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Five Tips for Thrift Store CD Scroungers

I've been an obsessed hard rock & heavy metal fan and collector since the early 1980s. If it's got a good guitar riff and attitude, I'm in.

A selection of my thrift-store CD finds from the past several years.

A selection of my thrift-store CD finds from the past several years.

Thrift CDs

I pass a Goodwill store on my way to work, which has become a dependable watering hole for me. I try to stop in at least once per week, and I've probably picked up at least 100 discs there over the past year or so for a buck or two apiece.

Thanks to the thrifts, I've filled quite a few of my collection's long-standing "holes" and have also come across some surprisingly rare and hard-to-find stuff. I may not make a big score on every visit, but my batting average has been good enough to keep me coming back.

Here are five hints for a successful thrift store CD scrounging mission for those who wish to experience the thrill of the hunt for themselves. Good luck, and I wish you many cool finds!

The Best Five Tips for Thrifting CDs

  1. Go to the thrift store early and often
  2. Be prepared to sift through a lot of crap
  3. Don't be afraid to try new genres
  4. Don't block the aisle
  5. Inspect the CDs carefully
Who dumps classic, collectible thrash metal CDs like these at Goodwill? Shame on you, but good for me.

Who dumps classic, collectible thrash metal CDs like these at Goodwill? Shame on you, but good for me.

1. Go to the Thrift Store Early and Often

If your local thrift shop is located in a high-traffic area, donations and merchandise move in and out quickly. You might stop in for a scrounge through the CDs one day and find nothing of interest, but then come in the next morning and find a ton of good stuff. If you're a "regular," you start to get a feel for when new merch arrives, and you can plan your visits accordingly.

2. Be Prepared to Sift Through a Lot of Crap

I'm still waiting for the day when I walk into Goodwill right after someone has dropped off a massive collection of punk rock or '80s thrash metal CDs. It hasn't happened yet, but the possibility keeps me entertained.

In other words, don't expect to strike gold every time out. You're going to have to slog through a lot of garbage CDs to find the good stuff. Just keep your eyes on the prize—when you finally come across a long-time "want," it makes picking through all those Garth Brooks discs, Christmas albums, and Kidz Bop CDs worth it!

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Try New Genres

When CDs are this cheap, it certainly doesn't hurt to explore outside your usual musical pastures once in a while. Most of the time, I'm a hard rock/metal fan, but thanks to my thrift store scrounging, I've added some pretty sweet '60s and '70s classic rock to my collection, some film soundtracks, and even (gasp!) a country music CD here 'n' there. Yes, dammit, I like the Dixie Chicks. Don't judge me!

Autographed CDs are always a cool find.

Autographed CDs are always a cool find.

4. Don't Block the Aisle

Occasionally I arrive at the CD/media department to find a "blocker" hogging the aisle. This person keeps others from seeing the items on the shelves by making themselves as big as possible to crowd you out until he's finished. Sometimes you can get them to move aside with a polite "excuse me," but other times, it's best to simply let them finish and wait till they move on, like a hippo at the watering hole.

This type of person usually uses their Smartphone to look up particular CDs or movies/games on the Internet, which means they're not even fans/collectors; they're just planning to "flip" whatever items they find for profit on eBay. Guys like this suck all the fun out of collecting! Don't be that guy!

This may be my favorite thrift-store find of all. A live bootleg from KISS' 1996 Reunion Tour. Don't tell Gene Simmons. :)

This may be my favorite thrift-store find of all. A live bootleg from KISS' 1996 Reunion Tour. Don't tell Gene Simmons. :)

5. Inspect the CDs Carefully

Sifting through CDs at a thrift store is like Forrest Gump's proverbial box of chocolates—you never know what you're gonna get. Therefore you need to make sure you check your treasures carefully before you head to the checkout.

Thrift shops generally don't exercise much quality control when it comes to their used media, so it's up to you to make sure the CD in your hand is indeed the one you want.

Nothing sucks more than snagging a long-time "want list" item, only to open the case and find a disc that's cracked or scratched, or the case is empty, or worst of all, there's a completely different CD inside! Better to find this out before you've paid for the item and discover your mistake out in the parking lot.

Hair Metal is alive and well on the shelves of the Goodwill Store.

Hair Metal is alive and well on the shelves of the Goodwill Store.

Is the Compact Disc Dying?

These are the best of times and the worst of times to be a CD collector. As vinyl LPs continue their resurgence among the hipster audiophile crowd and the rest of the world shifts to streaming music services like Spotify, the humble compact disc has virtually fallen off the pop-cultural radar.

Mass market retailers are reducing their CD selections drastically, and some are getting out of the game altogether. Electronics giant Best Buy stopped stocking CDs in their stores in the summer of 2018, and it's probably only a matter of time before other big-box stores like Target and Wal-Mart follow suit.

However, there is an upside to the Compact Disc's fall from grace. As the CD's popularity plummets, people are getting rid of their collections. These wind up getting donated to Goodwill or other thrift shops, where scroungers like myself can scarf them up for bargain prices.

Have Fun!

Hopefully, the tips I've shared here will inspire you to start hunting for musical treasures at your local thrift shop. Not only will you be feeding your musical addiction, but you'll also be supporting good causes and keeping those precious CDs out of landfills, too—so everybody wins. Happy hunting, rock on, and I hope you find some goodies!

© 2018 Keith Abt


Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on July 05, 2018:

Ouch! I feel your pain, S!

S on July 04, 2018:

I wish I read this before! I bought seven CDs and two DVDs and I just discovered two of them do not have CDs inside! This is ridiculous! Buyer beware, I guess.

Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on June 18, 2018:

Hi Heidi -- I just bought a new (used) car and was very happy that it still has a CD player in it. I have chosen my outdated physical-media format and I will stay loyal to it as long as I can.

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on June 18, 2018:

I still have a lot of CDs, too. I just can't part with them. And I'm showing my age here, but I like being able to pop in a CD into my car's CD player (which player will also be a thing of the past soon) and, voila, music. No monkeying around with my smartphone which doesn't always talk well with the car via Bluetooth.

And, yes, if I wander into a charity book sale or second hand store, I look for a couple CDs I want in my collection. Also, I think there should be a sign "CD flipping aisle blockers must step aside for the rest of us."

Thanks again for sharing your audiophile love!

Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on June 17, 2018:

Very cool! Enjoy it!

Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on June 17, 2018:

Oh I never buy new CD's, I get all mine from thrift or 2nd hand shops. I bought one only yesterday. It was a 3 CD box set of songs from 1957.