Alternatives to the Local Card Shop: Thrift Shops and Antique Stores

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Collectors are always looking for good deals and places to find their next addition.  While many know where to look such as eBay, Wal-Mart, Target, and the local card shop, these places attract lots of collectors seeking the same or similar items.  While the popular watering hole may be familiar and comforting, it also gets crowded and someone is always drinking from it.

Here is the fifth of five alternative locations that might go under the radar and but could produce some helpful leads based on my personal experiences, research, and interviews with other collectors.

Thrift Shops and Antique Stores

Website: too many to list

The Good: While we usually go to a thrift shop or antique store because we’re either dragged in by our significant others or are looking for some clothes to paint in, these shops can often prove to have some memorabilia or cards.  The best thing about thrift shops is they aren’t in the market to make significant profits, and certainly aren’t in business to sell sports cards or memorabilia.  This means the prices are in your favor.  Don’t expect to find many modern cards or memorabilia, especially in antique stores, but I have seen some with game used cards in their cases.  At one antique store I went to I picked up a 1961 Topps rookie card of Carl Yastrzemski for $10.

Probably the find of my career was at a Goodwill in Maine while I was in college.  I found a box of 800 cards, with my friend.  They were asking $20 for the box.  We split the cost and took the box home.  Inside were over 154 different autographed, relics, and game used cards of baseball, football, basketball, hockey, NASCAR, and Golf including a dual golf polo relic of Arnold Palmer, game used glove of Steve Carlton, and a Dwight Howard rookie jersey card among other cards.  Additionally, most of the other cards inside were rookies, short prints, numbered, refractors, and little to no base.

There’s also the story of a North Carolina Goodwill where a man purchased a west point sweater for 58 cents and the tag said Lombardi 46 on it—as in Vince Lombardi.  The sweater was Lombardi’s coaching sweater.  My LCS also told me of a story that someone purchased a baseball for $1 at Goodwill and it turned out to be signed by Lou Gehrig.  However, I couldn’t find any record or news coverage of that so take that with a grain of salt.  Don’t forget you can also pick up jerseys, t shirts, jackets, and hats too with sports logos for a fraction of the retail price.

The Bad: Again, since neither of these places specialize in sports memorabilia and cards, don’t expect a dedicated section. Additionally, it might take some patience and regular visits before you find what you’re looking for.  Donations come in everyday and the showrooms are only so big. It also leads to the question of why someone would donate something so valuable.

The Ugly:  Antique stores obviously equate age with price.  Therefore, the older the item, most likely the more you’re going to pay.  This can be dangerous especially when dealing with older cards.  They may undervalue rare vintage cards but overprice more common ones.   The only thing more dangerous than someone who knows what they’re doing, is someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing.  This is true for sports cards and memorabilia.  As for thrift shops, they typically get donated a bunch of commons from the 80s.  When this happens they want you to purchase the whole lot and not individual cards.  As much as we would love to, we also can’t make people donate their cards or predict when they will do so.

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