Oh, just think of the truly amazing things you can find in thrift stores! One of my favorite purchases: A lovely brown leather jacket that I discovered on a rack in the back of a dusty shop some years back. I had the coat for several years until I decided sometime later to donate it again as I took the liberty of cleaning out my closet.
But thrift store employees see more than clothes or books. People donate the wildest things, as we came to find out after Redditor fran_farmers_revenge asked the online community,
"About 10 years ago..."
About 10 years ago I worked at a chain thrift store, one morning we got a phone call from this gentleman saying, rather calmly, "I think I accidentally donated my mom," naturally I had no clue what he that meant. Turns out the guy donated his moms ashes so he left his number in case we found it.
The whole back room went on a hunt because it had turned into this competition on who would find his mom first. We found her, phoned him and he came and picked her up. We thought that was the last of him, until we were processing some donations a few months later and found his mom again. We phoned him because we still had his contact information, his only reply was "god damn it", he came and got her and we never heard from him after that.
"Bomb squad was called."
Co-worker found a live hand grenade.
Bomb squad was called.
Be careful when you donate grandpa's stuff, people.
"Back in the 90s..."
Back in the 90s my mom would buy those blank VHS tapes to record on and sometimes the Goodwill had some that already had stuff recorded on them, but we would just record over them. I remember one that had a bunch of Simpsons episodes. But on some of them there was porn. A LOT of porn.
"People often just dropped off..."
I worked for a nonprofit for seniors that had a charity shop in it. People often just dropped off boxes of stuff they found in their parent's attic. One box had a bunch of letters. Some of them were from WWII, when the man was stationed at Camp Carson in Colorado and one of them must have been something they were keeping from an older generation. It was a 1914 letter proposing marriage. It was so romantic. He fell in love with her when they went ice skating together. He included an advertisement for some houses they could buy. They were really nice houses, selling for about $1500.
"I used to sweep..."
I used to sweep the parking lot of a Goodwill and they would toss very interesting stuff in the dumpster. Hundreds of books. Like really expensive ones. Leather bound sets of classical works from the 1920s, early prints of sci fi novels (I found a nice collectible copy of Dune recently), family bibles stacked thick with memories. Food dehydrators, paintings, collectible sports memorabilia, super valuable vintage tools and fixtures. Most of it is just stuff that nobody bothered checking the value on before chucking it out, and it's really sad.
I found a destroyed collection of old Spalding baseball bats, the oldest being from the 30s. They were left in the dumpster in standing water for days at least. It's sad to see things like that go, maybe because at one point someone loved them very much, and someone else decided that all the care it took to collect these treasures was a waste.
"At the bottom of the Polaroid..."
I was examining an old manual typewriter someone donated. It had a vinyl carrying case with a zipper pocket on the inside. I opened it and found a manual, the original receipt, and an envelope of Polaroid pictures. The pictures were of several women in lingerie or semi-nude. All looked like they were in their 60s-70s. At the bottom of the Polaroid was a name and date, covering about a 10-year span. One of the nicer things I came across working that job, better than dealing with the dirty underwear we got on the regular.
"A photo album..."
A sword used by a Japanese officer in WWII.
A suitcase full of adult toys.
A coin collection worth nearly $2000 accidentally left in a cupboard that was donated.
A photo album of someone's wedding (was donated amongst the belongings of the pastor that married the couple after he passed). The bride happened to be someone I went to school with.
I tend to sort books at my store so have found a few odd things in there: cash as bookmarks (about $150), a book with carved pages to conceal some jewels and gemstones, a few 1st edition books on agriculture from the 1800s, LOTS of handwritten recipes, personal letters and my favourite: a letter sent in the last mail delivery from Hong Kong before the British returned it to China affixed with EVERY stamp available at the time and mint versions of each of this stamps enclosed.
"Great big plastic shopping bag..."
Great big plastic shopping bag full of cooked spaghetti. No sauce. Probably like 5kg or so.
"They were disgusting..."
I work at a thrift store as a donation handler. Gnarliest thing I had seen was a literal stack of mattresses left overnight during off hours. They were disgusting, crawling with bugs and riddled in stains of various shades and hues. Noped the f*ck out of that, called my manager and they brought a forklift out to take them to the trash compactor.
Just the other day we had a donor drop off a small crate (like a milkcrate kind of thing) chock full of hentai. Just today I found a small, marble one-hitter pipe at the bottom of the donation bin.
I had a mate who worked in one of the bigger lifeline stores in Australia. A woman came into the store with five large clear plastic storage boxes and asked to donate them. He looked inside of the boxes and it was thousands of beautifully hand painted warhammer pieces. He was shocked and asked her why. They were her son's and she couldn't keep them in the house anymore since his death. My friend said he couldn't accept the donation, he said the whole collection was worth alot of money. She had no idea. He asked her for all her details and asked if he could try to sell it for her. She agreed. After his shift he went home and took photos of everything and posted it online in an Australian warhammer forum. Within a couple of weeks everything was sold. He called her and she met him at the store. He told her he had sold it to collectors all around Australia who loved her son's work. He handed her roughly twelve thousand dollars. She cried, he cried, she offered him half, he said no. She told him she would donate his half to a charity in her son's name and his name. He said it was the best thing he had ever done in his life.
A bong lovingly crafted to look like a flower vase. Which is what we sold it as.
"Cops were called."
Worked as a donation pickup up driver for Goodwill. Went and picked up a bunch of donations from an old couple. Found a human skull in the bottom of the box. Cops were called.
I worked at Goodwill and we found all sorts of things...sex toys, live grenades, dead rats, false teeth... even found someone's gold tooth (it actually was a tooth with a gold filling) ... just about anything you can imagine!
My sister-in-law worked at Goodwill and found an actual trimmed photo of Bonnie (of Bonnie and Clyde fame) in the pocket of a tattered red woman's jacket. This was in the 1980s and in Southern California. It didn't match any photos from the history books but we all thought it was interesting. Too bad she lost it before we could look it up on the internet.
"When I worked at the Salvation Army
When I worked at the Salvation Army somebody donated a dildo in its original box with a sticky note on the front that said "USED ONCE—NO INSERTION."
"I didn't find it..."
I didn't find it but used to work at a vintage store and my co-worker once put her hand in a denim jacket and a crack pipe fell out.
I'm an avid horror movie fan/collector. The treasures people throw away or donate can be absolutely mind boggling. Some of the highlights;
A sealed VHS copy of the original 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre'.
A factory sealed copy of the PS2 game 'Haunting Ground', US edition; it goes for ~$500 on EBay.
A binder full of autographed pictures and headshots from the likes of Doris Day, Boris Karloff, Robert England, Curly Howard, even a Sharon Tate that was dated about three months before she died.
A cupboard from the set of 'Pee-Wee's Playhouse' that the actor who played Jambi would poke his head out of.
A vintage newspaper detailing the murders of Sharon Tate and her friends at 10050 Cielo - "Five Slain at Costly Home", dated Saturday, August 9, 1969 in remarkable condition.
A painting of the Seven Dwarves, framed and signed by none other than John Wayne Gacy.
Tons of treasure.