You Never Know What You’ll Find at a Thrift Store

I didn’t grow up going to thrift stores. I didn’t go to thrift stores during college or later when I moved to San Francisco in my 20s. Both of these seasons of my life I was as poor as a church mouse, but I didn’t go because I assumed thrift stores just had old, icky used stuff. Weird castoffs. Broken bits. Not for me.

But about 10 years ago I crossed the threshold of our neighborhood thrift store for the first time to see if they had anything I could sell in my online vintage store. I was nervous and didn’t know what to expect. But quelle surprise, I found a few good things.

Over the years thrift stores became a great source for finding store inventory, including antiques and high-end items. Plus I found amazing things for myself! My favorite soft black leather coat, which fits me perfectly, was a $14 find. My blue like-new leather Fossil cross-body bag was $10. I have a well-made, no-name orange leather bucket purse that was $7 and I get compliments on it all the time.

Going to thrift stores has become second nature to me now. So you can understand that when the rain ceased for a bit on Saturday and I needed to get out of the house I headed up a boutique thrift store that was having a 25% off sale. My eldest daughter came with me which made it much more fun. The shop is small but crammed full of interesting things, some quite valuable. (Over $800.) But I was here to find bargains. And I think I did.

It turned out to be a day when the quirky and unusual called to me. Now I know some of you are looking at this sheet metal horse and thinking “You paid money for that?” You bet! I think his brutalist folk art style will appeal to some folks. While doing a little research I discovered this piece is attributed to Mexican artisan Manuel Felguerez.

The previous owner marked on the bottom: LA Co. Museum, ’91, Mexico. I’ve only found one for sale online and it’s priced at $85. I’ve listed this one for $70.

I LOVE these mini oxidized verdigris bronze vases–both for their texture and the beauty of the finish. Turns out they were likely made in Japan. Possibly mid-century, but it’s hard to know for certain. Some slightly bigger ones are listed as antiques. But I am not confident in saying that about mine. Still they are beautiful and I may keep the “genie bottle” one for myself for a while.

Not sure what I’ll price these at.

I added one to a mantel display and thought it looked great with my mid-century modern abstract painting by Helen Lustgarten and my vintage Korean brass pedastal bowl.

Let’s be frank–this is a student’s piece. A little too heavy with a bit of a wobble and rather primitive. But intriguing too. Almost tribal looking. Can’t you imagine some archeologist pulling this out of the ground?

But what persuaded me to buy it was the date marked on the bottom–11/5/68. Dang! Somebody saved this piece all these years, likely a mother. Perhaps she recently died and this is one of the things no one in the family wanted. That’s always sad, but often there is only some much stuff family members can take or want! I am happy to try and find it a new home–which may take some time!

Now the interesting thing is two of my items were from the 50% off shelves, so the cashier asked the manager how to handle it thinking these were now 75% off. (Wouldn’t that have been lovely?) But the manager said no everything was a straight 25% off, even items that were on the 50% off shelf. I had a “what the heck” moment and the volunteer cashier was surprised too. She whispered to me “I’m going to give you the 50% off anyway.” I was grateful.

Total paid: $37.

So I had a good time and got a few interesting bits for my store. You never know what you’ll find at a thrift store, but I certainly didn’t expect a vintage Mexican metal brutalist horse! And that’s the fun of thrifting–finding the unexpected, quirky and downright fabulous!

But if you’ve never gone to a thrift store–GO! Gird your loins and head in. You might be pleasantly surprised. Or try a boutique thrift store where you are guaranteed to find nicer things. It’ll be worth it!

Wishing you happy hunting,



  1. That’s a fantastic horse! I grew up in the S.F. suburb of Lafayette (it was unincorporated Walnut Creek then) and my mother and I would go to Goodwill. We had to go to Pleasant Hill, no Goodwills in Lafayette! My bedside table is a wooden legged, tile top table she got there when I was a little girl. Probably Mexican. I remember a specific blouse I got there in high school, with too many tiny buttons! I get why you “saved” the pottery. I did that with a salt dough Minnie Mouse ornament (remember their heyday? Or was that before your time?) I found in the Goodwill bins. It was dated on the back, and I figured if it stayed intact since the 70’s it deserved to stay intact! I hung it on the Christmas tree. I hate seeing children’s work in thrift stores. Or school photos in frames. At least take the photos out before donating the frames!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Lisa. Sounds like you and your mom had fun thrifting together. I made salt dough ornaments back in the day (I think in Sunday school) and I love that you saved Minnie! I think some kid art can be quite good. I get what you’re saying about the framed school photos…sad really.

    We’ll see how long the horse takes to sell! I do think it is quite intriguing.

    Thanks for sharing.


  3. I came from a third world country, of which (surprisingly), thrift store was non-existent when I was growing up. Although we grew up having and owning mostly pre loved items, from refrigerators to shoes, they all came from relatives. When I moved to Canada, my cousin warned me not to shop at Value Village (Saver’s here) because they are all second hand, donated items and who wants to use them when source is unknown. I heeded their advise until one April day, my true blue Californian ex-boyfriend (hubby) who came to visit, found himself feezing and of course, no coat or jacket with him. Value Village is the closest store, we went in, found himself a down jacket for $14.99. That started our thrifting and going to yard/garage/estate sales and my love for vintage stuff. (I don’t think the mentioned down jacket will ever go to a donation pile either 😂😂).

    Liked by 1 person

  4. At the time, I thought it was pricey because there were cheaper jackets alongside it. But he liked the feel of the down (no feathers poking) and the thickness. I came across it recently during my rightsizing process, so I googled it. It’s a Rab brand and it looked to be the expedition kind (my guy must be extremely cold when he picked it out). I feel way better now than I did knowing it’s a good deal even then.


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