Any thrift store is a thing that is both very sad and incredibly exciting. Sad – because it is always a pity to see how things that once were of great and sentimental importance to people who once lived have turned into literally insignificant garbage.
Exciting – because here, any visitor, any employee turns into a kind of archaeologist or gold digger. Indeed, in piles of old things, sooner or later, you can find either something incredibly rare and expensive, or just some very funny unusual stuff that you will remember for years and tell others about more than once.
For example, like in the popular AskReddit thread where the question was asked: “People who have worked at Goodwill or other thrift stores etc. and processed donations, what’s the craziest thing you’ve found?” The thread has collected nearly 52K upvotes and about 7.7K of a wide variety of comments. Yes, as we said, the world of old stuff is incredibly bizarre and fascinating.
KristenBellTattoos.com compiled for you a selection of the most popular, interesting and ludicrous finds made by thrift store employees, which they shared in this very thread. So feel free to watch, read, enjoy – and do not forget to scroll to the very end – because in any list, as well as in a thrift store, at the very bottom you can always find a real treasure!
More info: Reddit
I had a mate who worked in one of the bigger lifeline stores in Australia. A woman came into the store with five large clear plastic storage boxes and asked to donate them. He looked inside of the boxes and it was thousands of beautifully hand painted warhammer pieces. He was shocked and asked her why. They were her son’s and she couldn’t keep them in the house anymore since his death.
My friend said he couldn’t accept the donation, he said the whole collection was worth alot of money. She had no idea. He asked her for all her details and asked if he could try to sell it for her. She agreed. After his shift he went home and took photos of everything and posted it online in an Australian warhammer forum. Within a couple of weeks everything was sold. He called her and she met him at the store. He told her he had sold it to collectors all around Australia who loved her son’s work. He handed her roughly twelve thousand dollars. She cried, he cried, she offered him half, he said no. She told him she would donate his half to a suicide charity in her sons name and his name. He said it was the best thing he had ever done in his life.
Didn’t work there, but was about 5yo and my mom brought me and my siblings with her to Goodwill. She raised us alone, didn’t have a lot of money. This was essentially a school clothes trip. She was just trying to get IN and get OUT, we had strict rules NOT to ask for a toy or frankly just don’t ask for ANYTHING. This is a necessity trip *ONLY*.
Naturally that lasted long enough for us to walk through the automatic doors. My brother went one way, my sister another, and I headed straight for an enormous basket of wallets. I had made up my mind that I needed a wallet and the only place I could beg with any hope to get one was second hand. I picked up one, didn’t like the pockets. Picked up another, wasn’t a fan of zippers. I HATED the sound of Velcro so that eliminated many options in the basket. Eventually I brought my carefully scrutinized selection to mom, who was already overwhelmed by my sibilings’ finds that she only told me no a few times before she relented. It cost her $2.
We loaded our sacks of clothes (and my precious new wallet) into our van and started for home. I remember going through all of the pockets like I was performing a dissection, picturing what I could put here and what was supposed to go there. At some point, I found a slot that was inside of a pocket that was “stiff,” as if it was never used often. I poked at it enough to separate the fabric, and found a bill inside, intricately folded into a tiny square. Before I even realized exactly what it was, I had ripped it out and held it out over the middle seat in the van, waving frantically and practically bouncing in my seat. “Mom! Look! My wallet has money!”
It was four $20 bills, total of $80. I’ll never forget the stunned yell and absolutely magical, gleeful laugh my mom let out. My siblings and I joined in, and we didn’t stop smiling and talking about it the whole way home. That $80 wasn’t much at all, but it was everything for us on that day.
Mom let me keep a $20. I couldn’t even tell you what I spent it on. But I still remember how that wallet smelled.
I do not work at a Goodwill but I found the DD-214 discharge papers of a World War II veteran at a thrift store, along with original family photos, documents and letters.
I was very upset, having recently handled so much paperwork around the death of my grandfather. I knew exactly what I was looking at when I saw the DD-214.
I bought all the documents I could put my hands on and started googling the man’s name. I tracked down his adult daughter who owned a small business with her husband. I found the email address of the small business and sent her what must have been an alarming email, although I was as cordial as I possibly could be.
She got back to me almost immediately. It turned out he had remarried after the marriage to her mother ended. His new wife and her two sons pretty much took over the man’s life and the daughter saw very little of her father. At the end of his life they took charge of all of his possessions and cleared out his house without having told her anything. Even though the second wife had died and the two sons were not technically blood. She was very angered and upset by this at the time, understandably.
I told her she must be the little girl in the baby pictures I had found and I would be glad to send her all these materials. I shipped them out to her via FedEx with tracking and she was so deeply moved. She didn’t have any baby pictures with her father.
I don’t know if I’ve ever done anything good in my life, I’m sure I have. But I know I did a good thing that week. Internet research skills + compassion for the win.
Not me but my aunt.
One of the few surviving enigma machines. The owner passed away and his family dropped it off with a box of newspapers and some memorabilia from the war etc. My aunt being a history nut, figured out what it was, got it appraised (worth almost £100k) and looked for the family for 5 months before being able to return it to them. She didn’t have a heart to take it under false pretences
I worked for a nonprofit for seniors that had a charity shop in it. People often just dropped off boxes of stuff they found in their parent’s attic. One box had a bunch of letters. Some of them were from WWII, when the man was stationed at Camp Carson in Colorado and one of them must have been something they were keeping from an older generation. It was a 1914 letter proposing marriage. It was so romantic. He fell in love with her when they went ice skating together. He included an advertisement for some houses they could buy. They were really nice houses, selling for about $1500.
I’m sadly pretty late to the game for this one it seems.
But, the strangest thing I ever found was actually a bag of uncut emeralds. Most of them were petty small, had inclusions or clarity issues but still it was a bad of uncut/unprocessed emeralds.
About 10 years ago I worked at a chain thrift store, one morning we got a phone call from this gentleman saying, rather calmly, “I think I accidentally donated my mom”, naturally I had no clue what the f**k that meant. Turns out the guy donated his moms ashes so he left his number in case we found it.
The whole back room went on a hunt because it had turned into this competition on who would find his mom first. We found her, phoned him and he came and picked her up. We thought that was the last of him, until we were processing some donations a few months later and found his mom again. We phoned him because we still had his contact information, his only reply was “god damn it”, he came and got her and we never heard from him after that.
Edit: to those asking, she was in a big, heavy, bronze, there’s-no-way-that’s-not-an-urn urn. I’m still not convinced the second time was an accident.
Every once in a while at the shop I used to volunteer at, a large white bag would appear. Always the same kind of white bag, it was full of hand knitted baby cardigans, hats, gloves, bootees. All different shades, expertly made, beautifully folded, with tissue paper on top and the whole thing smelled of fresh baby powder. Nobody ever saw who brought it in. We’d be through the back sorting stuff, head through when we heard the front door go and one white bag would be there, with nobody in sight. I’ve not worked there for years but it still happens, from what I’m told. To this day nobody knows who the Mystery Knitter is.
Vintage Mickey Mouse gas mask from the Second World War. We were not far from an antiques dealer and I later saw that mask in pride of place, centre of the antique shop window.
I found 125 dollars in the front pocket of a kids coat! Had to be like a 3-4 y.o. Next day I found more money in another jacket!
I’m super late to the party, so this will totally get buried, but here we go. A duffle bag full of bones. Large one. We had to call the police, who brought the bones to a coroner to determine if they were human. They ended up not being human, but still… why? Why do you have a duffle bag full of bones to begin with, and why the hell do you think your local thrift store wants them?
I was working off some probation at the Salvation Army. Going through the boxes i found $1000 in the pocket of some plaid pants. Found out they were dropped off from a girl who’s dad had died. Tried to contact her again but to no avail. I got to keep it and it helped pay my rent for the month. I was really struggling at that time so i was very grateful.
I used to sweep the parking lot of a Goodwill and they would toss very interesting stuff in the dumpster. Hundreds of books. Like really expensive ones. Leather bound sets of classical works from the 1920s, early prints of sci fi novels (I found a nice collectible copy of Dune recently), family bibles stacked thick with memories. Food dehydrators, paintings, collectible sports memorabilia, super valuable vintage tools and fixtures. Most of it is just stuff that nobody bothered checking the value on before chucking it out, and it’s really sad.
I found a *destroyed* collection of old Spalding baseball bats, the oldest being from the 30s. They were left in the dumpster in standing water for days at least. It’s sad to see things like that go, maybe because at one point someone loved them very much, and someone else decided that all the care it took to collect these treasures was a waste.
I work at a thrift store as a donation handler. Gnarliest thing I had seen was a literal stack of mattresses left overnight during off hours. They were disgusting, crawling with bugs and riddled in stains of various shades and hues. Noped the f**k out of that, called my manager and they brought a forklift out to take them to the trash compactor.
I worked for a charity shop for a year during my time at university. Once we got a huge donation of clothes in the middle of the night. Like someone just dropped a massive pile of clothing in front of the entry and f****d off. That’s not cool and usually people do it cuz they want to get rid of trash cheaply. But damn this time there were a pair of Gucci mens shoes in there. We all didn’t know how to tell of they were fake or real and went to ask a neighbour shoe shop and they were REAL! And not only real also very old and in great condition! We sold them on an auction for a lot of money!
@ Goodwill, there was this castle set I was given as a Christmas present when I was 5 that was brought in. The cannon turret actually shot the little plastic rock and all the figures looked like dwarves. I never knew anyone else ever bought one in my life, so it was nice seeing it again.
A few years ago, when there was an earthquake in México city, many people were donating old clothes and stuff for people who were now homeless. I found a pair of pants that were as tall as me, and each leg could fit me inside of it.
EDIT: I don’t live anywhere near Mexico City, but I was helping with the donations. I would have included a picture, but sadly, dumbass me decided those were not important and I think I deleted them a few months ago.
Here are some other things I found: a literal goddamn baby sized suit, a single glove the size of my head, a shirt made of what seemed to be the same fabric that my couch has (I’m not talking about just the same pattern, it was the literal fabric), a single boot that weighed about 2 pounds, and a pair of red overalls that were around the same size as the pants, although they were not as big.
Not a thrift store, but my job handled a lot of used items. Basically the customer or next of kin would forget what was in their contents and we would find it through cleaning. I reckon the craziest thing would be old ww2 era japanese rifle and katana. Unsure of the validity of course, because research has told me fakes flooded the market, but we found it ticked away in a hidden alcove in their attic with their husband’s ashes and old newspapers, so who knows.
I found a hidden ww1 photo.
Got in a crappy picture showing the different knots, it was a seaside town i was working in at the time so I put the picture out cheap. Few days later it fell off the wall and the frame broke so I brought it to the back to chuck it out. Found a big military group photo hidden behind.
No idea why it was hidden.
I don’t work at one, but I do know that my grandma donated a bunch of old suits my great grandfather wore to the Salvation Army. Turns out when she told my great grandma what she did when she met back up with her again, she explained to her how she sewed up a bunch of cash in the lining of the jackets and pants. She was a paranoid old woman that had luck for miles though, she was always winning money on bingo and other raffles. Wild how that stuff can be right under your nose and you don’t notice it
My SO used to work at a Goodwill and she said that people would donate used lingerie all the time.
Worked at a Value Village a long time ago and a coworker found cremated ashes – they were in a box that had the funeral home info on it so our manager contacted them about it
A fox fur stole, with real fur, shaped like the fox still, but with glass eyes. Nearly gave me a heart attack, lying there, looking at me!!
My friend was working, when a man came in with his jellyfish collection. 27 jellyfish in different sizes. Yes, they were in glasses and with what we guess to be formaldehyde.