I’ve been collecting things my entire life.

As a kid, I never took the packaging off of my toys or action figures because I was certain they’d be worth big bucks one day. Instead, I proudly displayed them around my room along with my other collectables: promotional soda cans, hot wheels, Goosebumps books and Star Wars memorabilia. It wasn’t until later in life, when I developed a vintage T-shirt obsession, that I realized that I might be able to parlay my love of collecting into an actual job. Today, as a guy who used to sell vintage clothing full-time, I can tell in an instant if that dingy Metallica T-shirt in the bin at the flea market is gonna help me pay my rent for the month.

Here, below, are some tips I’ve learned over the years for sniffing out choice vintage – you too can turn a $10 swap meet find into a $300 come up!

The Tag

Easily one the quickest ways to determine if a shirt is legit. Popular brands like Screen Stars, Oneita, and Jerzees are no longer being produced, so if you see a Screen Stars tag, you know you’ve struck gold.

The Made in the USA logo is also a sure sign that your tee’s true vintage. (Our country began outsourcing the bulk of its clothing production in the ‘80s and ‘90s, and today, only 2% of American clothing is made in the US!)

Also, a tag that’s been screen-printed onto the shirt’s interior (versus an actual physical tag) is the mark of a reproduction. (Brands like Forever 21, H&M, and Junk Food all make convincing reproductions with screen-printed tags.)



Single Stitch

Most T-shirt manufacturers switched from single-stitch to double-stitch hemming in the mid ‘90s, so if you find a shirt with a single-stitch hem, you’ve likely found something good. I can go through entire rows of thrift store shirts in seconds just by quickly looking at sleeves.



Graphic tees made after 1976 will have a very small copyright year under the main graphic. It can sometimes be hard to make out because of wash and wear, but luckily we’re near enough to the turn of the century that, at minimum, you should be able to tell whether the date begins with a 19 or a 20!

Now go forth and thrift! With these few tips you should be able to score like a pro.

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