Shopping thrift stores, flea markets and estate sales can be overwhelming. With the sheer volume of stuff, how do you know where to start? How do you spot gems amid all the … well, junk?
As a professional reseller who has been combing through thrift stores for the better part of 30 years, I can help. If you’re ready to cut your shopping time in half, score bigger bargains or walk away with brag-worthy finds you can flip for cash, read on.
From hard-to-find household items to resale money-makers, everything featured in my “Thrift Shop Like a Pro” series qualifies as a BOLO (Be On the Look-Out for) item. When you find it, buy it!
Featured find: Vintage fleece jackets by Patagonia
Autumn is the perfect time to talk about fleece jackets, and Patagonia makes some of the best. The company’s growing popularity in the retail market has sparked a buying frenzy in the resale world.
Founded in 1965 by rock climbing enthusiast Yvon Chouinard, the company got its start forging metal climbing equipment. Gradually, focus shifted from climbing hardware to clothing.
Today, Patagonia is synonymous with high-quality outdoor clothing, accessories, and gear.
Since its beginning, Patagonia has demonstrated that purpose and profits can work hand-in-hand. A clear set of values drive Patagonia’s culture. Social responsibility, environmental stewardship and a tireless support of aligned grassroots organizations set the company apart. The company even launched Worn Wear, a service that repairs and sells used Patagonia products.
But the biggest corporate news came in September 2022, when Chouinard transferred corporate control of Patagonia to a trust and an environmental nonprofit. This move ensures that Patagonia will remain a positive force for climate action in perpetuity.
Why buy it?
In my experience, Patagonia clothes are incredibly well-made. The company has managed to embrace its growing popularity without taking shortcuts. New or used, Patagonia clothing lasts, and even “very vintage” pieces feel retro and hip rather than dated.
If you are interested in reselling for profits, all things Patagonia should already be on your shopping list, but pay special attention to the fleeces. For some pieces, resale values can be astounding. While traveling in Vermont in 2021, I found two fleece pullovers for $8 apiece. I flipped one for $180 and the other for $110.
But lately, resale prices have skyrocketed. On eBay, this vintage zip-up fleece from Patagonia’s Rhythm line sold for $950, and this tribal-inspired pullover, part of the company’s Synchilla line, sold for $399. On Etsy, this Patagonia Glissade zip-up is listed for $600, and this heavily-worn fleece is available for $798.
See also: “Make a Small Fortune Selling Old Clothes From These 10 Brands”
What to look for
You’ll find the Patagonia label inside the garment or on the exterior left chest. The most common logo features a lowercase “patagonia” against a silhouetted mountain range. Some early versions of the logo included “Ventura, California” under the wordmark.
If you’re buying vintage fleece to resell, pay special attention to:
- Condition: Though condition is always important when it comes to clothing, a bit of wear and tear doesn’t seem to faze Patagonia fans. Still, check to make sure snaps and zippers work and there’s no damage to the fabric.
- Popular lines: Identifying used Patagonia clothing by line can be challenging. Specific line names are usually printed only on the original retail tags. After a bit of research and with a few sales under your belt, spotting different styles gets easier. Bestselling lines in the secondhand market include Synchilla (both a fabric and a product line), MARS, Glissade, Rhythm and Minnehaha.
- Pattern and color: Don’t be afraid to buy the loudest fleece on the rack. Compared with solid neutrals, bold patterns and vivid colors sell for a premium.
See also: “11 Secrets to Finding Quality Clothing at Thrift Shops”