Shopping Thrift Stores and Charity Stores for Used Furniture

Shopping for used furniture in thrift stores and charity stores can be an adventure in patience and perseverance but it can be rewarding for those who endure.

The same basic rules apply for what to buy.  Look for solid furniture, wood, outdoor patio furniture, wrought ironAvoid used upholstered furniture at all costs.

With those few rules in mind it is time to distinguish between a thrift store and a charity store.  Often charity stores will have the word “thrift” in the name, so it is important that you learn which stores are for profit thrift stores and which are charity stores.

Shopping Thrift Stores for Used Furniture

Thrift Store for Used FurnitureOrdinarily, I browse for profit thrift stores less often than other stores when looking for used furniture.  In some cases the used furniture found in for profit thrift stores looks more like what you would sit by the side of the road to be picked up.  This is not to say that there are no real bargains on used furniture in thrift stores.  It just takes longer in many cases to find that one piece of used furniture that could be considered a treasure.

Of course, what a person finds in a thrift store depends a lot on where you live and how the store is operated.  Some for profit thrift stores have drop off areas for clothing and furniture.  Occasionally, people who wish to donate furniture will leave the used furniture outside and in some cases it could be several days before it is taken inside.  Not a good buy no matter how you look at it.

For the serious shopper I would not shop thrift stores for used furniture more than once a month unless the store in on your way home from work.  Most thrift stores are large and filled with less than optimal finds.  Remember, these stores are in business to make money so they try to turn over the stock quickly but often they lack quality.

If you should shop a thrift store for used furniture a couple of times and discover that most of the furniture is there because something is broken, mark the store off your list of stops.  You will save time and money.

Shopping Charity Stores for Used Furniture

Charity stores such as Goodwill and The Salvation Army stores are among my favorites for used furniture.  Of course, as with any shopping experience, much depends on your local area.

Goodwill StoresGoodwill has an online presence so much of their better items, especially small items are no longer found in the stores but are placed online for sale.  However, the stores still have good deals on used furniture from time to time.

In our area The Salvation Army Store is one of my favorites as is a Catholic Charities Store.  Just because these are my favorites doesn’t mean they will be yours.  Shop around.  Look around.  Browse the charity stores until you find a couple that seem to have the better furniture items.

Most often in both the thrift stores and charity stores bed frames will be found, some that are great quality but many that you will not want to take home.

Salvation Army StoreIf you have doubts about shopping charity stores for used furniture let me share a couple of personal experiences.  I purchased a 100-year old jelly cupboard in a Salvation Army store.  Of course, I must say that knowledge of furniture was a big part of finding this treasure.  The jelly cupboard had just been delivered to the store.  It was sitting in the back loading area and two men were discussing whether to bring it into the store or put it in the trash.

I offered them $5.00.  Actually, one of the men tried to talk me out of the purchase.  The cupboard was mayonnaise green (learn your colors and paints) and the back of the cupboard was made of slats that were not joined.  It was pointed out to me that the back of the used piece of furniture was not “too solid.”  I insisted that for $5.00 I would take it anyway.

example of a country jelly cupboard

Example of a Country Jelly Cupboard

As it turned out the jelly cupboard was one of those rare pieces that was actually an antique primitive jelly cupboard.  In fact, I found an exact picture of the cupboard in one of my antique books — same color and all.  The used piece was only about five feet high so with a little help I was able to get it loaded onto my truck.

While I was paying for my $5.00 purchase I noticed several antique and collectible dealers looking at it.  For the next 30 minutes between two dealers who were making offers and counter offers the price was up to $300.00 if I would sell it on the spot, as is.  I declined.  I later sold the piece in my shop for over $1200.00.  That was a real find in the used furniture department.

Of course, most buyers do not want used furniture that is that old or painted mayonnaise green.  Most who read this are looking for something to furnish a nice home.  There are those who love cottage style and shabby chic who would appreciate the jelly cupboard, but for most it would not suit their needs.

Cherry Cabinet

Cherry Entertainment Cabinet

I often browse my reference books then go out to new furniture stores to look for prices on reproductions.  One store has a lovely armoire or entertainment center with doors that opened on the top half and two drawers below.  The price tag was $1,100.00 for the new piece.  Later I found the exact same piece in The Salvation Army store for $125.00 in solid cherry wood.  I bought it although the sales person was offering to see if he could get me a lower price.  The tags were still in the top drawer.

Often in charity stores in particular, you will find some really great used furniture that is very old.  At other times you will find barely used furniture that someone did not want.  I have noticed in our area that many of the wealthier people who purchase great quality furniture will often get it home and decide against it before the new smell has left it.  Rather than returning the piece or trying to return the piece of furniture, they will donate it to a charity store for a tax deduction.  Most charity stores will pick up their donations, so this is a real plus for those who just want to get rid of something.

You will find great buys on quality used furniture in many charity shops.

Before shopping thrift stores or charity stores or any other venue, learn about the prices of furniture in your neighborhood.  Also, spend a little time learning about different styles of furniture (our site is a good place) so if you come across the treasure of the decade you will recognize it.