The Betsey Johnson Watch, or, Why You Need to Look at EVERYTHING in a Thrift Store

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Last weekend, Dean and I went thrifting. We had a free day and decided to spend it bumming around town looking at antique and thrift stores for anything interesting and unusual.

You know, that’s the main reason we thrift and antique. It’s not that we necessarily need anything. It’s truly the thrill of the hunt that keeps us going.

Our local Goodwills were having a special deal on all clothing last weekend. Georgia didn’t participate in the “sales tax-free weekend” this year, so Goodwill was running a great deal on all clothing for those looking to save some money on back-to-school purchases. $3 for adult clothing. $1.50 for children’s clothing. What a bargain, considering the wide assortment of things to sort through.

This day’s visit was meant to be, in oh-so-many ways.

For this post, I want to concentrate on a last-minute discovery and stress the importance of looking at every case, rack and shelf at every thrift store you visit.

Dean took off to the men’s department and I ran back to shoes and purses. As is usual for me, I came up short there. No shoes in my size that I liked. No purses at all to speak of.

Not a problem.

Next, I moseyed over to the jackets. I’ll admit, I have a weakness for outerwear. Crazy, since I live in a portion of the country where we typically have mild winters. Over the past two years I have collected some amazing jackets and coats. I don’t think I’ll get to the place where I won’t at least look.

And look I did. Holy cow the find. There will be a post on this very soon.

I grabbed the jacket for dear life and tried it on. Perfect fit. Perfect color. Perfect fabric. The angels sang, the heavens opened and the thrift gods once again bestowed me with an item to match and coordinate with nearly everything I have in my little mostly-thrifted wardrobe.

Dean had found a tie. Not much, but hey, we’ve discovered that men typically hold onto their clothing and don’t have as much turnover in their closets as women sometimes do. A tie is a big deal, especially since it is retro and will fit in with his gig attire.

Score, for both of us.

We got in line at a register where our favorite cashier was helping a customer. The customer chose to pay with a $100 bill and the cashier didn’t have enough change. We looked to our left and saw another register open with only one customer in line. So, we moved to that register.

There was a jewelry case at that register, a well-lit glass and metal case that held all kinds of trinkets. As I’ve been on the hunt for a watch, I thought that maybe I should take a peek to see what might be lying there.

Holy moly.

There was a wide gold and black animal print watch band, and on that watch band was an oversized golden watch encircled with tiny rhinestones. On the second hand was a bright pink heart. Across the mother of pearl face was written the name Betsey Johnson. The second hand wasn’t moving. Was it a broken watch, or just a dead battery?

Oh. My. Goodness.

I stared at it, my over-50-year-old eyeballs straining to see if this was a real Betsey. How would I know unless I asked to see it?

So ask I did.

The cashier pulled it out of the case. The watchband just fit my big wrist, and the watch itself was heavy. Quite heavy. The band was leather and stamped Betsey Johnson. If this was a fake, it was a damn good one. I noticed the price of watches listed on the jewelry case.

$5.05.

“Would you like to buy that?” the sweet cashier asked.

“Yes, please,” I replied, trying desperately not to look too excited. Someone at the Goodwill didn’t know what they had when they put that watch out on the sales floor.

I offered up a prayer of thanks to the unknown staff member, whoever he or she may be, and decided that if it was indeed broken, I’d still wear it as a groovy piece of jewelry.

We left the store with our treasures, and as soon as I got in the car I had to post on Facebook about my stroke of incredible luck.

betsey watch 2

Dean suggested we find a place to go have the battery replaced. After a couple more stops, we drove to Windsor Jewelers and walked in with it.

I was very nervous, standing in this jewelry store where cases of $21,000 Mikimoto pearl necklaces met me the moment I walked in. Here I was, holding a thrifted watch that hopefully only needed a battery to be functional again.

The store was beautiful and filled with jewels of every kind. The diamonds blinded me in their jewelry cases. I had to avert my eyes, but before I did so, I took a moment to check on the price of a pair of diamond encrusted hoop earrings in one of the very full cases.

$5,100.

Yikes.

An employee greeted me and took the watch back for a battery. I stood there, looking at the pearls and diamonds. Though happy for those who can afford and would purchase such things, I was thinking, “man, that pearl necklace is a brand new car…”

After a few minutes, the employee came out with my watch in hand, a smile on her face. She asked if we needed anything else. All I could do was smile at my watch. It was working. There were no blemishes on the face, no scratches on the case. It cost $16 to replace the battery. The watch came in at $21, a total cost that was a whole lot less than the price of a brand new Timex timepiece I had been thinking of buying for the sum of fifty bucks.

I share this little story to say that no matter what thrift store you go to, always look at everything. Enter the store knowing that you will be spending a little more time than usual in order to scout out the entire place. Keep your mind open to any possibility. You never know when a perfect item may fall into your path, so be keen and observant.

Happy hunting!

betsey watch

Photos by Betsey Venom

 

 

 

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Treasure Hunts, or, Why I Thrift

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It’s a bit complicated to explain, this craving I have for “The Hunt.” I call it “The Hunt” because for me, it is just that. The hunt.

It is the hunt for a hidden treasure.

hang-second-hand-la-gi-3

My parents introduced my family to thrifting way back when I was a teenager. I grew up in East Atlanta and frequented the Value Village down at the Moreland Avenue Shopping Center. It became a family event. We all got excited to pile into the car and go to the thrift store.

At Value Village, my sister and I would head over to the women’s accessories department to grab up as many white dress gloves as we could find. And we found a lot. Since this was the 80s, there was a lot of groovy vintage 50s and 60s merchandise on hand. No matter when we visited, I never failed to find cool stuff.

I even scored a 1950 Webster Chicago record player that still worked at the time. I could play my grandmother’s 78rpm records on that thing. Even though I still own it, it quit working ages ago.

One particular day, at this same particular thrift store, I found a very old snakeskin cross-body bag. It was labeled Davison’s, which back in the day was one of Atlanta’s largest and most important department stores, second only to Rich’s. Burgundy in color and beat-the-heck-up, err, broken in, this bag was a true find.

For a long time I believed it was alligator. Funny how your mind can take you places until you figure out what’s what.

I have held onto that thing after 8 changes of address over the years and plan to use it this fall.

Anyway, back to the topic of this post, I have a very long history when it comes to thrift shopping. There is a part of me that gravitates toward the used and previously-owned.

That part of me is one part economical and another part environmental.

I’ll start with the economical piece first.

Shopping second hand is a very healthy way to add to your belongings without spending a fortune at a regular retailer. Thrift stores carry a wide selection of items from furniture to clothing to books and music. It’s like a world of discarded things waiting to be picked through. In every pile there is a gem to be found. It just takes a bit of time to find it. I will share my tips and tricks to thrifting in a later post.

It would be a lie if I told you that it’s easy to find those diamonds-in-the-rough. You have to work for it, but it’s work that can be fun at the same time. Hence the idea of making thrift store shopping something of a treasure hunt.

The environmental piece is this…each time you buy a used item, you are not only keeping that item from ending up in a landfill but you are giving an item a second chance at life.

Most things people discard are still quite usable. This is most especially true when it comes to clothing.

Purchasing used clothes keeps your dollars out of the fast fashion industry and supplies your closet at a fraction of the cost you would pay at a mainline retail store. Not only that, but if you find a well-cared-for vintage item, you will more than likely discover that it is of better quality than anything you can find at a department store.

I’m serious.

Depending on the thrift store you visit, the dollars you spend go to job creation, charity, or simply back into the local economy.

Needless to say, thrifting is a win-win for everyone.

For you, it means stumbling across something that might become an heirloom, or at the least, a really awesome piece of furniture for your living room.

Treasure hunting is a pleasant hobby as well. Just getting out and visiting a thrift store or two at leisure is calming, especially to me. I have a method to my madness when thrifting and will write a blog about, too, that later on. For now, it’s an exciting notion,  knowing that whenever I step foot into a thrift there is a world of possibility laid out before me in racks, on shelves and in cases by the register.

And the coolest thing of all?  Most of what one can find in a thrift store is one of a kind.

One of my most exciting finds this summer was a sparkly (yes, sparkly!) cobalt blue sweater dress. It was labeled with the wrong size, stuffed into a rack of women’s shirts, and yelled at me when I walked by.

I turned around, picked it up, looked it over, and now it resides in my closet anxiously awaiting cooler weather when it can drape itself over my body.

Did I mention it was COBALT BLUE???

I’m about to hyperventilate.

Do you enjoy thrifting? Are there any good stores near where you live? What are some of your most favorite thrift store treasures?

Please check back often for more posts about thrifting. Trust me, I have plenty to share.

~Francie