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A First Hand Account of Second-Hand Shops

A First Hand Account of Second-Hand Shops

This guest post is by Jonathan Pierce of business electricity.

I love shopping second hand, for many reasons.  The thrill of hunting through boxes of tat to find an interesting item, the history imbued in a well-thumbed vintage paperback or antique map that lends the item a substance and gravitas that new items just don’t have, and, they’re good for the environment.

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How so?  Well, mass produced items are a serious drain on resources, often using kilowatts of non-renewable power at a worrying rate per hour.  And sophisticated items seem to be inbuilt with a shelf-life that means they’ll stop working within a couple of years.  I’d rather a tattered book than a conked out Kindle anyday.

Kindle’s are meant to be saving the trees, but they need power, which uses energy which is less renewable than wood, which isn’t being used up when the books you buy are second-hand anyway.  Have you seen the covers on the old Penguin books?  They’re design classics.  I’d happily frame one of them over any of the mass-produced chintzy art-lite in Ikea.

When you buy second-hand, you’re supporting a charity, or if it’s a business it’s usually a small one.  Small businesses are having a hard time and it’s good to support these endeavours.  Plus, they pick the best stuff out for you.  The stock in vintage shops is the cream of the charity shop crop.  It’s the best stuff all in one place, thanks to the keen eye and dedication of an individual’s personal quest to salvage beautiful and classic designs from the wastebin.  For every vintage shirt you invest in, you’re not buying a bit of temporal tat from a high-street sweatshop outlet.

There’s nothing like an old record.  MP3s just don’t cut the mustard, in terms of experience or warmth.  The ritual of sticking a record on is a special one that shouldn’t be lost.  And an original mint vinyl on a good turntable sounds a thousand times better than through your shoddy white headphones that are probably dented.  Dealers do the same as vintage clothes retailers, using their taste and knowledge to navigate through piles of James Last and Tijuana Brass records to find that rare Rolling Stones single or Syd Barrett LP.  And all of this saves on the production of new CDs and temperamental MP3 devices that will just be expensive paperweights in a couple of years.  Your tape player lasted ten times longer probably.

Things just used to be made better, it seems.  You can get a Saville Row suit second hand for the price of one from TopBloke or whatever, and it will last your whole life.  Leather soled shoes will look good forever too, and quality items can be repaired rather than replaced, allowing less waste and the support of traditional industries such as cobblers.  It’s a matter of taste, but the ‘make do and mend’ approach is beginning to look much wiser than the ‘get bored and chuck’ philosophy that appears to be a hangover from the consumerist ethos of the Eighties.

There are entrepreneurial sorts about who are renovating bikes for resale, taking old and busted up bicycles and turning them back into shining glorious specimens.  They are using their skills and expertise to make good something that would have been thrown out, and the results are more pleasing than the factory made models in Halfords.  They have character, and I know I’d rather a hand reconditioned road-bike that a robot-fashioned version any day of the week.

It’s rare that something has so many plus points and so few drawbacks.  If you like your life with a bit of history in it, a bit of quirky individuality and some resale value, then shopping second-hand might be just the ticket.  It helps that you’re looking after the planet’s diminishing resources too.

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