I love a good rummage through charity shops, as you never know what you may find. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, so they say; some people even make a decent living from buying and selling charity shop finds.
For example, a first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was found in a charity shop in Manchester recently. The book itself wasn’t in the best condition, though it was still expected to fetch a few thousand pounds at auction. Found in a box of similarly unloved, dusty books, it was one of only 500 in the title’s first hardback print run; a pristine copy fetched more than £350,000 last year.
Most people are aware of the items they donate and their collective value; however, when it comes to such as house clearances, the contents of the donation may not be known, and valuables could slip through. Whilst most people whose houses need to be cleared when they die have family to sort through the trash and treasures they leave behind, this isn’t the case for everyone, and house clearance companies may be called in to sift through the items, for what can be sold and what is left over to donate to charities. They’re only human, though, and unless they have an antiques specialist that evaluates every single item, rare finds could slip through.
It doesn’t have to be an archaeological find worth millions to be a good discovery. Early edition comics and computer games, silver and gold jewellery, some historical artefacts, and the right oil painting could be worth much more than their price in the shop; that said, the internet allows charity workers to more accurately value items donated, so this may not be as common as it sounds.
To some people, selling charity shop items for profit is unethical. I’m inclined to think that, though charity shops certainly allow the poor to purchase items they need at prices they can afford, these outlets are for anyone. Whether you buy an item for £4 with the intention of selling it on for profit (for example) or the person behind you in the queue buys it to use themselves, the charity receives the same amount of money. The £4 revenue is money they wouldn’t have, had the item not been donated in the first place—and it’s this revenue that goes to supporting other beneficiaries in need. What would be worse is if no one bought the item at all.
There are ways and means of finding quality items that could be worth more than their displayed price. These include:
Many items made today are not designed to have a long life. Plastic has replaced metals as a cheaper material, and fast fashion sees designers following trends and using cheaper alternatives rather than creating classic, quality items that withstand the test of time.
Checking the quality of the fabric used in clothing and/or soft furnishings is a good guide to their worth. Heavy materials, such as velvet, can prove sought after, whilst embroidery and embellishments can add value if they look to be sewn by hand and not via a mass-market machine. If it’s a designer item, the brand name will be clear on the label; however, if this is the case, it could mean the item is already priced accordingly; it’s items from lesser-known designers and shops that are the ones most likely to slip under the radar, and whose potential worth might go unnoticed by the charity shop’s staff.
Target your surroundings
It’s common sense that, if a charity shop is amid an affluent city, it would see donations of better quality and value than one located in a disadvantaged area. Bargain hunters actively seek out charity shops in wealthy places, knowing that they will likely house designer gear and undiscovered treasures.
Educate yourself on what the up-and-coming trends are, in reference to vintage clothing and antiques. Items made by designers such as Clarice Cliff were once seen as kitsch and twee, but her creations then came into ‘fashion’. However, once the value of her designs was on the rise, everyone and their dog searched through their attic for examples of Clarice Cliff pottery and earthenware and the market became flooded; when this happens, the value of the items drops as there’s more supply than demand.
Trends come and go, and certain designers will come in vogue and go back out again. The internet is a wonderful resource in this regard and if you do your research, you may find gems before other treasure hunters get hold of them.
To some people, charity shops are simply jumble sales behind a charitable brand. However, there are just as many people, young and old, who love to explore what a charity shop holds.