Thrift Stores versus Antique Shops – What’s the Difference?

Thrift Stores versus Antique Stores

Today I am excited to talk to you guys about shopping at thrift stores versus shopping at antique shops and the difference between them!

YouTube video

I have done a few blog posts now on both thrifting and antiquing. In fact, I even created a post on Antiquing for Beginners if you want to check that out! The Antiquing for Beginners blog post features a YouTube video that includes several tips for antique shopping and things to look for.

Of course I have several posts on thrifting as well, you know I LOVE thrifting and I love a bargain and sharing my treasures with you is always so fun for me!

An awesome basket thrifted find I have displayed in my entry!
This $15 basket is one of my favorite thrift store finds. I’m sure it would have been much more money had I found it at an antique store!

So much of my home consists of thrifted goods and antiques. In my opinion, this is what makes a home YOUR home. It would be so easy for me to buy all of my items at Target and link all of them for you, but then we would all have the same exact house and decor and none of it would be unique or special!

The thrill of finding items at thrift stores and antique shops to use in your home is amazing and makes your home so specific to you.

Vintage artwork in our cottage kitchen found in antique stores!
The vintage art on my kitchen counter as well as the crock and copper soap dish near my sink are all examples of antique store finds!

If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram and watch my stories, you noticed this past weekend my husband surprised me, lined up sitters (thanks Mom) and took me out on a date!

He told me we could shop where ever I wanted to and I chose antiquing, just because I was in the mood. I also decided to do a blog post for you on this very topic to explain shopping thrift stores versus antique shops and why I choose one over the other when shopping. 

A beautiful thrift haul displayed in my dining room
Both the basket on my table as well as the galvanized pail on the buffet were both thrift store finds. The basket was only $5, but I thought the pail was a bit overpriced at $10.

Thrift Stores Require More Digging

The first difference between thrift stores versus antique shops is that thrift stores tend to have a lot more junk that you have to sort through. When you antique shop, most of the items will have some type of value.

Now this isn’t always true, there are a few antique shops I have been in that definitely have some junk, but for the most part the nicer ones tend to have all vintage or antique pieces.

This makes antique shops easier to shop when looking for vintage decor. They each can have treasures to be found though, so if you are in the mood to look through more items thrifting, you can still find beautiful pieces!

Antique Shops Generally Cost More

The next difference between thrift stores versus antique shops is that you generally pay a lot less at thrift stores. In most cases, thrift stores are trying to move merchandise so items are priced to sell and rarely is the worth of the item researched when a price point is set.

Just the opposite is true of antique shops. If you are going to go through with setting up an antique booth, you are going to want to make sure your items are priced correctly so you are getting your money’s worth out of each item for sale. I still have gotten some amazing deals at antique shops though, so make sure you keep an eye out and an open mind! 

Thrift stores versus antique shops and antique and thrifted finds in my home
This photo is a perfect example of mixing both thrifted and antique store finds. The crates on the wall were antique shop scores, but the side table and minnow bucket were thrifted!

Antique Shops Allow Bargaining

Another difference between thrift stores versus antique shops is that in most cases, thrift stores are pretty firm on their prices while antique shops are usually open to bargaining. I would say almost each time I am shopping in an antique shop, they are willing to negotiate the price and take off some type of percentage if you ask.

I will almost always ask unless the item is already clearanced by the booth owner. A lot of times I will simply ask, is this the best you can do? Sometimes with smaller thrift stores, they will bargain as well, but usually that isn’t the case. 

Thrift Stores Don’t Focus on Display

My fourth difference between thrift stores versus antique shops is that antique shops are usually divided up into booths. In most cases, not always, these booths have themes to them and items are displayed more beautifully.

In thrift stores, this usually isn’t the case. Similar items tend to be grouped together, you just have to do a little more digging. Once again, this isn’t always the case in antique shops, but usually for the most part, organized displays makes it more enjoyable for me to antique versus thrift. 

Thrift stores versus antique shops and vintage mirror I use in my guest bath
The mirror in our downstairs bathroom was a thrift store find that I only paid five dollars for!

Antique Shops Share History

The final difference between thrift stores versus antique shops is that in antique shops, the dealers usually know a lot about their pieces. I LOVE running into the booth owners at antique shops and I was able to do that when I went with my husband.

The owner told us the history behind a beautiful coffee table displayed in their booth and that just gave the piece so much more value to me. In thrift stores, it’s very rare that they will know the value of the items they have for sale, let alone any history behind them. 

Very cool antique crate I found at an antique store
This neat crate was an antique store find! I just love the turned handle and the worn lettering on the side.

I hope these tips helped you when considering thrift stores versus antique shops and the difference between them. If you love vintage pieces and want to incorporate them into your home, I would say shop both! Depending on your mood though, keep these tips in mind so you are able to shop with purpose to find those perfect pieces for your home. 

Do you prefer antique stores or thrift stores? Or are you like me and prefer a little bit of both? Let me know in the comments! Thank you friends!


Thrift Stores versus Antique Stores


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  1. I like shopping both, but I feel like I antique for inspiration and thrift for the thrill of the hunt. 😉 I so agree about buying everything from big box stores. I do love the items, but I’d rather my home be unique.

  2. What a beautiful and unique home! I enjoy seeing all your special finds too Also love all your lighting throughout your home especially your carriage lantern over the table…..lovely!

  3. I just love your home. You have a great eye for what works. Your home looks warm and comfortable but not overdone with stuff. I’m grateful for your blog. Thank you so much.

  4. I love thriftu. I started in the 80s and over the yearshave loved to fo to antique malls. Moving around alot hasmade me get rid of items that I probly wouldnt haveI love your sence of style.

  5. This is a great article, but as a dealer with a few booths in antique stores I’d like to add that there is a reason antique stores have a higher cost than thrift stores. At thrift stores the items are typically donated and are not cleaned or repaired. Also the items are usually people right at the door.
    Antique dealers have to hunt for their inventory, often driving for hours to pick things up, then have to clean and repair the item as well as researching their value. They also typically have to pay rent and commission on their sales.

    1. Thank you for sharing this! I know a lot of dealers put a lot of time into their booths, or stores and it definitely shows when you visit!

  6. I prefer to go antique shopping. Among my favorite things to look for is vintage Corningware items. I needed some kind of dish for a long time to make quiches with. My last visit I was able to find a beautiful Corningware tart pan in almost mint condition! I like seeking out finds that are unique and somewhat rare.

  7. I enjoy both I have found some nice antique things in thrift stores and also at the antiques stores but my best is antique stores

  8. I enjoy both, however as an antique collector I find higher quality at antique shops, malls and rarely find early genuine antique pieces in great condition at the thrifts. I like thrifts for glassware, dinnerware, etc; and get excited when I find something that interests me.

  9. I’m a retired antique show dealer and when I was in business I went to both thrift stores and other dealer’s shop’s for my main flied was Oriental antiques of Japan and China. Also carried European and American pieces as well.
    Really did find sleeper’s at thrift stores and at antique shops . Mostly because of some dealers had little knowledge of their Oriental pieces and had them at close out prices. L
    Still try to find anything that is a good peace and resell them as a picker to antique shops.

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