Best Thrift

Unique Thrift/Value Village

Silver Spring’s thrift store complex, which features a full-sized Unique Thrift and Value Village under the same roof, offers a spoil of secondhand riches. But there’s a catch. In order to traverse from Unique to the Village (or vice-versa), you must first purchase your items at one outlet’s checkout stand, store them in the center bag-check area, successfully ignore the interceding bazaar, then try your luck at the second store. So how does a shopper know, having visited only one outlet, whether a better-fitting jacket, cuter porcelain kitten, or more appropriate toilet-seat cover will be waiting on the other side? She can either hide her candidates for purchase in a particularly unappealing garment and hope they’re still there when she circles back, or she can shop strategically.

Below, a handy roster of each store’s strong suits:

Unique: Agent Zero jerseys, ashtrays, black-sequined vintage dresses, board games based on bad television, candlesticks, cassette tapes, children’s car seats, cowboy boots, creepy dolls in Victorian clothing, crutches, golf clubs, hair pieces, hair rollers, ironic T-shirts (child sizes), jewelry, linen skirt-suits, matchbooks from around the world, matching plate sets, mother-of-the bride outfits, picture frames, seasonal holiday accessories (currently: bunny rabbits), stemware, suspenders, tasseled men’s loafers, teapots, toilet seat covers, vinyl R&B singles, wall mirrors.

Value Village: boys’ footed pajamas, camo-print jackets, chairs, children’s guitars, fanny packs, fur, ironic animal portraiture, ironic beer mugs (boot shaped), ironic coffee mugs (deer print), Jesus art, leather jackets, luggage, large-scale children’s toys, novels by bestselling yet middling authors (Mary Higgins Clark, James Patterson, Dan Brown, Tom Clancy, Danielle Steele), needlepoints, planters in the shape of critters, racist figurines, salt and pepper shakers, saris, sewing machines, sewing patterns, silk scarves, sparkly women’s hats, sporting equipment, sunglasses, sweat suits, Trapper Keepers, various rackets, visors, wedding dresses, VHS tapes.

Moms: Save on a dress you will never wear again, until she remarries (Unique, $5.99–$9.99)

Time-tested synthetic hair (Unique, $1.99-$4.99)

Dolls dressed in Victorian clothing; eyes never close (Unique, prices vary)

Recently viewed at Unique: R. Kelly’s “Ignition” (not the remix) (Unique, $0.49 to $3.99)

Priorities: At Unique, the Da Vinci Code Board Game sells for five times the price of Survivor the Game (Unique, $9.99, $1.91)

For maximum coverage of your small children (Value Village, $2.95)

For ironic drinking that still gets you drunk (Value Village $.99–$2.99)

The Prince George’s County Department of Family Services Annual Senior Picnic 2000 “An Olympic Celebration” can live forever, on your midsection (Value Village, $1.95–$2.95)

Value Village is stocked with the bust possibly of Mozart, or else another dead white guy (Value Village, $8.49)

Painting of someone else’s dog (“Bogey,” Value Village, $14.87)

Jesus walks on lacquered wood (Value Village, $4.69)