If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

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Vintage Texas Ware bowl
Kentin Waits / Money Talks News

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 junk?

As a professional reseller who has 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 lookout” for) item. When you find it, buy it!

Featured Find: Texas Ware mixing bowls

The 1940s brought us the Slinky, Tupperware, M&Ms and the first glimpses of the midcentury modern aesthetic that’s still influencing design today.

And late in that decade, the Plastics Manufacturing Co. of Dallas began making kitchen products out of a new type of plastic called melamine. Sold under the name Texas Ware, the company’s full line included everything from cups and saucers to school lunch trays.

But Texas Ware’s big hit was its line of multicolored mixing bowls informally dubbed “confetti ware” or “spatter ware.” These unusual pieces were created by adding a random assortment of brightly colored melamine pellets (aka “confetti”) to a heated mold. The result? Modern, mass-produced bowls that featured entirely unique patterns of color.

Why buy it

Besides being lightweight and nearly indestructible, Texas Ware bowls are the epitome of midcentury optimism. I mean, who can be cynical around confetti?

These aren’t bowls you hide in the back of a cabinet — they’re bold, colorful statement pieces.

And for resellers, finding a Texas Ware bowl in a random thrift store is truly a confetti-worthy moment. As I mentioned in this article on Heller dinnerware, many secondhand shops undervalue anything made of plastic. Bad for them, but good for eagle-eyed bargain-hunters like you and me.

Last week, I bought a large Texas Ware bowl at Goodwill for $1.99 and immediately flipped it to a collector I know for $45. Resale potential is even better online. On Etsy, this 11-inch mixing bowl is on sale for $65. And this 10-inch bowl recently brought a whopping $104 on eBay.

Pro tip: If you’re buying Texas Ware bowls for personal use, follow two simple rules:

  • Don’t nuke it. Melamine will shatter in the microwave.
  • Don’t put it in the dishwasher. High heat and heavy detergents will cause the material to dry out and become brittle.

What to look for

Genuine Texas Ware is easy to identify. Found on the underside of each piece, the raised logo reads “Texas Ware” encircled by the words “Plastics Manufacturing Co. Dallas, Texas, USA.” On bowls, the maker’s mark will also include a number that indicates size. (Bowl diameters may vary slightly.) These marks include:

  • 111 — an 8-inch diameter bowl
  • 118 — a 10-inch bowl
  • 125 — an 11-inch bowl
Texas Ware logo
Kentin Waits / Money Talks News

Pro tip: Resellers, it’s not uncommon to find a vintage confetti-style bowl without a maker’s mark. Buy it anyway. Although branded pieces fetch higher prices, there’s a strong market for unbranded bowls.

Texas Ware also made in bowls in solid colors, but buyers prefer the confetti pattern. To get top resale dollar, look for:

  • Unique colors: Some hues are hotter than others. In my experience, buyers pay a premium for bowls that feature green, blue or yellow as the predominant color.
  • High-contrast color combinations: Texas Ware collectors prize bowls in high-contrast colors. Look for pieces with flecks of black, bright red or navy blue.
  • Complete sets: Texas Ware bowls were designed in three graduated sizes, so they could be nested for easy storage. Even if the colors don’t match, full sets command higher resale prices.

Purists beware: The popularity of Texas Ware’s vintage bowls has inspired several contemporary knock-offs. Rachael Ray’s line of Garbage Bowls has a very similar look and Zak! Designs offers a line of recycled melamine products sold under the brand name Confetti.

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