How to Find Gold and Silver at Thrift Shops

scrap sterling silver image

You can find Gold and Silver at thrift stores anywhere in the world.  The trick is to find the best stores and then learn how to find the hidden treasures among the piles of worthless stuff at most of these stores. In metropolitan areas, it can be really tough to find precious metals in the large chain thrifts like Goodwill and Salvation Army, as these locations are routinely picked through by the professional gold and silver buyers.   Still, you can find gold and silver, especially if you know what to look for in sterling.





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I think that the most important thing to accomplish is to find some of the smaller, out-of-the-way thrift shops and start visiting them at various times.  Get a feel for how often they receive gold and silver items and how they price them.  These types of shops usually get fewer visitors and they are hit less often by the pros. In most second-hand shops, you are not going to find gold and sterling silver that is hallmarked at garage sale prices.  Unless you are “Johnny-on-the-spot” when the item hits the shelf, even if employees miss the gold marks, somebody else will scarf them up lickety-split. So, you are going to be looking for two things:  Marked precious metals priced below spot price and hidden gems.  I have found significant amounts of both types of swag at almost every thrift store that I go prospecting in.


Thrift Store Shopping Tips for Prospectors: Find Gold for Cheap


  • Most of the marked gold and silver items will be within sight of the pay counter or in a locked glass cabinet under the registers.  Start there.  Make sure that you have your scale and calculator to check if the item is under spot price.
  • If you only remember one tip about thrifting, remember this:  I have found by far the most sterling silver and some vermeil (gold-plated sterling) inside bags of junk silver colored objects.  The best area is in the tableware and serving sections.  I have found some large sterling pieces in bags of silverware.  Plus, as I mentioned before, even vintage non-sterling silverware can be valuable, sometimes worth as much as the silver content of sterling items – Here is a free blog post about selling vintage silverware:
  • Talk to the clerks, especially if they are not at a register.  Ask the employees that are stocking shelves if they have any silver or gold in back that has not been brought out yet.  What’s the worst that could happen?  They tell you no, or they can’t tell you whether they do or not.  It never hurts to ask.  You might get lucky.
  • Again, look for obscure hallmarks and hidden marks.
  • Look for dented silver items.  Silver plate does not dent easily. Sterling does.
  • Pick up EVERYTHING that might be sterling and check the mark.  You will pick up probably fifty silver-plate items for every sterling item, but it’s worth it.  It only takes a second to check an item for sterling marks.
  • Look for dark colored or tarnished silver.  Some will be thick silver-plate, but occasionally you will find sterling.
  • Some sterling items that I have found on shelves at thrifts:  Serving tongs, serving spoons, tableware, picture frames, souvenir spoons, thimbles, buttons, jewelry, letter openers, salt and pepper shakers, vases, serving bowls, platters, bookmarks, pens, candlesticks, curios, Christmas ornaments and decorations (another good source of regularly missed silver), wine stoppers.
  • Go thrifting a lot.  You never know when that sterling candlestick will hit the shelves (unless you have made an inside connection).  You have to be there to buy it.  The good stuff does not stay on the shelf for long.
  • Try to figure out if there are days when the thrift stores do a lot of shelf stocking.  The obvious day to be out thrifting is on Monday.  Lots of people drop off stuff over the weekends or Monday morning after weekend garage sales.  Also, some stores have employees stocking shelves on weekends when they are closed.

For more free tips on thrift store flipping, see


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How to Find Gold and Silver at Thrift Shops
Learn how to find gold and silver at thrift stores anywhere in the world. The trick is to find the best stores and then learn how to find the hidden treasures among the piles of worthless junk at most of these stores.
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