If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

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Vintage Brasilia furniture by Broyhill
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 moneymakers, everything featured in my “Thrift Shop Like a Pro” series qualifies as a BOLO (“be on the lookout” for) item. When you find it, buy it!

Featured find: Brasilia furniture by Broyhill

Sometimes the stars align, and a company creates the perfect product at exactly the right time. That’s what furniture-maker Broyhill did in the early 1960s.

Founded in 1926 by J.E. Broyhill, the company produced affordable wood and upholstered home furnishings from its factory in Lenoir, North Carolina. In 1962, Broyhill made history at the Seattle World’s Fair when it unveiled a modern, forward-looking line of furniture dubbed “Brasilia.”

Inspired by the dynamic architecture of Brazil’s new capital, Brasilia pieces featured sweeping lines with sculptural “scoop-like” panels. The raised panels have become the hallmark of Brasilia. They serve not only as a striking design detail, but also function as integrated cabinet door handles on some pieces.

Production was strong until Broyhill changed ownership in 1970 and retired the much-loved line. The Broyhill company was dissolved in 2018, and Big Lots acquired the name and trademark rights.

Why buy it?

If you’ve shopped for new furniture lately, you know how expensive things have gotten. Solid wood pieces often sell for thousands of dollars, and lower-quality particle-board furniture isn’t the bargain option it once was.

And in exchange for all that money, consumers aren’t necessarily getting high-design or world-class craftsmanship. For most buyers, today’s solid wood furniture won’t ever achieve heirloom status.

But there are options. Broyhill’s Brasilia line was crafted of solid wood. And 60 years after production started, it looks more contemporary than most pieces in retail showrooms.

For enterprising resellers, Brasilia furniture is a sure bet – especially if you’re within easy driving distance of a major city. I rely on Facebook Marketplace to resell the pieces I’ve found and have drawn buyers from cities four to six hours away.

From serious collectors to interior design geeks, buyers are willing to pay up for Brasilia pieces. On eBay, this six-drawer dresser recently sold for $1,648 and this battered dining room set sold for $850. Prices on Etsy are just as impressive. This queen-size headboard is listed for $695, and this restored buffet is priced at $3,947.

What to look for

The most obvious feature of the Broyhill’s Brasilia line of furniture is the iconic scoop. That imagery is repeated on the maker’s mark, usually found on an interior drawer. Look for a paper label that includes the scoops paired with palm trees and the brand “Brasilia” written with a heavily flourished “B” above the words “Broyhill Premier.”

If you can’t find a label, here are a few other identifying features of the Brasilia line:

  • Wood type: Most Brasilia furniture is crafted of solid walnut.
  • Hardware: Drawer pulls repeat the scoop design and are made of brass. (Resellers, individual drawer pulls can sell for as much as $75 apiece.)
  • Joinery: Drawers on Brasilia furniture are built with dovetail joints
  • Legs: On Brasilia pieces, tapered legs have a slight curve where they meet the body of the piece (rather than a sharp, 90-degree angle).

See also: 10 Secrets to Finding Quality Secondhand Furniture

Reissue alert: Though very few details exist, it appears Broyhill released an updated version of the Brasilia line sometime in the 1980s. Informally referred to by collectors as “Brasilia II,” these pieces feature a darker stain and often have laminated top surfaces. The value of Brasilia II furniture is typically half that of the original.

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