Bryan Goodman and Jason T. Smith (aka Thrifting with the Boys) are smart and entertaining. That's always a great combination, but it's all too rare among educators. That's why we're all ears when they talk.
In Part 1 of our series with "The Boys" we discussed how they became a team, how they define thrifting, and why thrift stores are such great places for sourcing products. In this article we'll get more into specifics such as some of the best items they have sourced, thrift items that are currently selling well, how to still profit from mistakes, and the website they sometimes use to help determine whether to buy an item, and how to price it. Part 3 of this series will cover tips for listing, Meetups, The Boys' new Facebook Group, and more on the many other resources Goodman and Smith have available.
Schepp: Tell us about one of your best bargains—something you turned around for the most money.
I used to work as night manager at Tower Records on the Sunset Strip, so I know about music. I once bought a CD for $14. I knew it was valuable as it was a rare Woodstock soundtrack. I sold it for more than $700. The CD was out of production and I knew there weren't many of them.
If you have children, start in the kids' section. Into sports? Start in the sports section. If you make a mistake you can still use the item
Strategies for smart thrifting
Schepp: What should sellers do when they enter a thrift store? Tell us a bit about scoping a place out for good buys.
Smith: Start with what you know. If you have children, start in the kids' section. Into sports? Start in the sports section. Start with the clothes you wear so if you make a mistake you can still use the item.
Schepp: You've mentioned that T-shirts, in particular, are good things to source through thrift stores. Is that still true? And you've also gotten into some other things such as ties, and even purses and dresses! Those are not the kinds of things you associate with guys selling on eBay.
Smith: Absolutely [T-shirts still sell]. When I'm looking at things like shirts and T-shirts, my mindset is that I want to sell it for at least $20; I've sold some for more than $50. There's always a balance. Some things you buy and find they don't live up to your expectation; others exceed them. I do very well with ties.
I think of it this way: Someone is looking to buy a gift for someone with a special hobby. They go into Macy's, etc., and can buy a tie that might cost $100. I bought a tie having to do with Captain America and I sold it for $65. I was actually hoping to get a little more. I paid about $2 for it. The tie was produced over 20 years ago, and they just don't make them anymore.
If you're used to buying things for yourself, you tend to go shopping for yourself. I don't do that. I want to shop for other people
You have to develop an eye for the unusual. I bought a tour shirt from a one-hit wonder band from the '90s. I paid $1.50, and sold it for $50. But it doesn't have to be a band T-shirt; it could feature trains, for example. There are a lot of great train T-shirts. You want to get the hobbyist something like that, something you're not going to find anywhere else. Rare is even better, but the unusual I'll take all day long.
Schepp: Do thrift stores adjust prices, etc., on certain items after you mention them as good items to source and the word gets around?
Smith: Prices went up greatly when we were going great guns on Harley shirts. But a band T-shirt I sold for $75 had been missed by a competitor who had just finished going through that section. I found 13 great shirts that he left behind! I spent $32 and I've already earned more than $500 for them. I figured I drove all the way out there; there was no point in leaving [although a competitor had been in just before me].
Goodman: Jason does an amazing job picking purses. People are always trying to authenticate the major brands to verify that they're not fake. Jason's really good at picking out lesser-known brands that have quality. It's easy to sell them, and they're not as often faked.
Smith: I look for quality. I also look for something quirky, like Marilyn Monroe.
Most of what we buy is $10 or less, so if we make a mistake it doesn't hurt that bad. If it's over $10, we do research on WorthPoint
Schepp: You advise people not to thrift emotionally. Please explain what you mean by that.
Goodman: One of the problems is if you're used to buying things for yourself, you tend to go shopping for yourself. I don't do that. I want to shop for other people. Regardless of what we like, I want to get things that other people might be interested in.
Schepp: Everyone wants to learn from the mistakes of their mentors. What did you buy that you wish you hadn't?
Smith: I missed a giant hole in one piece of clothing, and another was missing a sleeve. Bryan is very methodical, but I'm a little faster. So I bought a shirt with a big hole in the back. I was able to take something away from it. I cut off all the coconut buttons, so I do have those to use with something else.
One of the things that you miss something on is the condition. Typically, most of what we buy is $10 or less, so if we make a mistake it doesn't hurt that bad. If it's something that will be over $10, we do research on WorthPoint. Sometimes it will tell us not to buy something. It's a subscription website that is very reasonable. You can check it on your phone. When you're dealing with the unusual or things you may not find on eBay, it's especially valuable because it goes back eight years, and keeps photos and data.
Schepp: Thanks Bryan and Jason. Looking forward to Part 3 of our interview!