If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

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Kirby vacuum
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Shopping thrift stores, flea markets and estate sales can be overwhelming. With the sheer volume of stuff, how do you know where to start? How do you spot gems amid all the … well, junk?

As a professional reseller who’s been combing through thrift stores for the better part of 30 years, I can help. If you’re ready to cut your shopping time in half, score bigger bargains or walk away with brag-worthy finds you can flip for cash, read on.

From hard-to-find household items to resale money-makers, everything featured in this series qualifies as a BOLO (“be on the look out” for) item. When you find it, buy it!

Featured Find: Kirby G Series vacuums

You can find Kirby vacuums at estate sales and in thrift shops across the country.

These humble workhorses were considered state-of-the-art until Dyson exploded onto the U.S. market in the 1990s. As bagless vacuums became more popular, older models — including Kirby’s G Series — started hitting the secondhand market.

The G Series was manufactured in the 1990s and 2000s. And in true Kirby fashion, these machines were built with more metal than most new cars, as I always joke. They are heavy and relatively powerful, and they last forever.

True story: Until 10 years ago, my mom was still using the Kirby she bought from a door-to-door salesman in 1965. When she finally decided to part with it, I didn’t know if I should advertise it on Craigslist or donate it to a museum. Try getting 50-plus years out of any product made today, especially one with a motor.

Kirby’s G Series included six models:

  • G3
  • G4
  • G5
  • Gsix
  • Ultimate G (also referred to as the G7)
  • Ultimate G Diamond Edition

Describing Kirby as “thorough” would be a gross understatement. G Series models came with a wondrous assortment of attachments all organized in a plastic caddy nearly as large as the vacuum itself. The company provided extenders, nozzles, and brushes to clean every nook and cranny imaginable.

Why buy it?

I’ve always thought of Kirby as the vintage Volvo of vacuum cleaners — not that sexy, but it’ll get the job done with minimal fuss year after year.

At typical thrift store prices of $15 to $35, any Kirby G Series vacuum in good working order is a fantastic find. Sure, you may have to replace the belt once or twice, but those cost only about $1 each. Besides, wouldn’t it be refreshing to own a machine that will actually last long enough for something to wear out?

Although Kirby was never as design-forward as Dyson, its G Series offered some significant improvements over earlier models, including HEPA filtration. The Ultimate G Diamond Edition even featured noise reduction settings.

Resellers will be happy to learn that G Series vacuums are always in demand. An Ultimate G Diamond Edition with all the attachments recently sold for $179.99 on eBay (plus $99.99 shipping). And even with some mechanical issues, this G4 model sold for $248.64.

Don’t feel like lugging one of these behemoths to the post office? I totally get it. Flip it on Facebook Marketplace or sell it piece by piece. A used G3 outer cloth bag brought for $39.99 on eBay, and this lot of Ultimate G attachments is selling for $149.95 on Etsy.

What to look for

Kirby G Series vacuums have a distinctive flared “fork” — an extended handle assembly that supports the body of the machine. You can find the model name on the bag and printed along the fork.

Although all G Series vacuums are strong sellers, the resale market is particularly hot for the Ultimate G and Ultimate G Diamond Edition models. A machine that comes with a carpet shampoo system (a nonstandard accessory) is particularly desirable.

As with all household machines, perform a quick quality check before you buy. Make sure that:

  • The cord isn’t damaged
  • Attachments are included
  • When the vacuum is running, the cylindrical brush under the nozzle head rotates freely

Pro tip: If you notice a slight burning odor when testing a machine, don’t run the other way. This is a common indicator that the vacuum’s belt is stuck or broken. Replacement belts are easy to find online and simple to install yourself.

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