If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

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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 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 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: vintage Ralph Lauren clothing

When I was in high school, Ralph Lauren was the brand to wear if you wanted to be part of the in-crowd. On par with other must-have labels like Benetton and Guess, Ralph Lauren was the ticket to higher social standing. Of course, it all seems ridiculous 35 years later, but the struggle was real. A lot of kids pinned their hopes (and spent much of their paychecks) on that little embroidered Polo pony.

Founded in 1967 by Ralph Lauren, the company got its start selling neckties. In 1968, a full line of menswear was introduced. The rest, as they say, is history.

It may no longer be the “it” label for high schoolers, but Ralph Lauren is still going strong. And vintage pieces from my youth (the late 1980s through the 90s) are being rediscovered by a new generation. Even better, the brand is plentiful in most thrift stores — ignored by many shoppers who equate it with all things yuppie.

Why buy it?

Even at the height of its popularity, Ralph Lauren never let the quality slip. Vintage shirts, jeans and jackets have held up well over the years, and classic styling means that most pieces are wearable today. In an age of fast fashion and questionable quality, the brand looks and feels better than ever.

If you’re interested in reselling thrift-store finds for profit, add Ralph Lauren clothing to your shopping list. Some highly sought-after pieces can bring many times the original retail price.

On eBay, this Indian head sweater from 1994 sold for $710 and this rodeo-themed denim jacket brought $425.88. Prices are just as strong on Etsy, where this rugby shirt from 1987 is listed for $300 and sellers are asking $799 for this Indian blanket wrap skirt.

What to look for

Ralph Lauren clothing is well-marked and branding often carries through to buttons, zipper pulls and other design details. Though there are multiple brands within the Ralph Lauren Corp., some sell better than others. The labels I always look for include:

  • Polo: Those early neckties were sold under the Polo brand, though the iconic Polo Pony didn’t appear until 1971.
  • Polo Country: Though little information is available on it, Country appears to have been a short-lived sub-brand of Polo. Designs were less sports-focused and more rustic.
  • Polo Bear: This is both a sub-brand of Polo and a design theme that dates back to 1991. Vintage Polo Bear sweaters can resell for hundreds of dollars.
  • Double RL: Launched in 1993, RRL offers a modern take on American ranch wear. Vintage RRL commands a high resale price.
  • Ralph Lauren Purple Label: A line of premium clothing launched in 1995, Purple Label features seasonal collections made with high-end fabrics.

If you’re looking for pieces to resell, shop strategically. I focus on wardrobe staples that aren’t stained, faded or heavily worn. The following vintage Ralph Lauren pieces are always in demand:

  • Rugby shirts
  • Sweaters
  • Denim and wool jackets
  • Leather coats

Pro tip: Sizes run large across all Ralph Lauren lines. If you’re reselling clothing online, be sure to specify the actual measurements of each garment. For example, when listing a shirt, include measurements for the chest, shoulders, sleeves and total length (collar to hem).

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