To thrift or not to thrift: Possession is 9/10 of the law.
Every once in a great while you might get an approach similar to that at your friendly neighborhood resale shop. That can be especially true if it's a shop you're not very familiar with. When a thrift store employee or operator brings out something from under the counter which they have "saved for special customers,"... watch out! The chances are good that you'll be looking at an item from a questionable source.
Take for instance that mint condition collection of Buffalo Head nickels, or a complete set of sterling silver flatware in its own velvet lined case. The sales person may tell you that it came from an estate sale they were at that same morning. Take care about your purchase or you could become guilty of receiving stolen property. It's a dead giveaway when the store clerk suggests that you go outside to look at items they have in their car. Yeah, it's not on the shelves and it's not on the books. Ask them if you really look that much like an idiot.
Coin collections, stamp collections, antique currency, precious metals, and gemstones seldom make it to the front counter of thrift stores, and if they do, you should generally expect to pay full market value for those items. Brand new tools are a rarity at thrift stores as are brand new musical instruments. I'm not saying that you'll never find these things, but if you do, be sure to carefully question the item's source and ask for any documentation or certificates which may be available for the piece. An honest thrift operator will never be threatened or offended by these inquiries.
Be careful about buying full case lots and be wary of large multiples of identical items. These are the earmarks of warehouse ripoffs and semi-trailer skimming. A thrift store shouldn't have a pallet load of infant formula sitting just inside its loading dock.
Your best defense against purchasing stolen property is to stand by the old adage, "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is." You are smart to be thrift shopping in the first place, so let your good sense be your guide.
This post was written as part of a series on how to thrift shop smarter. Read more on what to buy, and not to buy, at thrift stores.