The Halloween spirit began to possess Goodwill Southern California back in August.
In Lincoln Heights, a creepy doll with blood-red tears and a stuffed animal in a Grim Reaper cloak posed amongst the seasonal tchotchkes. At the regional flagship store in Glassell Park, a witch and a flapper were amongst the mannequins dressed in their Halloween party finest to welcome shoppers.
“Halloween is like Christmas for us,” says Marla Eby, director of marketing and media relations for Goodwill Southern California, which covers Los Angeles County north of Rosecrans, as well as Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
While seasonal items might pop up at one of the 80+ stores in Goodwill Southern California’s territory throughout the year, staffers often save Halloween donations for the two months leading up to the holiday. It’s a popular spot for costume shopping; in fact, that’s the focus of Goodwill Southern California’s September and October lookbooks. But like most thrift, vintage and antique shops, it’s also a great place to source decorations. As we toured the Glassell Park facility, I spotted a small chandelier, a smattering of goblets and an ornate mirror amongst the Halloween merchandise.
There are a lot of benefits to shopping secondhand for Halloween decorations. Choosing a pre-owned item over something new is an environmentally friendly option since you’re extending the lifespan of a good and potentially saving it from a landfill. Depending on when, where and how you shop, it can be easier on your wallet, too. But perhaps the most attractive benefit of shopping secondhand is the knowledge that you’ll find something far more interesting than the seasonal products at big box stores.
“They’re a statement piece,” says Chuck Garcera, who co-owns King Richard’s Antique Center in Whittier. “It’s exciting because it’s broken-in. It’s got some character.”
At King Richard’s, where more than 140 dealers occupy 302 spaces in the four-story complex, the Halloween season starts around mid-September. However, some vendors, like Creep & Kitsch, located downstairs from the main floor, offer spooky items all year. On a trip to King Richard’s in August, I came across potential Halloween decorations throughout the market, including a Wigglin’ Hand, a painting of a skull surrounded by candles and even a prop electric chair.
But shopping secondhand for Halloween can be tricky. If this is your favorite holiday, you might be on the lookout for themed goods all year. If not, know that you should start your shopping early. “Now is the time to shop because I promise, the closer it gets to Halloween, the more treasure hunting you have to do,” says Eby.
If you’re working with a small budget, Goodwill Southern California has a plenty of affordable options, including monthly coupons for those who sign up to their email list and discounts for military, seniors and students. They also have color tag sales. When you’re shopping, you’ll probably notice that the tags are coded in various colors. Each week, one of those colors is half-off. On Thursdays, a designated color tag will be sold for $1.99. “It’s a really great way to save,” says Eby.
This is also a good option for those who like to reimagine secondhand items for Halloween. Eby points to a recent social media trend where people paint spooky images on existing artwork. You can find base pieces for these projects amongst the home decor at Goodwill.
For those with a larger budget or who want items that can hang around the house long after October 31, vintage and antique shops might be the best option. Your choices here aren’t just the ones that scream Halloween. Vintage horror movie posters and memorabilia, memento mori and home items with a Victorian look are just a few things that can take you through the spooky season and beyond.
Wherever you shop, look beyond the designated Halloween displays. Pick up horror movies on VHS, DVD or Blu-Ray to play in the background at parties. Seek worn books, particularly ones with creepy cover illustrations, that can be used as coffee table decorations. Thrift clothes and accessories to outfit any prop witches and creatures you might be building. Look for old dolls and toys to reappropriate as Halloween decorations. Sift through photographs, film slides and postcards, which can be used in a variety of different projects.
Whether you are thrifting or antiquing, you should use the same plan. Note the best shopping options in your area, including both brick-and-mortar stores and events like flea markets. Make time to shop and break up the excursions over a period of weeks if that’s easiest on your schedule.
Be sure to shop with an open mind. You never know what you’ll find inside a thrift store or an antique shop. The most important advice, though, is to be prepared to buy what you love when you see it.
Says Garcera, “It’s like we tell customers, if you see something at an antique store, you better buy it now. It might not be there tomorrow.”