Duluth's Salvation Army needs needs help sifting jewels from the junque
In the back of the Salvation Army thrift store in Duluth, they're piled on tables and they fill boxes and shelves. Old clocks, vintage hats, metal toys. Porcelain dolls, 1950s toys, century-old furniture. They're the collectibles and antiques gle...
In the back of the Salvation Army thrift store in Duluth, they're piled on tables and they fill boxes and shelves.
Old clocks, vintage hats, metal toys. Porcelain dolls, 1950s toys, century-old furniture.
They're the collectibles and antiques gleaned from the contributions that come in, from the 19th century child's high chair to the 1985 "Rambo" lunchbox.
They're worth more than the typical donated household goods and clothing that go for just a dollar or two at the store. But the staff, which includes many volunteers, faces a growing challenge of pricing them.
"We want to put things out there at a reasonable price," said Jill Buchholz, a Salvation Army coordinator.
Revenue from the thrift store goes right back into Salvation Army programs. If valuable items are underpriced, antique dealers will swoop in like hawks.
"Smart, savvy dealers hit up the thrift stores just for those sorts of things," Buchholz said.
Store manager Kim Paulson has seen it all in her 23 years at the thrift shop at 2101 W. Superior St., where antique furniture and other big items become window displays and small collectibles are placed in display cases.
"You get to know a lot of the stuff," she said. "If I see something, I will go to antique shops to get a price idea. We don't price what they get in antique shops. We want to make money on it, but we don't want to be outrageous. They mark them way up in antique stores."
Donations are on the rise, store managers say, and with that, they're seeing more of those collectibles come in.
Their thrift store in Lincoln Park has expanded into the two storefronts next door that once housed the Star Theater and Garon Knitting Mills. A much larger store leaves Paulson little time to look up prices on collectibles and to comparison shop at antiques stores.
"Things are just sitting there, because we're looking for someone to come in and help us put prices on," Buchholz said. How to price a 1933 military telephone, antique binoculars or an old grandfather clock is part of the dilemma.
Their calls for a knowledgeable volunteer who will sort through the donations and research prices in books and on the Internet have so far been unsuccessful.
"We're looking for someone who enjoys that type of thing," Buchholz said, admitting it's time-consuming. They've also considered selling items on craigslist.org, but Paulson said nonprofits aren't allowed to.
One man said he could do the pricing. But when he came in and saw what needed to be done, he said it was more than he knew how to do, she said.
Over at Goodwill Industries, donations are steady, though they slack off in the winter months. Collectible items come in almost every category -- glassware, clothing, jewelry, pictures, furniture, sporting goods -- said Liz King, retail sales manager for Goodwill's 11 Northland stores, including the stores in Duluth, Superior, Hermantown and Cloquet.
Staff members are good at picking out the collectible items, she said.
"After people have done it for a long time, they just know," she said. "We separate them. We have pricers who are good at it. If they have questions they set it aside."
Some have favorite categories they price and they know what sells quickly.
"We generally price less than 50 percent of value or 50 to 75 percent of list prices," King said. "We turn items quickly."
In the stores, collectibles are generally separated out in display cases.
She said 1950s and 1960s items are always popular. She speculated it's because the items are nostalgic for baby boomers who are getting older.
As for vintage clothing, they are saved up for Goodwill's annual vintage clothing sale in October.
If you're interested in volunteering to help research and price antiques for the Salvation Army and prepare the items for sale, call Jill Buchholz at (218) 722-7934 or e-mail email@example.com .