15 Popular Thrift-Flips That Aren’t as Lucrative as You Think

We love a good thrift store flip, but some items aren’t worth the risk.

racks of winter clothing and coats
Updated June 27, 2024
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If you have time, a keen eye, and some luck, earning extra cash doing thrift store flips can be a rewarding side hustle. Sometimes you can score a designer shirt with the tag still on or a luxury handbag in pristine condition.

On the flip side, however, some thrift store finds aren’t going to fetch you much. Or you’ll have to spend extra to get them up to snuff. Here’s what you may want to skip on your next thrift store run.

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Corningware

somegirl/Adobe whole baked juicy chicken

Starting in 2023, vintage Corningware dishes in mint condition could earn thousands, even tens of thousands, of dollars.

Upon looking closer, though, it’s evident that Corningware isn’t going to make you that rich, despite the inflated asking prices seen on eBay. At best, you might get hundreds on a good day.

Glassware

Kryuchka Yaroslav/Adobe set of vintage glassware

Fancy glassware can cost a pretty penny, especially if you’re into top brands like Waterford Crystal.

But that doesn’t mean you can turn any item around for a huge profit, as older pieces may contain lead. That’s not something you want in your water or to sell to anyone else.

China

Nik's Pics/Adobe limoges cup saucer

China used to be an expensive wedding gift that most Americans received on their big day. It was often displayed more than used.

However, Millennials and their younger counterparts aren’t as interested in China as previous generations, so it’s not as profitable of a find as you might expect.

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Silver-plated items

sek_gt/Adobe cleaning spotty silverware

While gold and silver are good thrift store finds, avoid taking something home that is silver-plated.

The reason? It dulls over time, and no amount of cleaning can restore items to perfection. You might want to pass if you see a lot of tarnishing or dark spots.

Makeup

neirfy/Adobe make up brushes

If you’ve ever wandered through Sephora or Ulta, you can see how expensive some makeup is; it’s easy to spend a lot in those stores.

But even if you spot what looks like unopened cosmetics at a thrift shop, you can't guarantee that they haven’t been used or tampered with, which makes them unsafe and unsellable.

Upholstered antique furniture

Subbotina Anna/Adobe carved furniture

Antique furniture can be worth good money, like well-made wooden pieces in mint condition. If you’re handy, you may even be able to restore slightly used pieces properly.

But skip upholstered antique furniture as it may have been treated with harmful chemicals or have bed bugs hiding in the creases.

Retro appliances

brizmaker/Adobe blue refrigerator

Some retro appliances, like certain stoves, have a market of buyers willing to pay for them.

But these old items are rarely in “plug and play” condition. Even if they do appear to work, there might be issues only professionals catch, and those repairs can cost a lot.

Car seats

gpointstudio/Adobe girl sitting in baby car seat

Anyone who’s brought a new baby home can tell you that good car seats are not cheap. It stands to reason, then, that these items would be a great thrift flip.

However, the American Association of Pediatrics doesn’t recommend buying car seats second-hand (from unknown sellers) as you can’t prove they’re safe.

Throw pillows

Jodie Johnson/Adobe sofa with styled cushions

Throw pillows are more expensive than you might think, especially if they’re well-constructed and made from silk, sheepskin, or other high-end fabrics and materials.

Unfortunately, thrifting and flipping them comes with risk, as bed bugs and other unpleasant nasties might be hiding under the surface.

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Rugs

F Armstrong Photo/Adobe colorful persian rugs on floor

Good rugs aren’t cheap, and we’re not just talking about Oriental rugs made by incredibly skilled and talented weavers.

With throw pillows and other textiles, you don’t know what could be hiding inside (bacteria, mold, vermin), making a thrift flip risky. At best, you’d need to have them professionally cleaned.

Cookware

lukesw/Adobe Cast iron saucepans on wooden table

Finding a Le Creuset Dutch oven or other expensive cookware at a thrift store would be amazing — a perfect flip, right?

The issue is that the coating may not be intact if it's second-hand. Chances are, it’s not exactly sanitary, either, making the purchase a gamble.

Artwork

stokkete/Adobe woman hanging a painting

We’ve all heard the stories of the lucky folks who buy a painting from the thrift store that turns out to be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Instances like this are called “one in a million” for a reason, though — it’s a rare occurrence. Your time is likely better spent pursuing other objects.

Fur coats

ChiccoDodiFC/Adobe vintage fur coat

Once upon a time, fur coats were synonymous with wealth and luxury. But are they a lucrative thrift-flip?

Likely not, for two reasons. Fur coats depreciate quickly and can degrade as they age. Real fur is also unpopular with younger generations, making it a tough sell.

Video game consoles

Mkorobsky/Adobe guy plays the console on video games

New video game consoles, whether Nintendo Switch or Xbox, are known for fetching hundreds of dollars.

If you find one at a thrift store, however, there’s a good chance it might have issues or glitches, even if that’s not apparent when you test it.

Laptops

pressmaster/Adobe hands over laptop keypad

If you find a functional and relatively new laptop at the thrift store, it could feel like a nice flip is just over the horizon.

The real problem is that you don’t know (unless you’re a computer expert) what kind of malware or viruses may be hiding inside. So proceed with extreme caution if flipping.

Bottom line

westrosemedia/Adobe Thrift Shop

Thrift store flipping can be a lucrative and satisfying side gig, especially if you’re gifted at sorting through the static to find the true gems. However, some items may not be worth the risk.

A good rule of thumb is to always thrift within your area of expertise and have a checklist to ensure your resales are safe and sound. That’s how you can build a profitable and reliable business.

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Author Details

Cat Lafuente

Cat Lafuente is a Florida-based writer and editor with extensive experience in digital and print content spaces. Her own personal finance journey — particularly consolidating debt and paying it off, in turn boosting her credit score and becoming a homeowner — inspired her to join the FinanceBuzz team; she hopes she can help others do the same.