Antiquing and thrifting: Everything from crocks and pottery to vinyl records and railroad carts selling

Rick Wagner • Mar 4, 2018 at 12:00 AM

KINGSPORT — In antiquing and thrifting, as the old sayings go, everything old is new again and one person’s trash is another’s treasure.

Some area antique and thrift store retailers say that their businesses are alive and thriving but that like most things in retail, what’s popular is cyclical.


Crocks and pottery are in, especially with the young crowd.

“Depression era stuff, that’s down,” said Joyce Grills of the Haggle Shop in downtown Kingsport. “We are finding young people are buying really, truly old crocks and pottery.”

Grills, who has been in the antique business since the mid-1960s, also said younger shoppers are buying metal lunch boxes like the ones they and classmates carried in elementary school. Another big sellers is copies of “Life Magazine” and vinyl records.

(Note: Technically, an antique must be 100 years old, although for vehicles the label can be applied at 25 years old. For antique stores, thrift  stores and such, many items are called “vintage,” which can have a broad range of age, or collectible, which does not emphasize age so much.)

Grills said that furniture, which had been a slow seller, has made a comeback in recent months with pie safes a particular favorite. She also said that “Hoosier” cabinets, with porcelain work surfaces and a flour sifter and identified from a name brand of one manufacturer but ubiquitous in 1920s to 1940s kitchens in the United States, may be making a comeback in popularity after not being as popular for a while. 

Across the street at P & J Antiques, Pat Houchens said that business has had more luck with upscale items, although she said vinyl records are often good sellers, too.

“People are buying more of the classic, higher end stuff,” said Houchens, in the business since the 1980s. She said that has been the case for five or six years. She said younger buyers also are seeking out more trendy, “shabby chic” items.

Reed Dykes at River Mountain Antiques and Primities, which he operates with his wife, Debbie, said railroad carts sell very well. People use them for tables and decoration, he said. Folks at Anchor Antiques said smaller porcelain items sell well.


Frank Fritz of TV picking fame, your influence is duly noted.

“The newest thing is kind of like sets,” said Crystal Stanley, manager of the Goodwill store on the John B. Dennis Bypass. 

Stanley explained that meant pairing a group of related but different items, such as Christmas decorations and decor of Valentine’s Day things, in a single group for sale. “That’s been selling well,” Stanley said.

The idea is basically what Frank Fritz on the “American Pickers” television series uses to group together items he wants to buy on a pick. However, in a thrift store setting, Stanley said the “bundles” are made by the seller, not the buyer. She said the idea provides a great way to sell something like a group of scrap book supplies.

Over at the Habitat ReStore on the edge of downtown, store manager Milburn Lane said and Habitat volunteer Gabielle Zeiger, collectibles and online reseacher, said the store also “bundles items,” from place settings of china in the main store to boxes of picture frames and other hanging items in the warehouse where building materials also are sold.

“We probably sold over 100 boxes of framed at $2, $3, $4 or $8 a box,” Lane said. Zeiger said that old Pyrex mixing bowls, old Polaroid cameras, manual typewriters, old video games and even an occasional arcade game sell well. 

“ ’American Pickers’ has really done a lot for thirfting,” she said. And Lane said tiny home euthusiasts, taking a page from TV shows, are good customers.

“We have half a dozen groups building tiny houses,” Lane said. He said they are looking at building materials in the warehouse as well as smaller furniture in the main store.


Goodwill of Tenneva Retail Director Jerry Oliver said millenials often relish shopping and browsing in thrift stores, the thrill of the hunt, as much or moreso than buying..

“It can be kind of an addicting experience to come into a thrift store,” Oliver said. A high-dollar painting or expensive collectible may be among items for sale, as can expensive designer clothes since clothing is a Goodwill mainstay.

“We don’t know the value of some of this stuff,” Oliver said, adding that reasonable prices or even super bargains on value items keep folks coming back for more.

“Things that have gone out of style are back in style,” said Adrianne Lane, assistant retail director for the area Goodwill. “It isn’t called out of style, it’s called vintage. It’s like Christmas morning. You don’t know what you’re going to get.”

Oliver said that millenials generally favor experiences over things. But whatever the age, Goodwill’s Lane said she’s found shoppers from Chilhowie in the Johnson City store, part of a group of stores going from Richands, Va., to Greeneville, Tenn.

“We have people who come in regularly to look for specific items,” Habitat’s Milburn Lane said. “Millenials love merchadise from the 40s, 50s and 60s.” He said they shop for sturdy all-wood furniture from those decades, and that folks of varying ages buy doors, cabinets and other building supplies from the warehouse.

Zeigler said that some warehouse shoppers are looking for windows, doors and other building items to repurpose, often using ideas they got from Pinterest or Etsy, everything from making furniture from doors to wall decorations from old windows to fairy gardens from whatever they find.

“It’s fun to hear all the repurpose uses people have,” Zeigler said. Even wooden crutches can be used as part of a wall hanging, she said. 

Grills said many antique store customers are repeat customers and may be from out of town, something Oliver and Lane of Goodwill said is true for thrifting, too.


There’s an app or website for many items, and vinyl records are good sellers, both things that cut across thrifting and antiquing.

Grills of the Haggle Shop and Stanley of Goodwill both said that they see more shoppings checking items on their smart phones, either on the eBay auction site, other selling sites and on more specialized apps that track things like books.

The eBay auction-style site has affected sales by making recent selling prices of items easily searchable, Grills said, although she said some shoppers enjoy the thrill of the hunt for a particular item at a bargain or finding something not closely comparable to something else online.

However, Grills said that the disadvantage of eBay for larger items is that shipping costs or making arrangements to pick up something hundreds or thousands of miles away can be expensive or difficult, respectively. 

As for merchandise that sells in both thrift stores and antique stores, vinyl records, long-playing 33s and 45 singles do well in antiquing as well as thrifting, folks interview for this article said.

Habitat’s Lane added that 8-track tapes and players, turntables and vinyl records and VCRs and VCR tapes also are good sellers at the Restore, as do older cathode ray tube televisions people use mostly for video games or viewing tapes on VCRs.

“We’ can’t keep an 8-track player,” he said. “We can’t keep turntables and VCRs.” And among a recent donation of about 2,500 VCR tapes, he said more than 1,000 have sold, albeit at 50 cents each. He said those that sell for more of a premium include 1950s and 1960s “slasher” and B movies that never made it to DVD and had limited VHS runs.


Oliver said that while Goodwill in this area does not sell online and has no plans to do so, although the option is there with the national www.ShopGoodwill.com. In contrast, the Habitat Restore has been selling on Craigslist and in a few weeks plans to start selling on eBay, an auction-style marketplace with national reach.

“We’re getting ready to start selling on eBay,” Habitat’s Milburn Lane said. Two pieces to be sold there are a $350 Waterford decorative bowl, which resembles a punch bowl, and a $170 sterling silver bowl. They may not bring that much on eBay, but similar to identical items have.

Habitat’s Lane said that Zeigler looks at more expensive items to be sure those who donate the items are not done a disservice. He said items may sell for less than full retail but that the operations tries not to sell them too cheaply. Zeiger said that items like Depression glass sell well somewhere between yard sale and antique store prices.

Both Goodwill and Habitat officials said antique dealers and collectors shop their stores. 

P & J Antiques and the Haggle Shop promote themselves and some items on social media, and some antique dealers sell online.



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