Gifts of Christmas Past: Tips for Buying Secondhand Gifts for Everyone on Your List

Like the several before it, this has been a bizarre, somewhat difficult, and fairly expensive year. So, to help take away a little bit of the stress that inevitably comes with the holiday season, we’ve decided to take advantage of the many incredible thrift shops and antique stores in and around Wheeling. This year, we’re celebrating Thriftmas!

Shopping for secondhand holiday gifts isn’t a new idea but it is definitely one that has gained popularity (and style!) in recent years. The younger generations have become well-known for finding creative ways to restore and reimagine secondhand and hand-me-down furniture and home goods, which has inspired stunningly imaginative Christmas gifts and gift baskets, all from thrift shops. So, for your convenience and inspiration, we’ve rounded up a few ideas to get you started on your journey to have a very Vintage Christmas, as well as where you can set out to find some of these items this weekend!

Candy Bowls, Trinket Boxes, and Catch-all Dishes

Easy to find and fun to fill, one of the simplest gifts you can give is a beautiful little dish, box, or tray. Because who doesn’t need an extra place to put all of their trinkets? Bonus points if you go ahead and pre-fill it with some small candies, a bit of costume jewelry, tiny crystals, or anything else you can think of that your friend, family member, or significant other would enjoy!


Beautiful glassware is one of the easiest items to find at thrift shops – and they make great gifts! For the friend of yours that’s into mixology, package up a few beautiful glasses, a bottle of your favorite drink and some mix-ins, and include a handwritten drink recipe for a personal touch. For the sangria or margarita lovers, find a pitcher and some matching glasses. And for the wine aficionado, gift some beautiful wine glasses with a bottle of wine and include a gift card to Good Mansion or Casa di Vino!

Unique Candles and Holders

Many of the unique things that are found in thrift stores can be repurposed. For example, place a tapered or twisted candle into a short porcelain or colored glass vase, add a votive to a cut crystal dish, or, if you’re willing to go the extra mile, stick a wick to the bottom of a beautiful teacup or glass goblet and pour in hot melted wax for a super-customizable, handmade gift. Though, if you like to keep it simple, you can pretty much never go wrong with a pair of classic candlesticks or a pretty candelabra. 

Vases or Urns

About as simple as it gets, a beautiful vase filled with holiday greenery and florals makes for an elegant gift without breaking the bank. Wrapping a satin or velvet bow around the neck will make it feel even more holiday themed and for an additional touch, tie on some vintage tree ornaments. Like glassware, vases are easy to find and easy to reuse and restyle, making them a stellar gift.

Novels and Coffee Table Books

For the avid reader in your life, tie a bow around a stack of intriguing books that you’ve handpicked based on their favorite genres. Bonus points if you can find a copy of a book that you enjoyed and write in some small notes, such as an inscription on the title page or margin notes next to your favorite parts. This kind of personal customization will make the gifts feel special and intentional. Beautiful coffee table books are also a great choice as long as you make sure you find ones featuring topics that you know they’re interested in, which can make the hunt a bit more difficult.

Comfy Sweaters or Scarves

A gift that explains itself, a cozy scarf or sweater just can’t be beat during the holiday season. Thrift stores often have high-quality pieces made from cashmere or wool for a fraction of the price they would be if they were brand new. Just make sure you wash any thrifted clothing before gifting or wearing it yourself! It’s recommended to pour in a bit of vinegar with the rinse cycle to disinfect and deodorize secondhand clothing, which comes with an added benefit—vinegar is a natural fabric softener!


Record players have come back in a big way over the last decade and having physical copies of your favorite music is becoming la mode du jour again. So, it’s always a good idea to head to the thrift store and pick up some pre-loved vinyl. We’re sure you’ll be able to snag some Beatles, Sinatra, Pink Floyd, Fleetwood Mac, or whatever retro artist your loved one loves. Don’t be surprised if you see some modern records as well!

Vintage Jewelry

Every estate sale these days includes chests of vintage costume jewelry from the 1940s and 50s, often very discounted and sold in bulk. Unless it has real gold, silver, and jewels, jewelry is very inexpensive at thrift shops. And a lot of the jewelry trends from then are coming back around again—chunky rings, colorful glass gems, layered gold chains, pendants, pearls, and even giant plastic earrings. There’s no way you won’t find something to give, and you’ll likely find something for yourself as well!


Subscribe to Weelunk

A classic holiday gift, a pretty mug or two along with a small bag of fancy coffee, a handmade hot chocolate mix, apple cider packets, their favorite tea, or even a bottle of Bailey’s or coffee liquor is always a hit. It’s also a good way to show them that you pay attention to their preferences!

Art or Frames

Not for the faint of heart, thrifted artwork can be a real challenge. You have to know the person very well, as well as know what kind of art they like and need. Dedicated art curators are some of the pickiest people out there. If you’re brave and find something perfect, art can be a very sentimental, heartfelt gift. But if you wimp out on actually buying art, beautiful frames are a great second option and are plentiful around Wheeling!

Thrifted Picnic

A larger, more extensive gift option would be an entire thrifted picnic basket, full of everything you would need for an afternoon picnic next spring and summer. This gift may take a little longer to put together, but the outcome will definitely be worth the effort! The first challenge is to find a large basket, ideally one with a lid. Fill it with your pick of picnic must-haves—a large blanket to sit on, a cutting board and cheese knives, fun drinkware, small porcelain plates, and anything else you think someone may need!

Recipe Jar

If you’re a big fan of cooking or baking, or if you know someone who is, it is incredibly easy to find a pretty vintage jar or tin and fill it with handwritten recipe cards of some of your favorite recipes! Things you grew up making, favorites you have now, or fun things you learned to make during the pandemic! For a bit of extra sentimentality, you can even add some notes about each recipe, where you learned or found it, or stories about times you made it.

Local History

And finally, what’s a list of secondhand gifts in Wheeling without a bit of Wheeling history and Wheeling-centric items on it? Some great examples would be art of famous local buildings or maps of Wheeling, Marsh Stogie boxes, locally made glass, and La Belle steel cut nails from here in Wheeling, all of which are great options with plenty of nostalgia.

Now that you have some ideas of what treasures await for you, here’s a list of Wheeling’s amazing stores for thrifting and antiques:

  • SIB’s – A local favorite, this three-story antique store is a sprawling haven for bargain hunters and antique connoisseurs alike. Located at 348 National Rd in Wheeling.
  • Antiques on the Market – A multi-level antique shop in Centre Market with loads of vintage records, antique children’s toys, clocks, and furniture. Located at 2265 Market St in Centre Market.
  • Collector’s Cottage – This house-turned-antique-shop is always worth a stop, particularly for the vintage photos, antique cookware, and rare coins. Located at 2486 National Rd in Wheeling.
  • Attic Picker – A curated collection that recently moved from a location Bridgeport, OH, this transplant is quickly becoming a Centre Market favorite. Located at 2211 Market St in Centre Market.
  • St. Vincent de Paul Society – A countrywide thrift store chain, St. Vinny’s is a large warehouse secondhand store with a bit of everything. Located at 225 McColloch St #1 in Wheeling.
  • Shuggy’s Antiques – With a focus on jewelry but featuring other odds and ends as well, Shuggy’s is a well-known stop on every local’s thrifting day to-do list. Located at 2255 Market St, Wheeling in Centre Market.
  • Salvation Army – Another countrywide chain, this large thrift store is best known in Wheeling for a wide selection of gently used clothing and home goods. Located at 140 16th St in Wheeling.
    • A peek inside some of the treasures you can find at the Collector's Cottage in Wheeling!

If you are up for an adventure, here are a few options just outside of Wheeling:

  • Barnesville Antique Mall – A bit of a hike (but definitely worth the drive) this antique mall is a huge warehouse filled with just about everything you could list when talking about antiques. Located at 202 N Chestnut St #1295 in Barnesville, Ohio.
  • Black Cat Vintage – With two actual black cat inhabitants, this antique shop is always a fun stop! Located at 637 Wheeling Ave in Cambridge, Ohio.
  • Antique Warehouse – A massive, 40,000 square foot, space featuring over 100 consignment antique vendor stalls. Located at 322 Market Street, Steubenville, Ohio.

So, whether you’re looking to save some money, be more environmentally friendly during this notoriously wasteful time of year, or simply give your loved ones a unique gift—Happy Thrifting!

• Ellery McGregor is a Wheeling transplant from Los Angeles, California. She works remotely for a marketing team in LA and now moonlights as an author for Weelunk. She earned her undergraduate degree in English from California State University Long Beach in Long Beach, California. Since moving to Wheeling over a year ago, she has spent her time helping her family restore an Italianate Victorian row house in Centre Market, picnicking at Heritage Port, and marveling over having actual seasons.