If you're savvy at the secondhand store, you can give gifts that are personal, affordable, and beyond anyone's expectations. All it takes to thrift and gift is a good eye and a little creativity. Knowing which treasures to keep an eye out for can help you put together a meaningful and truly unique gift for any occasion. Keep these thrift store gift ideas in mind next time you're browsing.
Mix-and-Match Antique Tea Set
You might pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars for an antique china tea set, but individual pieces are everywhere at secondhand stores. It makes sense; a lone cup or saucer just isn't very useful by itself. However, there's no rule that says every item in a tea set has to be the same. In fact, it can be way more fun to put together an eclectic tea set out of individually thrifted pieces.
Watch for pretty china teacups, saucers, teapots, creamers, and sugar bowls. When you find one you like, pick it up and set it aside to wait. Once you have enough pieces, you have the perfect present for someone who has great vintage style and likes to entertain. Take the tea set from thrift to gift by wrapping everything together in a box with a couple of varieties of tea.
Costume Jewelry Treasure Trove
Jewelry trends come and go, and you can find great deals on vintage costume jewelry at any thrift store. If you assemble a lot of really sparkly, fun pieces, they can make a wonderful gift for a school-aged kid who loves to play dress up. Look for colorful rings, earrings, brooches, and necklaces and assemble them in a thrifted jewelry box for an amazing present full of fashion potential.
Before giving this gift, it's a good idea to check with parents to make sure they're on board. Kids should be old enough not to put things in their mouths, since many jewelry pieces are also choking hazards. If everything is cool with mom or dad, then get ready to watch the kid open the gift and be absolutely delighted.
Retro Desk Lamp
If you know someone who has a new home office or study area, a retro desk lamp makes a really nice gift. Lamps haven't changed much in the past 50 years, and vintage lamps from decades ago can be perfectly functional and fun at the same time.
Check the lamp to make sure it works before you buy. You'll also want to make sure the cord is a modern one and not a fabric-covered fire hazard. Go for a fun color or style and package the lamp in a nice box and wrapping paper.
Vintage Camera and Film
Film photography is really surging in popularity, and it's getting more difficult than it used to be to score good deals on vintage film cameras at thrift stores. It's not impossible, though, and a good vintage camera can make an incredible gift. Some great models to look for include the Nikon FM and FM2, the Canon AE-1, the Pentax K-1000, and many others.
Before buying, ask if the camera works, whether the lens is in good shape, and what kind of film it takes. If it takes 35mm or 120 film, it will be easy to find film for it. Pick up a few rolls to include with this amazing gift.
Thrift-and-Gift Picnic Basket
A picnic basket makes a wonderful gift for anyone who loves adventure, and you can put one together using thrift store finds. Start by looking for a great basket. It can be a dedicated picnic basket, or it may have been used for something else. Either way, make sure it's clean and in good shape.
Once you find the basket, browse in secondhand stores for a pretty vintage picnic blanket or cloth, dishes or glasses, and even a salt and pepper set. Add a bottle of wine or a favorite snack, and you have a gift the recipient will completely love.
Beautiful Vintage Artwork
A painting, drawing, print, or other piece of framed art can make an exceptional present for anyone who loves decorating with unique pieces. You have to know someone fairly well to understand their art preferences, but this can be a wonderful way to find a gift for a sibling or good friend. There are also some pieces of thrifted art that can be universally adored, such as botanical prints.
If the art comes in a frame you don't like, look for a good deal on a secondhand frame in the same size. You can always reframe it to give the piece a whole new look and make the gift even more special.
Hot Drink Set
When you need a host gift or a comforting present for a friend, you can assemble your own mulled wine or hot chocolate set. Stop by your favorite charity shop or thrift store and pick up an affordable single glass mug. Pack it in a pretty box with mulling spices, hot cocoa ingredients, or some nice tea.
You can add items like an antique spoon, a small jar of honey, a candle, cookies, or some dried flowers to make this gift even prettier. It's a great option for any wintertime holiday or special event, but it also works as a simple thinking-of-you gesture.
Unique Candleholder and Candles
As you shop, watch for a really pretty or interesting looking candleholder. You may even find a pair! This is a chance to find something you can't easily get new - unique style that really shines.
When you find a candleholder you like, pair it with inexpensive candles to complete the gift. If the candleholder is colored or ornate, keep the candles a simple neutral. Put everything together in a gift bag with some dried flowers for maximum impact.
Mini Library of Favorite Books
Books make amazing gifts, and they can also be very meaningful. If you have some favorite titles you know a friend or family member would love, peruse used book shops and flea markets for them. Pick them up as you see them and set them aside until you have a few. This can be the ideal gift for a new baby if you choose your favorite children's books, but it also works as a wonderful present for any age.
Package the books by tying them with a pretty ribbon or some twine. You can add a special bookmark to the top of the bundle.
Cozy Vintage Cardigan
Buying clothing for someone else can be a dodgy business, even if you know the person well. However, you can't go wrong with a beautiful vintage cardigan. You don't have to get the sizing exactly right (sometimes tricky with vintage clothing), since a cardigan can be a little too big or too small and still look amazing.
Look for one that's super high quality, made of wool or another natural material. You can also choose one in a retro style you know the recipient will love, such as a jeweled cardigan from the 1960s. No matter what you pick, package it in a nice box and wrap it beautifully.
Even though you can listen to music on your phone these days, it's still fun to tune in to your favorite radio station. Radios used to come in so many shapes, sizes, and colors, and they often have super cool vibes from their time period. A Mid-Century radio in a candy pastel shade or an 80s boom box with a handy carrying handle can be nostalgic and charming presents for a friend who loves music.
Before you buy, make sure the radio still functions. Check the antenna and turn the knobs, and look to see if the cord is in good shape. If everything looks tune-ready, slip it in a gift bag or box for an awesome present.
Cute Rotary Phone
The way we communicate has changed a lot over the years, and thrift stores are full of cute old telephones. These retro phones can make wonderful decorations on a desk or side table, even if they're never plugged in. They're a great housewarming or new office gift for a friend.
Pick a phone with a pretty shape or in an interesting color. If you know the person won't be plugging it in, remove the phone cable. You can leave the adorable curly cord.
Vintage Kitchen Canisters and Cooking Gadgets
If you need housewarming or host gifts, thrift stores can be the perfect place to look for kitchen items. A set of vintage canisters in a bright, fun color makes an awesome choice if you know the recipient's decorating style.
You can also pick up a bunch of retro kitchen gadgets like spatulas, egg beaters, spoons, and can openers in pretty colors. If you pick a color and choose everything in that shade, the gift will feel planned out and really attractive.
Color Theme Sewing Set
A sewing set makes a great gift, and you can find a lot of the pieces secondhand. Antique and vintage sewing items have tons of charm, and they're just as useful today as they were decades ago. Wooden spools of thread, needles in old-fashioned cardboard packs, and pretty thimbles are super fun too.
To give your present a pulled-together look, select a color scheme ahead of time. Pick thread, ribbons, and tools in that color. Fun shades include yellow, pink, baby blue, and green. Then package everything together in a cute basket for a unique gift.
Board Game Collection
Buying board games secondhand takes a bit of careful examination. You don't want to get one with missing pieces or extensive wear to the board. However, it's also a good way to score a great deal on classic toys people of all ages love to get.
This makes a wonderful thrift store Christmas gift or birthday present, since it's irresistible and fun to play with. Start shopping a few months in advance and gather several games together in a stack. Tie with a bright-colored ribbon.
Nostalgic Lunch Box With Treats
Vintage lunch boxes can be very collectible, especially when they feature a favorite character or motif. If you know what someone likes, from Pacman to Peanuts, you can watch for the perfect lunch box that will tap into that nostalgic charm. These are perfectly useful today, either for actually carrying lunch or for storing small items in a handy, portable way.
Pick a box that's rust-free and has a nice, bright design. To complete the gift, fill the lunch box with cookies, candy, or other treats you know the recipient loves.
Canvas Tote Bag and Thrifting Kit
When it comes to gifts for thrifters, having some inside knowledge about the hobby can really help you put together an amazing present. Start with a canvas tote bag that's in good shape. You can choose a plain one or pick one with a logo, fun print, or vintage shape.
Then fill the tote bag with items that can be handy when you're thrifting. For example, you could include a small tape measure, a little bottle of hand sanitizer, discount cards or coupons, some snacks, a bottle of water, and maybe an inexpensive calculator. Tie everything together with a pretty bow.
Make the Gift Meaningful
Ultimately, the key to finding a great thrift store treasure to give for Christmas, birthdays, housewarmings, and other occasions is to keep the preferences of the recipient in mind. If the gift shows that you know and really appreciate the person receiving it, then they're sure to love it. If you found something unique in a thrift store that is meaningful and personal, it's likely an item they'll treasure forever.