Thrift shops have experienced a sort of renaissance over the last few years. Sure, you can still find plenty of old tweed jackets and local 5K fun-run t-shirts at many of them, but if you know what to look for, sometimes there are real gems hanging in the clothing racks.
For example, do you know that some collectors pay hundreds or even thousands for the right t-shirt? Vintage Harley Davidson t-shirts from the 1970s to early 1990s frequently sell for $50 to $100+, depending on the graphics and condition. And while you’re digging through the t-shirt racks, keep an eye out for vintage concert shirts from the 1980s and earlier. Hard rock shirts (Iron Maiden, Metallica, AC/DC) from the 1980s are particularly desirable, as are vintage shirts from Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, etc. There are even a pair of Beatles “Butcher Album” shirts that sold on eBay for $10,000 – $20,000 a few years back!
After you’ve rummaged through the t-shirts, try heading to the shoe rack. There can be good money to be made selling certain brands of vintage shoes. The most popular shoes that resell for big bucks tend to be vintage cowboy / motorcycle boots such as Red Wing and Lucchese, designers shoes like Chanel and Gucci, and even old Converse and Nikes. In fact, vintage Nikes have grown in demand so much that “Sneakerheads” (sneaker collectors) often shell out hundred or sometimes thousands of dollars for a single, hard-to-find pair. You can even go to Sneaker Con New York City each year to buy, sell, and trade used (and new) sneakers.
Finally, spend a little bit of time going through the men’s jeans and you might be lucky enough to find an old pair of original Levi’s 501 denim jeans. They were originally created by Levi Strauss, a Barvarian-born dry good merchant who traveled to San Francisco in 1853 to expand the family business.
Some years later, a tailor named Jacob Davis came up with the idea of using metal rivets to make his denim “waist overalls” more sturdy. As he had original purchased the fabric from Levi, Jacob suggest they apply for a patent and manufacture the garments together. On May 20th, 1873, patent #139,121 was awarded and modern denim jeans were born.
Levi’s 501s have changed in manufacturing and style over the years, but familiarizing yourself with the different patches, buttons, rivets, and stitching can help you date any old pairs that you come across. Used pairs from the 1970s and earlier can fetch hundreds of dollars. And if you happen to be lucky enough to stumble across a like-new pair from the 1950s or 60s, they often sell for a thousand dollars or more. Not a bad price for a pair of old blue jeans!