Finding good sources for collectible merchandise, whether for one’s own collection or for resale, can be a fun, if often challenging, endeavor. Thrift stores are becoming a popular hunting destination for more and more collectors and dealers. Recently, I sat down to talk to two of the most famous experts in sourcing at thrift stores, Bryan Goodman and Jason Smith who together have created the web site and the service called, “Thrifting* With The Boys.”
[* "thrifting" and "to thrift" are recently-coined verbs referring to the act of visiting and shopping at, thrift stores. - Griff]
Griff: Jason, how did you two meet?
Jason: When Bryan was here for the eBay Radio party a couple of years ago, we decided to out and go thrifting and I took him and a couple of others. I was very apprehensive at first to take other people into my thrift, figuring of course they would be buying stuff that I would have bought had I not been there.
But I learned – we learned a lot of from each other that day, and that’s where the magic started.
Griff: And now you have a very popular Facebook Fan Page.
Jason: Yes. We presented together for the first time at the eBay Radio Party earlier this year. It was really our first time doing a presentation together and we were really shocked at how well received it was by the people who attended and even more so by the people who missed out by sleeping in that morning, who were just clambering to hear what we had to talk about because they had heard so many good things from other people who did attend.
After the event I said to Jason, “We need to start a Facebook group page for these people,” and he said OK. I said, “You want me to start it don’t you?” So that’s what I did.
My feeling was that there were plenty of other places on Facebook that you could talk about a variety of things, that you could complain about, you know, shipping problems or problems with eBay fees or whatever it might be. That really didn’t have a place the “Thrifting With the Boys Facebook” group.
I wanted it to be about thrift store finds so that people could share with other people things that they were looking for and would find and how well they did with them. And if you had questions, you could shoot back and forth and it’s really become what I envisioned, and I know Jason felt the same way about it.
Griff: What have you learned from your new endeavor so far?
Jason: We were actually very shocked by the amount of people who sell on eBay but who do not “thrift.” Not that everybody needs to thrift, but it is such an easy way to find collectibles and turn a profit on them. I have always been a “thrifter.” There are tons of collectibles in our local Savers every day.
For example, I collect Tiki mugs, and between my assistant and I, we find at least three or four tiki mugs a week, every week. We have not found the million dollar seller yet, but quite a few of them have turned us a nice profit.
Griff: Are there tools that you use in the field, for items that you find when you are thrifting that maybe perhaps your intuition tells you, you should buy but you are not sure of say, value? Is there a way to conduct research while in a thrift store?
Bryan: Yes, definitely. With mobile applications on your device, whether it is a tablet, or and iPad, or a smart phone, it is pretty easy to take those tools along with you as you are searching. For example, one tool I use is Terapeak. It allows me to see if there is something similar that has sold on eBay; what it sold for, if there have been a number of sales. This has been very helpful for my in researching while thrifting.
One of my other ways of determining if something is worthwhile purchasing or not; I shoot an email to Jason or other experts along with a picture of the item, and ask, “Hey, what do you think of this? Is this worthwhile?” and most of the time the response will be, “No do not bother,” and, other times, it is a “Yes! Yes! Yes! Buy it!” or “How much is it?” and so on.
Determining what to buyt is pretty easy for somebody like Jason, who has a passion, when he is out there specifically looking for Tiki mugs. And the same holds true with other people depending upon what they collect or what they used to re-selling.
They can easily find items within their niche, no matter whatever they collect, or search for. What is more helpful, though, is, being able to expand your horizons a little bit to so that you can find other things that will be worthwhile to other collectors.
For example, now, every time I go into a thrifty store, I am looking for Tiki stuff. I still do not know much about it, but because I know it is something that Jason can either use himself or tell me how to sell it, I am more likely to take a chance on it. But, just in general, for people out there that are collecting just one specific thing, once you expand your horizons a bit, and you are able to find some things and make a $100 here and $50 there and a couple of $100 or more there, well, then you will have some ready cash available to go and add to your own collection.
By the way, did you know that Jason recently lost out on a Tiki mug that went for almost $300.
Jason: And the mug was chipped and cracked and it still went for over $300 that’s how rare it was.
Griff: Jason, what do you use for tools? Do you take a smart phone or a tablet with you? What apps do you use?
Jason: Yes, I definitely – one thing I use more so than Bryan is either Skype or Facetime with my mom because she also thrifts and shops for me and she lives in Cleveland. So some days I’ll be sitting here at my desk and she’ll be at a garage sale or a thrift store with her iPhone and she’ll Skype me and we’ll video chat while she’s walking through the store showing me things. I’ll be like, “Yes… no… yes… no… yes… yes…”
Griff: Do you have an iPhone as well?
Jason: I have an iPad. As Bryan was saying, if you’re going to be serious about thrifting and looking for collectables it is very important to bring along the right tools. For me, I have a tablet. Smart phones work but boy, a tablet comes in real handy if you can sit down for a second especially in a thrift store. And there is always a table and chair set up somewhere in nearly any thrift store. Often I will sit down at a table and set up a little office. I bust out my iPad, set up a little stand, type it all out, figure out what’s good, what’s bad and move on from there.
Griff: Bryan what kind of cell phone or what kind of tool do you use when you’re out thrifting?
Bryan: I have an Android phone and also a tablet that I use to help determine value, etc.
Griff: When the manager of the thrift stores observes you working away on your phone and talking to people and how does he or she react? Do they even react?
Bryan: Well I’m not quite as flamboyant as Jason so I don’t get as noticed as much. But …
Jason: Thanks, I think.
Bryan: …No problem. But I get noticed a little bit at times usually by other customers who might say something but not much. I mean these days most of the time people realize that you might be taking a picture of an item to send to somebody because you’re interested in buying buying it or you’re interested in asking someone else, “What do you think of this color?” It’s not like I’m out there shouting “Hey I’m buying all this stuff to resell.” So I don’t get noticed. I do at the checkout at times and it’s funny how people will say, “Oh you’re doing your Christmas shopping early!”
It did happen recently when we were in Kansas. We were checking out and I was purchasing a bunch of Harley Davidson manuals from last 10 years or so. The woman standing next to me said, “Oh you have a Harley?” I said, “No.” She said, “So, you just like motorcycles?” I said, “No I’ve never ridden on a motorcycle in my life.” And it just went on – the questions just kept coming and coming. And I never did reveal exactly what I was doing with them. There are so many other people out there who just don’t have a clue as to why we’re buying so much stuff or buying particular items or using our smart phones or tablets and other devices to scan, photograph or check products. It is kind of amusing in its own little insider way.
Griff: What’s the most exciting or valuable thing that you ever found while you went thrifting?
Jason: Well probably the most valuable thing I found, oddly and not surprisingly, was a Tiki mug that was mismarked. It kind of looked – it was red and yellow and it kind looked not “Tiki-ish” but “clownish” so it was marked “clown mug – $10.” I bought it and sold it on eBay for a hundred and a quarter.
Griff: That’s a good price realization.
Jason: Oh absolutely. I would love that to happen every day. I also buy a lot of clothing too, mostly t-shirts… concert and band t-shirts especially, and if you dig through enough t-shirts, you find the vintage ones that go for $50 to $100 and I only pay usually about $2 apiece for them so yes if I could do that all day, that would be awesome.
Griff: Bryan what is your memorable find?
Bryan: My favorite was last year but not in a thrift store. At a garage sale I happened to run across a nice set of tires and wheels that would fit my car. And I was thinking of getting them for myself and I didn’t know what the woman wanted for them and after a little back and forth I asked her, “Ok, how much?” And she said, “What are they worth to you?” Now, I knew how much these things were worth. I said, “Oh, I don’t know… $50 for the set.” The woman thought for a minute. I knew the car wasn’t around anymore, that it had been totaled (she had told me as much). These tires were like new. She thought for a moment and said, “OK.”
What’s funny about the story is that I didn’t even have the $50 on me. I gave her $10 I said, “I’ve got to clean out the car so I can put the tires and wheels inside.”
Griff: You are an incorrigible thrifter.
Bryan: So I said I’ll be back in an hour and I cleaned out my car, got the rest of the cash, came back and when I go to pick them up she said to me – she handed me a card and she said, “You got a good deal. If you don’t want them for your car this guy is interested in them.”
But naturally I didn’t call him. I did wind up putting them up on eBay. I listed them for about $1,000 for the set with best offer and somebody came up with an offer for $750 and I said, “Sold!” So that was a good find.
Griff: Yes, I’d say that was a very good find.
Bryan: And that’s one thing I’d like to mention to anybody who’s just getting into thrifting. You can call on different aspects of your life like different jobs that you’ve had, different interests you have had in the past and use them to help focus your thrifting search. For example, I was in the car business for many years and that’s how I knew the tires were good ones. Even though I’m not involved in the car business anymore,I knew something good when I saw it. I find cameras all the time while thrifting, for $5 or less that I know I can get $50 or more on eBay. That’s because I was also in the camera business 30 years ago. So you really have to think a little bit outside the box even though you may be collecting say, old records you can use different aspects of your past careers to help you find things to buy and sell in thrift stores and use the profits to buy more old records.
Jason: I would just to add to Bryan’s point, when we teach people we tell them this: If you’ve never thrifted, start – like Bryan said – with what you know. We teach a lot about buying clothes. I always say, start in your size. So if whatever you buy doesn’t sell, hey you’ve got an extra shirt for two bucks. But start with what you know and then work up from there. I buy purses and dresses and stuff, not really in my wheelhouse but I’ve learned it because I know I’ve made good money off of them, so. I started in big boys shirts and then moved on from there.
Bryan: And now you’re a transvestite.
Jason: Yes. But it takes a while to put an outfit together because I am a big guy.
Griff: Well, that’s just fantastic. What is your website?
Griff: Thank you both for taking the time out to talk to us today.