December 1, 2009

Holiday Shopping, Part III: Sweet Charity

One of the places where I like to shop for unique presents is at local charity stores. I don’t mean places like Goodwill or Salvation Army, because they have pickers who go through the donations and pick out the good stuff for sale elsewhere. carry on 001I am talking about that hospital with the posh women’s board who give their hand-me-downs, and ask their wealthy friends to do so, too. This is where I found the signed copy of Billy Baldwin Remembers. I suspect that he would have been a personal friend of the donor, because of the Baltimore connection. {The notes on the pictures are to my friend Chris, who was looking for a mirror for his newly remodeled bath.} carry on 002When I worked at Planned Parenthood, one of my mother’s posh pals ran their thrift shop, which was only open one day a week, but made close to $10,000 for the organization each year. These shops are usually open only during the week and some may have very limited hours.

Another great place to find unique treasures is your local Junior League shop. When I was in the League, all of the members were required to give a certain dollar amount of goods to the store each year. My best find at the local Junior League store was a Cartier Tank watch, missing its crystal, but still working. I bought it for $.50 and had it for years until my house was robbed. You can frequently find vintage and antique china and silver, as well as good costume jewelry.Etsy 023 Frequently, the people doing the pricing, usually not the League members, don’t know what they’ve got, so you can find great bargains, and support a good cause.

I know that a lot of people are squeamish about buying used goods, but if you stop and think about it, isn’t that what most antiques are? Just give things a good scrub and polish and that will take away any of the bad mojo on the piece!

Last but not least are museum shops. They generally have items reflecting what’s in their collections, but they also have great art books, paper and other decorative items. This is from the Baltimore Museum of Art’s exhibition on Edgar Allan Poe. 10-22 007 They had some beautiful green acid-etched glasses and fun patterned melamine plates when I was there in October.

10-22 010 10-22 011

When you find something unique at a charity shop or a museum store, you know that you’re not giving the exact same thing as everyone else finds in the local mall, and you’re helping support a worthy cause as well! And if you’re buying donated items, you’re being green to boot!


  1. I go into that hospital thrift shop on a regular basis and I NEVER find things that are as good as the things you find. You have such a good eye.

  2. Meg, any chance of scheduling a shopping day with you? Because even though I know these places exist, I never know where they are.

  3. Fun Chinese panel Meg. I agree with you about thrift shops. And often the shops associated with churches or Good Will offer important transitional employment opportunities for people trying to rebuild their lives. In Atlanta we have a huge new GW shop with tons of books and household wares. Too early for me to rate the furniture :)

  4. Betsy... I might go back and see if it's still there!

    Julie... if I worked at the hospital, i'd be best friends with the staff at the shop!

    Wendi... you know where i am! it would have to be a weekday.

    Court... You're right about the job opportunities. I had forgotten that. It's equally important in the scheme of the shop.

  5. Very good advice. I found a pair of 1930's grey men's gloves made in London at my Jr. League shop. 50¢. Unbelievable luck!

  6. E&E... I stopped by the private psychiatric hospital where Zelda Fitzgerald was a patient and picked up some little goodies at lunch!

  7. I actually seek gently used and previously loved things because they've got stories to tell. Since I live in an 80 year old house, which undoubtedly has stories, I see no reason to change attitudes when it comes to jewelry or pottery ... and the pieces are often constructed better then most "stuff" you find today!

  8. I like the Goodwill in Annapolis on West Street. I found an entire set of the same dishes my parents used when I was growing up -- even the butter dish (with the cover!), sugar bowl, and creamer. I bought everything for...I think around $20. I also find a lot of vintage Lilly at that Goodwill, including a long wrap skirt I'll wear until it falls apart.


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