Searching for hidden treasures among the gently used and sometimes not-so-gently used wares of the Region's thrift stores

chapter 2: Golden Oldies

The success rate of finding cool stuff at thrift stores is quite erratic. There are many lulls. Sometimes it'll be months before you find something of interest. This has been the case recently, so I thought it would be a good time to revisit some classic finds from my long history of thrift store shopping in The Region. Granted, all of these have been relegated to the basement, but the fact that I still own them is a testament to their “classic” status in the annals of thrift store finds. I came upon most of the items at Hammond Salvage and Resale, an amazing treasure trove for the thrift enthusiast.

1. Accordion

I consider myself an avid dabbler in the musical arts, so I'm always on the lookout for cheap instruments. Mostly, I find children's toy instruments that fit those criteria, but occasionally a real instrument pops up. This accordion was quite a coup. It was originally tagged at $50, which was far more than I was willing to spend on an old instrument I didn't remotely know how to play. I'm a big chicken when it comes to bartering, but I dove in and asked the owner “what they could do” on the item. I was ready to settle at $30, no higher, but the owner went right down to $20. Score! Its weathered shoulder strap broke almost immediately, but the instrument works fine and I'm able to make some nice sounds with it, despite my ineptitude. Plus, as an object, it possesses an ornate, old-timey beauty.

Price: $20

2. Waterfall clock

This fantastic piece of machinery is like the Swiss Army knife of clocks. It not only lights up and displays the time, but it also generates “soothing” waterfall sounds. Of course, these sounds are more novel than relaxing, and thankfully you can just turn them off. Items such as this usually have an illuminated Pabst Blue Ribbon logo rather than this pastoral nature scene, which could very well be in Switzerland. When I'm sitting in my easy chair and drinking a whiskey-and-diet Coke in my dank basement lounge and I want to be reminded of the beauty and splendor of the natural world, looking at this little marvel of technology achieves that nicely. Or it may just spur a nice chuckle.

Price: $10

3. Orange chair

We bought this from Hammond Salvage and Resale when we were attempting to furnish the unfinished basement of our newly purchased house in 2003. At the time, the store was only open three days a week but soon extended that to six days. We like to think that we played some part in that since we were essentially buying relatively big-ticket furniture items on a weekly basis. Including this chair. It's a good chair. Saturated 1970s orange. Quite sturdy. It swivels. It gets moved around a lot but never seems to leave.

Price: I honestly can't remember, but certainly less than $20.

4. Sewn nature “painting”

Finding original artwork at thrift stores is something of a specialty in my repertoire of shopping skills. Just like the sea captain painting (See: Chapter 1), I found it intriguing despite sensing many would consider it, well, ugly. And it easily could have been. However, the color choices – the chartreuse foliage, the dark army green background, the minimal use of red – neutralize the twee country crafts vibe it could have had and imbue it with a sort of sophisticated, woodsy charm. I could probably sell this at a hipster arts-and-crafts fair for five times the price.

Price: $5

5. 3-D poodle picture

My wife bought this for our daughter's room when she was still a toddler. I have no words that can possibly do justice to this. Its very existence seems impossible. You can't see it here, but the dog's head sort of moves back and forth as you change your viewpoint. I'm not sure if our daughter actually likes it or has ever noticed it, but I enjoy it immensely. This is the kind of wonderfully bizarre item you can only find in thrift stores. To top it off, an inscription is written on the back: "To Margaret, from John. 1965-1975". An anniversary gift? Kudos, John. This is perhaps the greatest, most mind-blowingly brilliant anniversary gift in the history of humankind, and I say that completely without irony (more or less).

Price: Priceless (although probably about $5 or so)