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8 Cute Things I Thrifted In July
Plus, a WILD Goodwill story, as well as some expert thrifting tips from my friend Jillian, an official appraisal GENIUS💫.
Happy Wednesday, gang. I’m going to keep this one brief, not because I don’t have a million things to say about all the GEMS I thrifted this month, but because this wonderful newsletter platform has a merciless length limit and I’m always paranoid some crucial detail or image will get cut off. So, bundled in this week’s thrifty missive are not just the eight latest-greatest finds from this month’s travels, but also some really excellent insider thrifting tips from my friend Jillian—an expert collector and ~official~ appraisal expert. She’s one of the people I’m always learning handy/cool things from about what to look for when I’m diving deep into a jam-packed antiques market or a dumpster pile of God-Knows-What, so hopefully some of her jewels here will give you a little edge when you hit some local yard sales this weekend. PS: She also found something truly UNBELIEVABLE in a Goodwill Outlet bin in the midwest where she used to live. And guess who bought it from her….😎
Without further ado, my hot thrifts of JULY…
Nobody in the history of the world hoped to find a bathrobe at a thrift store. But alas, I found this vintage LL Bean one the SAME day that I found these vintage LL Bean boots…both in my size. A DREAM for coffee, birdwatching and all manner of other creature comforts. I actually didn’t have a cool bathrobe before…and now I do. It was $6.
Yup, found this vintage quilt just hanging out with some rando sheets at the Goodwill in Hudson. $9.99. She’s a little faded but after a wash she came right back to life. OBSESSED.
As a person who grew up on magazines like this one, I’m being very judicious lately about collecting important|beautiful landmark moments from this once magical universe, especially as the industry feels like it’s vanishing before our eyes. Annie Leibovitz’s cover of Yoko and John at their home in the Dakota. The interview inside is just as iconic. A little piece of history, found on eBay for $5.
This vintage “Outside” booklet from 1979 was tucked into a beautiful woven basket on a sidewalk along with a pile of old midcentury religious iconography. The fluorescent cover is still so bright, and the whole book is 🔥 graphic design inspiration for future projects.
Everyone flipped out earlier this year when I found this exact necklace for $8 at a Salvation Army in West Palm Beach. Lo and behold, I found ANOTHER ONE—for $8!!!😭—at an antiques market in Chatham, New York just a few weeks ago. I still can’t believe it either!
An assortment of vintage and nearly vintage art-design books for the tiny reading library at NowHere gallery (one of my advisory clients) on Wooster Street in NYC. If you’re in the neighborhood drop in for a visit…they have a wonderful coffee bar, too:)
Not 100% sure if this is vintage, but I had to grab it on a recent Salvation Army run for a certain NYT best-selling cookbook author who happens to REALLY love DILL.
A tiny Hudson River School painting from an estate sale a few weeks ago. It was $10 and I’m excited to get it a proper (tiny) frame.
Thrifting Tips From An Expert Appraiser
My friend Jillian Van Volkenburgh is an artist and professional personal property appraiser (basically anything outside of real estate) who I actually met on social media AND who I bought something kind of unbelievable from. She DM’d me with something like, “I found this remarkable Quan Yin statue in one of the bins at the Goodwill outlet, and I think you might want it for your Future Cottage upstate.” When she texted me a picture of it, I gasped. It looks like it should be in a museum. And since she’s an official appraiser, she knew it was carved from somewhere between the 1880s and 1920s, and very, very special. Since then, Jillian has taught me a lot about what to look for when you’re thrifting, like really vintage t-shirts, collectible art books, as well as rare hand-carved goddesses dating from 200 years ago✨. Jillian knows so much, and here she gets to share a little of it with us, too, so consider our chat here a little primer on how to spot something truly worth thrifting.
How did you get into appraisal?
I was an art teacher in my late twenties and wanted to do something art adjacent but different. I answered an ad for a research position in the classified section of the Chicago Reader newspaper (YES, an actual paper). I was like, Wow, I can get paid to research interesting things and learn about things I didn’t even realize were things? It opened an entirely new chapter for me. I was introduced to antique rugs, silver, etc. and the early days of the mid-century modern explosion.
You collect things yourself, some of which I’ve bought from you! What are you collecting these days?
I was that child who had the cigar box of rocks and shells. I grew up in the Chicago area during the ‘90s grunge/alternative cusp, and thrifting was just part of the culture. We all wanted to emulate the bands of the Chicago music scene—Liz Phair, Smashing Pumpkins, etc.—who were wearing ‘70s thrift. Everyone had a butterfly collared shirt, a baby-doll dress, and something corduroy. I would also buy vintage curtains or any large textile that I could turn into something wearable. I collect antique and vintage jewelry, especially brooches. Any era. Big, small. Costume or fine. I’m a sucker for anything Art Nouveau. A brooch is my elevated version of a band button. Lately I’ve been collecting trench art, which is exactly what it sounds like—literally art from the trenches, made from upcycled war debris by soldiers or people involved in a conflict. This craft flourished in WWI with soldiers making jewelry and decorative objects from discarded bullets, shell casings, etc. They were sent home to loved ones as mementos from afar and were embellished with designs and often engraved with sweet messages. I find trench art very romantic. As an artist, I understand that the need to create is innate; sometimes it may be redirected or quiet, but it is always present regardless of the situation, even in war.
Me and my friend Jillian…right after we had some iced tea and went thrifting🥰.
When we’re thrifting or antiquing, what are some of the things we can look for in terms of authentication or tell-tale signs that can distinguish something's value?
As simple as it seems, it begins by just LOOKING. If it’s clothing or accessories, look at the tags, the stitching, and the hardware. If it is an object or painting, look for a maker’s mark, label, signature, etc. There are often clues right in front of you. I always carry a jeweler’s loupe with me just in case I need a closer look.
As an appraiser, determining value is a process. It’s not as PBS-glamorous as the “Antiques Roadshow” makes it seem. There’s a lot of nerdy market analysis in the valuation process. Many factors come into play including the style, quality, materials, artist/maker/designer, market demand, provenance, etc. There are also different types of value, i.e., fair market value, replacement value, etc. It often depends on what the purpose of the valuation is. My number one tip is to learn about what you love. There are a lot of great websites and blogs that are good resources and I really like sites with active forums. People LOVE discussing things they love and often they have more current information than a book or website may have. I really like the Vintage Fashion Guild, especially as a label resource. Heddels is also a great place to learn about vintage denim. Coursera has free courses on fine art. Auction houses, museums, and collecting societies also have talks with experts and host webinars, etc. Just begin by narrowing your scope of interest, and then dive in.
Also! The two easiest indicators of dating a true vintage tee are the tag and the stitching. In short, tees before mid-‘90s will have a single stitched hem and tags were not printed on the inside of the shirt. But with all things valuable, there are always fantastic counterfeits. People will take blanks (unprinted authentic vintage t-shirts) and print on them to dupe potential buyers. Is that a real Sonic Youth Jane Birkin ringer tee? Maybe? Maybe not. Playing detective is a necessary part of the vintage world.
And although books and online resources are great, I am a firm believer in handling things or at least seeing them in person. You can feel the weight of something or the quality of the fabric or construction. I also go to auction previews to do this. Before you know it, you will start banking that knowledge and have it as a mental resource when you’re out on the hunt. There will always be counterfeits and forgeries out there, so be prepared.
What are some of the craziest things you've found when thrifting?
Although I have come across some questionable things, I think the most bizarre situation is when I was at a Goodwill and…there were cremains in one of the bins! They had to temporarily close the store. I think we all know a thrifter whose memoir will be Scatter my Ashes at Goodwill, so maybe it’s not so shocking.
But my two favorite recent thrift finds are an amazing vintage Prince counterfeit parking lot concert tee, $6.99. The screen print is poor quality, and the fit is a bit off, but it’s SO bad it’s good. I am a Prince superfan and it is easily one of my grail items. The other is a painting of an exquisite golden hour landscape of the California redwoods by Martella Cone Lane (American 1875-1962), $9.99. I was initially drawn to it because it was a striking painting, but also because it was in a period frame and signed. Those were two initial clues to where I knew it was something and it shouldn’t be at a thrift store. It didn’t take much research to discover that I had found a special piece. (Lane was an artist, activist, and preservationist who started the Save the Redwoods League in the 1920s. The California State Forestry Service even gave her land for a studio among the redwoods. [And her paintings] are like love letters to the redwoods.)
Lastly, what are the most basic tips you have for navigating any flea market or thrift store?
The vintage world has become an increasingly huge industry, and we’ve all encountered the over-picked thrift store and the overpriced flea market. I prefer estate sales. Estate sale companies are often on a time crunch and need to clear a home in a few days, so I often find great deals and even free items. Also, I find it interesting to have some context on where my finds have lived. Did this person travel? Were they a collector? Did they have a connection to a prominent family or have historical significance? Sites like EstateSales.net and EstateSales.org list sales with overview images of some of the items in the sale. The images can often give you a clue to possibly what other types of items will be in the sale.
People are always asking me for advice on what to invest in or what they should buy. I always say to BUY WHAT YOU LIKE. All caps. Unless you are in the market for a Basquiat, there are many other ways to make sound investments. So, again: Buy it because you like it and consider anything beyond that a bonus.🏆
And, just in case you missed it, the latest from ATA…xxCb❤️