25 Of The Best Finds People Came Across At The Secondhand Shops

Published 5 months ago

You’ve probably heard the saying, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Recently, someone posed the question, “What’s the best ‘treasure‘ you’ve ever found at a thrift store, garage sale, flea market, etc.?” The responses revealed stories of unexpected kindness and individuals stumbling upon rare and valuable items that others were getting rid of. Scroll to read through a collection of tales of some quite fortunate discoveries.

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Image source: tsundoku2sensei, Lauren Mancke / Unsplash

I was a broke single mom trying to furnish my first apartment. I went to a garage sale and saw an almost brand new recliner. I was admiring it knowing I couldn’t afford it, just doing a little daydreaming. The woman holding the sale came over and asked if I liked it. I told her of course I loved it, but as I was a broke single mom, that wasn’t happening. I thanked her for the daydream and turned to go. She asked me to wait and went inside to get her adult son. She told me that she would sell it to me for $1. I knew she could make some money so I declined, as I knew that wasn’t fair to her. She then told me that she was in the middle of a divorce and he got half of everything she made at the sale. I left there with a recliner, a kitchen table, and a bookshelf, and I spent $3. Was the divorce story true? Or was she just helping me out? Don’t know, but I’ve made sure to always help others once I was in a better spot.


Not a store, but i used to work for a junk removal company. Most clients were just rich people who didnt wanna deal with throwing out their stuff, so it wasnt uncommon to find things of value and keep them to resell or just have. I was on an estate clean out and pulling stuff out of the attic and found a box that i decided to open it just to see what was inside. I popped the lid and inside there was 17 small orange, very old, boxes with big blue letters said “Lionel”. Model trains.

Box full of money.

I quietly put the box in the truck cab to investigate later. Once I got home I pulled the trains out and started researching them. 2 full sets from the 1930s, all new in box. The boxes showed their age but the trains looked like they had never been removed from the box. Most even still had their (deteriorated) packing materials around them. I turned to the model trains subreddit to learn more and was immediately swamped with people trying to buy them, and one person who was wildly honest with me and told me what they thought they were worth, and not to let someone try and swindle me out of my gold mine, mentioning he wished he could afford to buy them from me. I went to a local hobby shop to learn even more and confirmed their real monetary and historical value…..about $10,000 and considered to be museum quality, near mint condition. Exceedingly rare.

In the end I didn’t get $10k. I contacted the redditor who had told me what they were really worth, while everyone else was offering a few hundred bucks, and offered to sell them to him. We agreed on $2000.

He and his aging father (likely passed by now) had bonded over their love of model trains since he was a kid and had a massive layout in their basement. Last I heard from him a couple years ago the trains are still running and well taken care of. I’m glad i gave them to someone who would truly appreciate them and enjoy them as they were intended instead of putting behind a glass case or looking at them as only an investment to make money off of

Image source: CptJaxxParrow


Image source: electric29, lilartsy / Unsplash

I paid $1 for a necklace at a sidewalk sale on my way to work. I thought it was an amazing steal as it looked like cherry amber Bakelite. Then I got to work (vintage store) and the picker who sold us things said, “nice necklace, I’ll give you three for it” which I thought meant three dollars, then he said, “OK $350” and I was of course surprised! Turns out it is actual cherry amber, not Bakelite, and worth more like $600.


Image source: Oldpotter2, Leah Kelley

I paid $1 for a box of books, one was: “A child’s history of the Confederacy”, by D. H. Hill. I graduated from NC State, and our library was the D.H. Hill Library. I took the book to the library the next time I was in Raleigh, and asked if they were interested in acquiring it. The Director of Acquisitions asked what I wanted for it. I said I was happy to donate it, just send me a contribution receipt. A few weeks later I got a nice letter thanking me for my contribution of $1,000!


None of these are really valuable things but they’re all things I truly cherish nonetheless:

* a bowling ball for $5. I used to be on the bowling team but couldn’t afford my own ball so always had to use the house balls which suck. This ball is hot pink, came with the name “Ruth” but the weight and finger hole sizes are a perfect fit! I’ve bowled all my best games with Ruth.

* An immersion blender for $1. It has provided many years of delicious soups.

* A J Crew down jacket for $3. Fits perfectly, looks nice, super warm. I have worn it through like 8 or 9 cold Boston winters now.

Image source: marmosetohmarmoset


Image source: cbelt3, Ricardo IV Tamayo / Unsplash

My family went to the county fair , and my youngest son took along his favorite little toy… a stuffed duck with “feet” where he put his fingers and “walked along” on things, making happy quacking noises.

As is tradition, toys brought on outings get lost. He was sad, but at least it wasn’t his favorite lovey (a stuffed sea otter).

A YEAR later we stopped at a thrift store to look for school clothes. And he found the same toy hanging up. So of course it came home with us. Open opening the baggie he found his initials on the tag on the toy. Where I had put them a couple of years ago:

It was the same toy.


Image source: pokey1984, Andrew Magill / Flickr

A brand new, high quality suede coat for twenty bucks.

What made it a real treasure is that it’s somehow my dream jacket, the one I’ve designed a hundred times in my head and thought I’d never have because leather goods are so expensive. It’s the exact shade, weight, and shape that I pictured a thousand times, but it’s also a design that isn’t common for leather jackets. I always figured to get one cut like that, that fit me so well, I’d probably have to order it custom. I’d dreamed of that jacket long enough that I even knew it would cost me about $600 to have one made.

But then one day I was picking up some work pants at the thrift store and it was right there. I wasn’t even looking at the coats, but someone had pulled it out and draped it over the rack. Not two months prior my car had been stolen with both my jackets inside so I didn’t have a coat at all and wasn’t sure how I’d be able to afford to buy one when it got cold again.

I have worn that coat every day, from September to May, ever since. It’s one of my most prized possessions.

#8 a 110 year old copy of Little Women for $4.00.

Image source: baby-lou, Houghton Library, Harvard University

#9 $1000 cheetah print long winter coat a lady was going to donate as I was donating. It was my birthday, and she was so happy that it was going to me and that her mom, the original owner who just died would love to see it repurposed for a man !!! It’s my celebration pimp coat now.
And then a old school green Stanley thermos

Image source: LahngJahn69420


Image source: RuralEnceladusian, Lucas Pezeta / Pexels

Years ago, a woman posted a telescope ad on a bulletin board. Her dad was a snowbird and one year just called her up and said, “I’m not coming back this year, sell my house and everything in it.” I went to check out the telescope during her garage sale, and she said she had researched everything about it, talked to him about it, and she wanted $300 for it. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I remember saying something that indicated I would go a little higher, but she said no, she would be happy with $300. It’s an older model, but the telescope new would be about $2500, and it had a $700 eyepiece in the box.


Image source: Pennandink, georgewbushcenter / Flickr

At a small thrift store, I found A floor-length, black velvet – **real** velvet, not velveteen – vintage Oscar de la Renta gown in perfect condition and miraculously in my size for $10. And as if that wasn’t enough, a few minutes later found a brand-new pair of Yves Saint Laurent black satin pumps with original tags ($400) for a measly $2! I wasn’t a designer glam gal and had no reason to own these as I had no need for them. I socialized in a much lower tax bracket. Two weeks later I was hired at a job that required me to host a celebrity packed fundraising gala where these thrift store finds served me very well.


Image source: Adventurous-Zebra-64, Daderot / Wikipedia

20 years ago, a yuppie couple bought a house in my neighborhood with everything in it after the elderly owner died. They had an estate sale to clear it out.

The elderly owner was one of the most important importers from China post WW2.

They sold everything for fractions of a penny of what they were worth.

I bought a large rosewood budded, a large porcelain Foo dog. 2 rosewood planet stands and a 4 panel screen with golden lacquer on one side and a beautiful and detailed mother of pearl 3D scene on the other for $600.

The screen alone is now worth 35K.

#13 I remember not wanting to go to a church flea market when I was like five. Came back with a massive Star Wars haul. Dozens of return of the jedi figures. The brown hover car from new hope. Icing on the cake was a broken millennium falcon that I played with daily. Six year old me was super happy.

Image source: Fruscione, Jonas Forth / Flickr


Image source: Traditional_Ad_6801, Ryan Ancill / Unsplash

Had a work colleague who had a garage sale. Her new husband added a bunch of his basement junk to the sale. A browser who was a prof at Harvard University told the husband that a framed sketch he had was done by Napoleon. He took it to the university and they authenticated it as a genuine Napoleon sketch. It was a nautical drawing done from the deck of a ship.

#15 I got a brand new London Fog coat for $12 at Salvation Army. It’s the lightest, warmest coat I’ve ever worn.

Image source: Fuzzteam7

#16 I used to work at a goodwill donation center and someone donated a live hand grenade and that was kind of cool because not only did the entire shopping center had to evacuate and I got to see one of these bomb robots but I got to go home early and still got a full day’s pay

Image source: Snake_Plissken224, Joe Haupt / flickr

#17 Not as impressive as some others, but the thing that comes to mind is a copy of “This is Knitting” for ten cents back in the late 90s. I learned how to make socks from that book and it still has a place in my heart because that was the tipping point towards a life- long hobby.

Image source: auntiepink007


This is going to seem silly but, I still love it.

So, my mom and I had been at the mall and I found this gorgeous rainbow scarf at The Gap. However, it was $50 and I wasn’t willing to spend that so, I didn’t buy it.

Cue about 2 months later and my mom and i were at the Goodwill. Lo and behold there is the scarf! It’s in PERFECT condition and was only $15.99. I, of course bought it.

I’ve had it 8 years now and it’s still in perfect condition and I wear it every time it’s cold. Granted, where I live that means about 3 months a year so, maybe that’s why it’s still in perfect condition.

Still my favorite find.

Image source: bookworm1421

#19 I found a painting at a garage sale I thought was beautiful but no idea of what it was but it just struck me. Paid $15 and it came in a gorgeous frame. Got it home and did some research through art people in our area. Found out it’s worth almost $4K. Great score.

Image source: Any-Establishment113, Mick Haupt / Unsplash


Image source: Gladysfartz, James Ree / Unsplash

There’s a thrift store near me that doesn’t know what it has. They will sell you Armani, Gucci, Calvin Klein, Michael Kors for $4.99. It’s all authentic. It’s located in a very wealthy neighborhood and people donate crazy expensive clothes after just wearing it once. It’s crazy. My closet is jam packed with designer clothes from there. And shoes!

#21 I bought an unused 6 quart KitchenAid mixer with all the attachments at a garage sale for $20 (retails for $400). I then gave it to my sister as an early birthday present. She bakes cakes and cookies for parties has a side-gig and was hand mixing everything beforehand. She was ecstatic!

Image source: ItsEarthDay, Warren Layton / Flickr


Image source: codece, Eric Krull / Unsplash

Several years ago I was walking around the neighborhood, late Saturday afternoon. It was “garage sale” weekend, but I didn’t look too closely at the sales because I was broke. I was just walking to get some exercise, clear my head, maybe cheer myself up.

When I was just a few blocks from returning home, I found a $20 bill on the sidewalk! I looked around but there was nobody. It wasn’t even in front of a home with a sale going on.

Now I *was* cheered up, and I stopped in at the last garage sale with my $20. It was an older couple and they were already moving things inside, closing up shop.

I browsed around and just asked “you wouldn’t have any vinyl records for sale, would you?”

They looked at one another, shrugged, and led me into the house. Upstairs, in what was clearly their son’s old bedroom, they pulled a box of records out of the closet. I got the distinct feeling he had died; I didn’t ask, but his room looked like a shrine to the late 1980s.

I paid $20 for the whole box, and carried it home.

That thing was an absolute goldmine of punk albums, including an original pressing of the Germs “GI” signed by Pat Smear, an original of Operation Ivy’s “Energy”, Green Day’s “39/Smooth” and “Kerplunk” (plus a few other Lookout! records releases,) and more.

I sold the GI album alone for $600, and I regret it.


Image source: floridianreader, Tom Hermans / Unsplash

I have a knack for picking up used books at thrift stores, garage sales, estate sales, wherever, but not just any old books. The books my fingers find are autographed. I have autographed books by:

Neil Gaiman

Tom Clancy

Elie Wiesel

Salman Rushdie

Connie Francis

Shaq (his basketball card, not a book)

Dave Barry

Isaac Asimov

Tom Wolfe

Some of these books I paid as little as a quarter for, and the most, I think, was $10.

#24 How bout the one that got away? Several years go, apparently 2012, I saw an odd painting of an owl like creature. I looked at it for a moment, considered it, then walked on. A few weeks later it was on the news … It was a Picasso. It eventually sold for $7k.

Image source: gitarzan, Sebastian / Flickr

#25 A complete set of Advanced Dungeon and Dragons 1E rule books for $20.

Image source: rosanymphae

Shanilou Perera

Shanilou has always loved reading and learning about the world we live in. While she enjoys fictional books and stories just as much, since childhood she was especially fascinated by encyclopaedias and strangely enough, self-help books. As a kid, she spent most of her time consuming as much knowledge as she could get her hands on and could always be found at the library. Now, she still enjoys finding out about all the amazing things that surround us in our day-to-day lives and is blessed to be able to write about them to share with the whole world as a profession.

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amazing thrift store finds, flea market, garage sale, thrift, thrift store, thrifting, thrifty
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