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Some of the best places to find large vintage costumes are thrift stores. You've seen the big stores - Goodwill, the Salvation Army, Savior ... and then there are the charity shops that are run by churches and ideas. All of them get donated jewelry, and I've found some amazing pieces in thrift stores. It seems that the larger chain stores have better prices than the smaller charity stores, but it really depends on who is pricing jewelry when they put it out for sale. Some business employees are very knowledgeable about values, but some are not and they are often price jewelery very low. Perhaps they perceive that if it is not really gold, it is not worth much. Good for us!
The retail store has lost the stigma of being just junk shops or places where the down-and-out shop.
A good tip is to be friendly with the staff in the shops you visit. A clerk lets me move through the jewelry boxes before she prizes them and places them on the floor. Another lets me know when they get a large amount of jewelry donated.
Find out when the store has its special offers. A store in my town has a 30% discount on Wednesdays. Guess what day is my shopping day!
Sometimes the store management will put a large amount of jewelry in a plastic bag and sell the bag at a fixed price. If you find these you can examine the bag as close as possible - you must not open it, and there is a lot of debris there, mostly things that do not sell, and often lots of plastic Mardi Gras beads. I bought these bags a couple of times, and it was fun to sort through everything, but I stopped donating most things to a nursing home for craft projects. I've found some really nice pieces in this way, but I don't think it was really worth the time and trouble.
Most thrift stores have a glass case where they keep better things. Ask to see pieces that interest you and review them carefully. Look carefully at places where they usually hang cheaper things. I found an embedded sterling silver, built-in bellows buckle, with a turquoise stone in it and signed by the artist, who was hanging in a zipper bag on a stand. I bought it for $ 2.80 and sold it on eBay for $ 52! It was badly tarnished, but I polished it up and it was beautiful.
There always seem to be many watches in these cases. Beware of copies of famous brands, and just buy the name tags you know. Make sure the tape is in good condition and that there are no scratches on the crystal. The clock probably doesn't work, so plan to spend $ 5 to $ 7 for a battery. If you buy for resale, be sure to include the cost of a battery to see if the watch is worth buying. You take the chance there - it may not work even if a new battery is installed.
Whether you are buying jewelry for your own collection or for resale, there are several things to look for when exploring thrift stores.
1. Condition, condition, condition: You will encounter all kinds of jewelry in every kind of condition. Look for broken buttons, missing stones, worn metal colors and other green material on gold tone jewelry. The green stuff is corrosion and it cannot be cleaned. Take care of that. Make sure the stone settings are dense, and if they are not, be careful about the piece - you should be able to tighten them. If the piece is dirty, you can clean it. Bring gold jewelry or a magnifying glass so you can carefully examine the piece.
2. Is the paragraph signed? The name of the back of a pin or earring, on the lock of a necklace or bracelet, or on an earring clip is the "signature" of the designer. Cartoon pieces may be more valuable than unsigned, but there are also many many "unsigned beauties" out there. Look for the name, and if there is a copyright symbol ©, it means that the bit was made after around 1955. No symbol - you probably have a real vintage. Look for the numbers 925 on silver jewelry - that means sterling silver, and if the price is right you have a steal.
3. Price: It is difficult to appreciate thrift stores - the cheaper the better it goes without saying! I try not to spend more than $ 3 for a pin, bracelet, necklace or earring. You can come across something really spectacular that costs more, and if you think you can benefit from it, or do you want it yourself, go ahead and buy it. A good rule of thumb when shopping store stores is this: If you like it but are uncertain, set yourself a limit, say $ 5. If it doesn't turn out to be so good, you're not out there much. As noted, some forwarding stores know more about jewelry and will praise a few pieces too high for you to be able to sell and make a profit. However, there seems to be a lot of employee turnover in these stores, so the next person pricing jewelry may not be as knowledgeable.
After Christmas it is good to collect Christmas jewelry. Some stores will mark holiday entries to get rid of them, other stores will only store them for next year.
I love shopping at business stores - just like Forrest Gump's chocolate box, you never know what to get. Every trip is a treasure hunt. Some days are narrow pickin, but some days are very rewarding. Yesterday I received 10 pieces for 15 crowns - several are sterling silver and one piece can be jade - I'm still not sure.
Be consistent in your retailer. Try to go out every week and find out when the stores have their special campaigns. Most of the big chain stores put out new items all day, some other stores are filled up on certain days. Find out when they are and get there early.
Read books about costume jewelery and become knowledgeable, so when you shop in the thrift stores you are armed with information. Have fun with it, get to know the store staff, and you come home with some amazing jewelry at great prices.