9 Tools Every Second-Hand Buyer Needs

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In my 30 year career as a professional picker and marketer, I’ve learned that raw instinct isn’t everything. A successful thrift store also requires the right equipment.

If you’re thrift shopping for fun or looking for items to resell, let’s talk gear.

These tools will help you save time, find better deals, and make bigger profits.

1. Magnifier

Older man looking through a magnifying glass at the camera
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My 52 year old eyes need all the help they can get. A pocket magnifier like this one from Amazon helps illuminate fine print in books, maker’s marks on china, and signatures on artwork. Keep one in your purse or glove compartment. You may not use it every day, but it’s a lifesaver when you need it.

Prefer digital to analog? Use the Magnifier app on your iPhone or check out Lifewire’s list of top-rated magnifier apps for iPhone and Android devices.

2. Jeweller’s loupe

Jeweler examining a diamond close-up with a jeweler's loupe
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Hallmarks on jewelry, watches and cutlery can be extremely small. When a loupe just isn’t enough, invest in a jeweller’s loupe. This magnifier from Walmart provides 30x magnification and sells for $5.99.

Bonus: Using a magnifying glass establishes serious credibility on the street. After all, who doesn’t want to look like a professional Antiques Roadshow appraiser?

3. Google Lens app

Google Lens app
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Have you ever stumbled across a genuine curiosity – an object that you can’t identify or describe well enough to research? Well, there’s an app for that.

Take a photo of your mystery object using Google Lens. The free app scans millions of photos from the web and delivers results in seconds. With the information in hand, it is easy to determine if the item has profit potential in the resale market.

4. eBay App

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Although there are dozens of resale sites, eBay remains the major player in the used merchandise market. And the eBay app makes it easy to find final sale prices on almost anything. If you’re shopping used for profit, this historical data takes the guesswork out of buying.

Follow these five steps to access final sale prices on the app:

  1. Type the product name in the search bar and press “Search”.
  2. Refine the results by clicking on the “Filter” button. From the drop-down list, select “Completed Items”.
  3. Press the “Show Results” button.
  4. Press the “Sort” button. From the drop-down list, select “Highest Price + Shipping”.
  5. Press the “Show Results” button again.

Scroll through the results to see the final sale prices. Sorted from top to bottom, the results also include unsold items. This last piece of information is important; it shows how long it takes for the item to sell and can indicate if other final sale prices were a fluke.

5. Tape measure

Tape measure or measuring tape
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Looking for an odd size picture frame? How about a taller than normal coffee table? Keep a tape measure handy so you can grab the right piece when you find it. This Komelon keychain tape measure is only $7.24 on Amazon.

6. Heavy Duty Gloves

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Sometimes you have to “dress up” to find good deals. Shopping Goodwill Outlets (aka “the bins”) is a perfect example. Last stop before dumping, the bins are where leftover inventory is dumped into huge rolling carts and sold by the pound.

Shoppers are literally rummaging through heaps of miscellaneous items in search of treasure. To protect yourself from cuts and germs (and who knows what else), you’ll need durable gloves. I prefer fitted gardening gloves with rubberized palms.

7. Goo Gone

Goo Gone Spray Bottle
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Removing the grime left behind by price tags is a problem as old as second-hand shopping itself. And all serious second-hand buyers have their own method.

Years ago, I relied on a solvent called Energine to remove glue residue. But due to the health risks associated with prolonged inhalation, this product was discontinued. Today, Goo Gone is my go-to for safely removing stubborn stickiness.

8. Melamine sponge

Melamine Foam Sponge
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Many thrift stores still price durable goods with a grease pencil. Melamine sponges like Mr. Clean Magic Eraser easily remove those marks, not to mention stains on plastic and scuffs on sneakers.

But proceed with caution. Surprisingly abrasive, magic erasers can damage certain objects.

9. Anti-scratch cover

Wood Restoration Cover Marker
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You don’t have to be a professional cabinetmaker to bring old furniture back to life. Anti-scratch products quickly revitalize wooden surfaces and hide minor imperfections. This 8-ounce bottle of Old English Scratch Cover sells for $7.48 at Home Depot.

Simply match the product to the color of the wood (light, medium or dark). For best results, apply with a cloth instead of a paper towel.

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