Even Pyrex and things of that nature can make a profit if you know your stuff and what your market will pay for them. Craigslist can work but I also follow a lot of folks who sell on Etsy and on Facebook pages. Best of luck to you!

  6. I would really like to do this, especially after getting positive feedback from a couple of people who said, “you should sell your stuff.” Similar to you, I use the items around my house, such as repurposing drawers from a $5 dresser into a shelving unit in my office/sewing room. I also repainted my oak bedroom furniture that I had been storing following my divorce. In addition, I recently created a cabinet out of 4 shutters and revamped and personalized 2 end tables, giving these items to my grown kids for their use. So far, I have not sold anything, but I do post my crafts, sewing and furniture remakes on my business Facebook page.

  7. The best items I find at thrift stores to resell on ebay are kids under armour sweatshirts. I buy them for $1.49 and they sell anywhere from $15-$30. The kids sweatshirts are not only inexpensive, but they weigh less than 16 ounces so I can ship them usps first class which is also inexpensive. You can check out everything that I buy and sell at removed link.

  8. Hello,
    My husband and I started doing this recently . We sell at a flea market/antique place near Buffalo NY on weekends. It was a way to get started to see how it would go. We are on craigslist, letgo and facebook marketplace. My husband made light out of RV jacks. Invested $30 sold for $125. Also took old file drawers and made them into shelves. That was a very easy project. Paid $15 sold for $35 each. I found a french country looking candelabra for $5 at goodwill sold for $25. These are some of our successes. We are going to try some festivals next summer. We get compliments all day long. I am still looking for “my people” everyone agrees its the nicest stuff they see at this flea market. I agree with your post about the shabby chic. That seems to has slowed down here. We have sold on all the different sites so we will keep using all.

  9. I also wanted to comment here that I have started selling vintage items :). There’s a link to the shop in the top of the right hand sidebar if you wish to have a peek. At this time, I’m still not selling painted furniture though. It’s so miserable here in the winter, I don’t want to be stuck in the garage painting!

  10. As a former manager of a very well known thrift store in Alabama I can say that I have learned a lot about what’s worth buying and reselling and what people tend to look for and how much they are willing to pay for it. You can re-sell so many things you find at the thrift store. Toys,Shoes,Clothes, Furniture. Litlerally everything. The way we priced items was 30% of its actual resale value on eBay and of course furniture just depended on condition,make,size, antique, or not etc. I personally LOVE antique furniture that is refurbished. Antique finds though are still rather pricey before you even consider the cost of refurbishing. Sometimes I just pick up the free items in the free section of Craigslist and if I cant do anything with them I sell them cheap to someone else who can refurbish them. Facebook Market place has been a great tool for me. This is a great article to use to get started. Just remember one piece at a time. You don’t have to do all your “dream” projects at once. This is a hobby after all. So Don’t be afraid to start small and grow from there.

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