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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Thrifty Opportunist

By Suzanne O'Connor

Any good bargain shopper will pop into Thrift stores, Yard & Estate Sales and Flea Markets and the occasional dumpster dive. Not because “used” is always a bargain, it isn’t. But because sometimes you’ll find opportunistic steals.

Some of my best deals ever came from Thrifts. We found a 1960’s Steel Case office desk at a Goodwill for $45. I found a collectible set of Raymond Loewy China at an Out of the Closet for $20…. Street value over $300!  An amazing suede fringe jacket was picked up at a Thrift for $35.

Shopping Thrifts takes work. You have to be familiar with fashion labels, garment and furniture construction, have a keen eye and have the extra time to look. Some Thrifts are dirty and smelly, others clean and pristine. Some carry outstanding goods, others just junk. But it pays to hunt.

Picking trash isn’t something I aspire to. But I won’t ignore stuff people leave curbside. Last week we picked up 4, folding 1950’s iron lawn chairs. Last year we picked up a modern teak lounger. We cleaned it up, oiled it and then sold it on Craig’s List for $125. Not too long ago we actually dumpster dove, recovering an original Arts & Craft era outdoor lighting fixture. ... and it worked.

In the past we were avid Estate Sale shoppers. We still occasionally go, especially if it’s in an older architectural home. Last Summer, for our daughter’s room, we picked up a beautiful 1920’s burled Walnut Secretary for $175. Market value is $900. A set of 8 new with tags, grey bath towels from Macy’s for $15 for all 8. Plus odd things like staplers, placemats, ribbon… all for pennies on the dollar. Most items were needed, some wanted, all useful.

We always bargain with the sales team at Estate Sales. The burled Walnut Secretary was originally priced at $600. They had marked it down to $375 cause no one was interested. Antiques are not so popular on the West Coast. After examining the piece thoroughly,  I offered $175 and they took it. The towels were originally priced at $30 for the set…. Very reasonable. But it was the end of the second day of the sale and they were gonna do everything at half off the next day, so I just asked.  BAM!

Flea Markets are not the bastion of bargains they used to be. I found an old metal chair at the Rose bowl a few years back for $1200. When I asked why so expensive, the proprietor said it’s Italian. I laughed out loud and left. But Fleas are still great places to hunt for well-priced, odd items. We found an iron, hand painted porch “horse” bell for $45 at the Long Beach Antique Swap. Saw it on Ebay for $130. Also found some great vintage dresses at the Fairfax High Swap meet for $28 and $49.

There are opportunities to save big by shopping at Thrifts, Estate Sales and the like. Keep an open mind, a friendly attitude, cash on hand and a budget…. You’ll score.

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