14 Ways to Spot Valuable Items at Goodwill

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Learn how to get the most out of your next Goodwill trip.
Updated June 30, 2024
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Goodwill is more than just the ideal place to find clothes and other items on a budget. It can also be a goldmine for thrifters and side hustlers looking to make extra money.

However, you need dedication and know-how to distinguish between rubbish and treasure. Here are 14 ways to spot the best goods at the lowest prices on your next run to Goodwill.

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Do your research ahead of time

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It’s hard — though not impossible — to spot excellent Goodwill treasures on the fly, but some upfront research can boost your luck. Before your next shopping spree, look into which thrift items sell for the best prices in your state.

Check Etsy shops, read thrift shop reviews, and scour Facebook groups to stay updated about which thrift items are popular and what they sell for.

Use your smartphone to your advantage

Vergani Fotografia/Adobe business owner smiling with phone

Complement your at-home research by using your smartphone during your shopping trip. For instance, sites like Vintage Fashion Guild let you check vintage clothing labels to determine whether they’re authentic.

Pay attention to brand names

Leika production/Adobe women shopping in a modern mall

Looking for branded items is one of the easiest ways to find true Goodwill bargains. You’ll likely have to pay careful attention to find certain tags as you scan clothing racks — remember, they can be tucked out of sight.

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Look at how tags are printed

M-Production/Adobe teenage girl choosing a clothes

If you find an item with an embroidered, woven tag that comes off less readily than a tearable paper tag, pay attention — you’re probably looking at a pricier, better-quality item. 

Verify if a tag is authentic or not by using online resources like the one previously mentioned.

Sign up for your local Goodwill’s newsletter

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Regional and local Goodwill stores typically have a weekly newsletter that notifies you of upcoming sales. Sign up for yours to find out when your store runs sales and which popular items you can expect to see the most.

Follow your local Goodwill on social media

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Following your Goodwill’s social media accounts on Instagram, Facebook, and X (formerly Twitter) is another solid way to stay on top of sales, popular items, and typical price points.

Check for rare vinyl records

AboutLife/Adobe womens hands browsing vinyl records

If your Goodwill has a solid vinyl selection, skim through old records to find albums by popular artists. You’ll get more money for an unopened record than a used one, but some rare pressings can still prove valuable, even if the cover is a little scuffed.

Keep an eye out for quality

FotoAndalucia/Adobe woman buying furnitures in shop

Vintage items are often made of sturdier stuff than today’s goods. Pay attention to desks and cabinets made of real wood, sweaters made of real wool blends, and real leather shoes (which are stamped with “vero curo” on the sole).

Keep an open mind

triocean/Adobe woman looking clothes

You might not find a particular item appealing or interesting, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t an online market for it. Keep an open mind — you could be surprised by how much you can get for an antique children’s desk or a used set of Pokémon cards.

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Don’t overlook cookware

lukesw/Adobe Cast iron saucepans on wooden table

Speaking of keeping an open mind, check out every section of the store for excellent deals, including the kitchen section. You might not be into collecting cast-iron pots or colored Pyrex bowls, but many other collectors and cooks are.

Donate to score more savings

Diana Vyshniakova/Adobe unrecognizable woman holding box

Depending on the store, you might be able to secure a 20% off coupon if you donate your used clothing items and other goods to Goodwill. 

Not all stores make this offer available, but if yours does, you could get your discounted items at even more of a bargain and increase your profit margins.

Look for high-quality picture frames

andreysafonov/Adobe heap of gold antique frames

A low-quality picture can cause you to overlook the high-quality frame it’s concealed in. If you’re looking for wooden frames to resell or use with your own art, do your best to ignore the less-than-exceptional art to find hidden gems.

Pay attention to silver

aboikis/Adobe old cutlery

From candlesticks to jewelry, you can likely find genuine silver items at your local Goodwill if you look beyond the tarnish. You’ll have to polish any true silver items before listing them online, but based on the current price of silver, you could turn a fair profit.

Don’t ignore jadeite items

EvergreenPlanet/Adobe vintage mug and bowl

Similarly, if you pay close attention, you might be able to find 1930s-era jadeite cups, bowls, and other items at your local Goodwill. 

According to Taste of Home, this style of crockery is back in style, and pieces by Fire-King, Jeanette, and McKee can be resold for up to $100 a piece (depending on the quality).

Bottom line

Aaron/Adobe goodwill sign and logo

Goodwill is the perfect place to hunt for treasures—for yourself and buyers who rely on people like you to find the best bargains and advertise the results.

Whether you’re on the lookout for good deals to refresh your own wardrobe or hoping to make some cash on the side, these tips can help you find what you need on your next trip to Goodwill.

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Author Details

Michelle Smith Michelle Smith has spent a decade writing for and about small businesses. She specializes in all things finance and has written for publications like G2 and SmallBizDaily. When she's not writing for work at her desk, you can usually find her writing for pleasure near large bodies of water.