If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

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Man shopping for secondhand clothing
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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 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 Look-Out for) item. When you find it, buy it!

Featured find: Vintage leather jackets by Schott

During my first year of college, I decided that I needed a leather motorcycle jacket. Granted, I’d never been on a motorcycle and had zero interest in getting on one. But it was the age of Grunge and this small-town Iowa kid was ready for an edgier look (cue the “Easy Rider” soundtrack).

I drove to the nearest city that had a pawn shop and promptly bought myself an old Schott motorcycle jacket for $40 (no small sum in 1989). I lived in that jacket for the next couple of years.

How I managed to score an original Schott in my size remains a mystery (thanks, Universe). The iconic brand has been worn by the likes of James Dean, Marlon Brando, Joan Jett and Blondie. Not nearly as countercultural myself, I was delighted just to look the part.

The Schott brothers got their start in 1913 by selling handmade raincoats and leather jackets door to door in New York City.

Constantly innovating, the pair became the first apparel manufactures to use a zipper as a closing mechanism on a jacket. And in 1928, Schott began selling the Perfecto — the world’s first motorcycle jacket — through a Harley-Davidson distributor in Long Island.

By the start of World War II, the company was established enough to secure a contract with the U.S. Air Force. For the next six decades, Schott supplied leather and wool coats for the U.S. military.

Why buy it?

Still going strong today, Schott is one of those rare apparel companies that have always made heirloom products. Its high-quality leather and wool goods stand the test of time, rather than the fickleness of a single season.

Schott leather coats are an investment — designed and manufactured to be passed along, to mellow with age, and to look better from honest wear.

If you find a Schott tucked away on the racks of a thrift store, you’ve discovered a true survivor. For pennies on the dollar you can rescue a jacket that will serve you well for years.

If you’re interested in reselling for a profit, Schott jackets should get your motor running. Pre-loved and already broken in, vintage leather coats are often more valuable than new.

On eBay, this 1970s-era Perfecto motorcycle jacket recently sold for $550, and this lambskin shearling coat sold for $234.99. On Etsy, this customized leather motorcycle jacket is listed for $850.

What to look for

Though the Schott logo has been tweaked many times over the decades, the typeface has remained relatively consistent.

Most vintage jackets I find feature an off-white label with “Schott N.Y.C.” embroidered in brown. On some vintage pieces, the word “SPORTSWEAR” is embroidered in yellow under the logo.

Other factors to consider include:

  • Style: Though there’s value in all vintage Schott jackets, aviator or “bomber” jackets, classic biker jackets and ranch-style coats with shearling lining sell best. Western-style jackets with fringe detail appeal to a more limited market and tend to sell for less money.
  • Line: Perfecto is a sort of Schott sub-brand. The name given to the company’s very first line of leather motorcycle jackets, “Perfecto” is now used to designate all of Schott’s top-tier leather products.
  • Zippers: All Schott coats and jackets feature metal zippers. The zipper brands used most were YKK, Scovill, Ideal, EMAR, Conmar and Lenzip. You can find the manufacturer’s name on the zipper pull.
  • Condition: Condition will always affect resale value. Before you buy, check to make sure every snap snaps, every zipper zips, and that the leather isn’t brittle or flaking.

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