Adventures in Thrifting You Found That Where? Laura Owen

I feel this post really encapsulates the range of weird thrift store finds out there.

1. The Overly Personal Memento; Or, It’s Sweet, But Why Would You Buy That? 

At a thrift store, there are always the personalized t-shirts: SUPPORT COYOTE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL’S 1998 WALK FOR LUPUS! or CONGRATULATIONS DOOGAN FAMILY REUNION OF 1982! or OCOTILLO HIGH’S JV LACROSSE TEAM IS THE BEST often with inscrutable in-jokes that don’t make any sense to an outsider (“You won’t find us spelunking!” “Everyone knows about Grandpa Joe’s diverticulitis!”). Plus, these t-shirt are usually in size extra-extra-large and have strange discoloration issues.

And sometimes there’s the heartbreakingly personal: the books with inscribed personal notes; the self-published family histories…items that make you sad they ended up in a thrift store in the first place.

In her book Ex Libris, writer Anne Fadiman has this to say about finding inscriptions:

I once saw a copy of Mayflower Madam inscribed…To Patrick–Richard has told me so much about you. Henry Miller could have written an entire novel about that inscription. It would take Turgenev to write a novel about the inscription I found in The Golden Book: The Story of Fine Books and Bookmaking. It read: To Father on his birthday, March 16, 1928. In the nature of a peace offering? Alan. After sixty-seven years, that heartbreaking question mark still hangs in the air. I only hope that The Golden Book found its way to a bookseller long after Father’s death. If not, Father, shame on you.

But this I had never seen before: Alert reader Kirsten sent me this:

It’s so sweet! Just a family portrait of someone’s grandparents. I don’t know what’s more heartbreaking: thinking about how it ended up in a thrift store in the first place, or the knowledge that someone would only ever buy it for the frame (the frame does look nice). I mean, it’s creepy to buy a portrait of someone else’s grandparents…but also a little sad to throw it away.

2. The “Wow, That is Super-Classy” Find. 

Like the fetish-wear in the same box as Jesus eraser pencil-toppers from last time, thrift stores are usually good for a cringing moment of…really? A saucy poster about “A Woman’s Touch” or this find from alert reader Hannah:

Do you buy this…for yourself? For someone else? Is it REAL SILVER? I don’t know. The mind boggles.

3. The Inadvertently Terrifying. 

I’ve documented lots of unintentionally scary finds from readers; toys are often among the scariest. My friends Megan and John texted me this photo, saying “Enjoy your nightmares.”

Arguably, my friend John is scarier than the toy.

4. The Unique Item that You Start Out Thinking is Ridiculous but Grow to Realize is Magnificent. 

This is currently for sale at my friend’s Etsy store, but I feel okay posting as I was with her when she discovered it:

Yes, that is a crocheted bikini. The most awesome bikini that you will never be able to wear into the water. Because it’s crocheted. Crocheted. Swim wear that is crocheted. Out of yarn. YARN! And you know what? Darned if it isn’t kind of sexy.

If you’ve got any of these categories of thrift store finds, or a whole new category, tweet me at @LauraCJOwen, email me here or leave in the comments!

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  1. Omg I have a crocheted bikini :) glad I’m not the obly one that fnds it adorable…found it couple weeks ago I dropped by local thrift store looking for books and as I’m walking to register they had bathing suit rack and it caught my eye…its like forest green except front in like a one piece with little details crocheted and back is open you tien it from back of neck..I luv it l..have yet to wear it but can’t wait and best thing it was only 3.99… I brought it home asking my fmily how can anyone gotten rid of this?

  2. I would find it difficult to wear those bikini bottoms, because those ruffles are a little suggestive of what could be underneath.

  3. I worked in a thrift store for 3 years… I got my son a shark in a jar, I have dozens of books that were never actually published (one of our regular customers was a book editor) We always got lighters and shirts. One time we had someone’s storage unit given to us. I can only assume from what was donated from it; she was a lonely pothead who loved nail polish. I say this because there were vibrators, bowls, ashtrays, and 6 drawers of nail polish.. I wish I was making it up…

    • A SHARK IN A JAR????? I am terrified and intrigued. Terrifyingly intrigued. Also “Lonely pothead who loves nail polish” would make an amazing personal ad.

  4. Vice.com has a monthly post about weird stuff this girl finds while sorting through donations at a thrift shop