Interior Style

13 things you should never, ever pass up at an op shop


You may not realise the true value of these common op shop findsPhotographer: Will Horner

It can be hard to see the wood for the trees when you’re browsing your local op shop. We all scour them in the hope of unearthing a prize for a bargain. But what are we really looking for?

Armed with a list of must-haves helps make for a more efficient browse and others in your shopping party may have more patience if you can scan the wares efficiently and move on to the next.

The top 13 treasures you must keep on your op shop hit list

1. Silverware

Often dumped in together in a bin, basket or back aisle of the op shop, a careful sift through for precious metals may yield the real thing – real silver will look tarnished, but polishes up a treat with a little care and baking soda.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s an egg cup, a candle holder, dessert spoons or an entire set of tableware, silver is always worth buying. Not sure if it’s genuine silver? Give it a tap – it’ll make a ringing sound if genuine.

2. Old books

These are few and far between and there are many practiced eyes ahead of you but, if you can score a first edition you’re happy to sell on, you’ve hit a payload. A collection of similar bindings or colours make a beautiful vignette and a bigger haul can become a feature.

If you don’t find any valuable old books, keep an eye out for design or coffee table books. Buying these books brand new can sometimes set you back hundreds of dollars, so if you spot a gem on the second-hand market, you should definitely snap it up.

Photographer: Dave Wheeler

3. Corningware or casserole dishes

Did you know that some Corningware casserole dishes are extremely valuable? Dishes with rare patterns have been known to sell at auction for upwards of $10,000. Even if you only ever come across the brand’s most recognisable (and common) ‘Cornflower’ pattern, old casserole dishes in good condition are still worth collecting.

They make a great gift, especially for new parents or a neighbour knocked over by the flu. Simply bake a delicious meal in it (like this nourishing vegetarian lasagne) and send it on – you don’t even need to worry about asking them to return the dish.

4. Wicker baskets

If you’ve ever tried to keep clutter at bay in your home, you’ll know you can never have enough baskets to keep it all contained. Wicker baskets are also beautiful to look at and can instantly add warmth and texture to some of the home’s most unsightly areas.

Laundry piling up? Pop it in a wicker basket. Shoes collecting by the front door? Pop them into a wicker basket. Toys taking over the living room? Throw them all into a wicker basket. You get the idea.

Photographer: Alana Landsberry

5. Kids’ toys

While we’re on the subject of toys, it’s worth talking about second-hand toys. Duplo and wooden Montessori-style toys are so wonderful for toddlers, but collecting numerous sets can set you back a small fortune. They’re also used for only a very short period before your child moves on to the next big thing. Buying these items secondhand is a great way to save money and prevent perfectly useable toys from entering landfill.

Concerned about germs? Many plastic toys can be safely washed in the top rack of the dishwasher on a gentle cycle. Soft toys can be washed on a cold, gentle machine cycle and hung out to air dry. Alternatively, soak soft toys in a solution of oxygen bleach before hand washing, rinsing and allowing to air dry.

Other collectible vintage toys include: Polly Pockets, original Tamagotchis, Pokemon cards, ViewMasters and Cabbage Patch Kids.

6. Mirrors

It’s amazing how much a single mirror can completely change the look of a room. They create the illusion of more space and help to bounce light around a room.

They also add functionality, and it’s a great idea to have a mirror positioned close to the front door so you can do a last-second once-over before you leave the house. But the best thing about a mirror? They never really go out of style. So if you see one hidden behind some bric-a-brac at your local op-shop, squeeze it into the boot of your car and take it home.

Photographer: Alana Landsberry

7. Interesting vessels

Old earthenware jugs, coloured glass vases, handmade pottery – all are worth collecting if you see them collecting dust on an op-shop shelf. One of the hottest interior movements at the moment is the ‘Urban aunt’ trend which involves styling your home with collected finds and interesting, one-of-a-kind pieces. Vases and urns are a great way to add sculptural beauty to your home and you can leave them empty or fill them with bunches of your favourite flowers.

While picking up interesting vessels is more of a style hunt than a treasure hunt, there are some valuables to be found.

8. Collectible porcelain

Tea is literally heaven in a cup. If you agree with this statement, then you should consider collecting porcelain teaware. There’s nothing quite like brewing delicate tea leaves in a pot and sipping your favourite tisane from a vintage cup adorned with a stunning pattern.

Collectible brands include Crown Lynn, Royal Doulton, Wedgewood, Noritake, Spode, Royal Copenhagen and Shelley.

Photographer: Alana Landsberry

9. Original art

It’s always a good idea to look up and scan the walls above the shelves – you never know, you might spot a piece of original art that just tugs at your heartstrings. It could be a tiny watercolour, a time-worn original oil painting by an unknown artist or a delicately sewn cross-stitch. When shopping for art at an op-shop, look for pieces that have been professionally framed, items with an artist’s signature and pieces that just speak to you.

10. Picture frames

Even if you don’t see a piece of artwork that you love, keep an eye out for beautiful frames. Custom frames can set you back anywhere from $150 for an A4-sized artwork, and even more if you select a complex style. A vintage frame will save you plenty – and can always switch out the artwork later.

Photographer: Kristina Soljo

11. Mid-century furniture

Whilst we’ve all enjoyed this trend for some time now, there are still bargains to be had. The trend is moving into the 70s too and with upholsterers on every corner it’s now more affordable to revive an armchair, bar stool or lounge chairs – with cane insert panels if you’re lucky!

12. Preserve jars

These have a pretty price tag as well as charm in some cases so beware! Add a small candle and decorating with these beauties adds charm to a dining table, outdoor soiree or bedside table. Fill with cotton balls and pop on your vanity.

13. Vintage suitcases

Whilst it’s not wise to hold your breath for a Louis Vuitton, there’s great styling and storage opportunities in smaller, mainstream pieces with a well-worn look.

Read this next: 10 easy ways to add colour to your home

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