First-class gifts at secondhand stores

guitars, pawn shop
Guitars and musical instruments are some of the items you can buy at Royal Pawn in Alexandria, Virginia. (WTOP/Abigail Constantino)
coins, pawn shop
Coins are popular items people are buying at Royal Pawn in Alexandria, Virginia, during the holidays. (WTOP/Abigail Constantino)
paintings, pawn shop
Royal Pawn in Alexandria, Virginia, has a collection of artwork. (WTOP/Abigail Constantino)
coins, pawn shop
Collectible coins are on display at a pawnshop in Alexandria, Virginia. (WTOP/Abigail Constantino)
amps, pawn shop
Amps are some of the items you can buy at a pawnshop. (WTOP/Abigail Constantino)
FILE — Current Boutique has multiple locations in the area with shops in D.C., Maryland and Virginia. (WTOP/Nahal Amouzadeh)
(WTOP/Nahal Amouzadeh)
guitars, pawn shop
coins, pawn shop
paintings, pawn shop
coins, pawn shop
amps, pawn shop

As holiday gifts pile up, so do holiday bills. Shopping in secondhand stores is one way to avoid paying your credit card into Memorial Day for something you bought at Christmas.

Consignment shops

Shoppers in D.C. said they plan to spend $701 this year on holiday purchases, higher than the national average of $637, according to a holiday shopping survey conducted by Accenture.

Of the 1,500 people surveyed in 17 cities, 48% said they would consider giving secondhand clothing as gifts, and 56% said they would welcome this kind of gift for themselves.

Forty-one percent of those surveyed in D.C. said they would be willing to give secondhand clothes as gifts, and 57% said they would not mind getting them as gifts.

“These are the customers who already see the value of shopping secondhand and are comfortable getting it as a gift,” Carmen Lopez, founder and CEO of Current Boutique, said.

Luxury, high-dollar items are popular secondhand gifts people are getting at the consignment shop, which has locations in D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

“I think they’re desirable because they’re unique items, and the quality can endure decades, if not a lifetime, depending on how it’s cared for. And of course, the cost savings of getting a pre-loved item,” Lopez said.

For less than what you would pay at retail stores, Current Boutique offers designer handbags, leather jackets, David Yurman and Tiffany jewelry, Hermès scarves, Chanel accessories, as well as cashmere sweaters and silk dresses.


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Lopez said current and frequent shoppers buy these items for themselves during the holidays, but some customers are husbands who are sent by their wives, or friends and sisters buying gifts for each other.

Vintage is “in vogue,” as people become critical of fashion waste, according to the Accenture survey.

“I think consumers are concerned about overconsumption and waste, so incorporating secondhand shopping … makes the shopper more environmentally conscious, and we can all feel good about that,” Lopez said.

She has the following tips when buying secondhand apparel and accessories:

  • When buying a garment, always look at the fabric content. You can make sure that you’re getting something valuable if the material is made from a natural fabric, like cotton, silk, wool or cashmere.
  • For leather goods, look at the leather and the wear on the edges or the interior of a bag. If you’re giving it as a gift, you want to make sure that it’s going to stand the test of someone else using it.

At her shops, you can get items that are barely used and still have value others can enjoy, so “Keep an open mind,” Lopez said.


Every kiss does not have to begin with a costly karat, and a pawnshop might be an alternative if you want to give jewelry as gifts.

Jewelry is a top seller at Royal Pawn shops during the holidays, according to owner Eric Rizer.

He said people buy them usually for their spouses or significant others.

But why would you want to buy something that belonged to someone else when you can buy something new? Well, price, for one thing.

Rizer compares it to buying a car.

“You buy a new car, the moment you drive it off the lot, it loses a substantial amount of value,” he said; but you can buy something that is slightly used that is just as good at a fraction of the price.

“If you go to the jewelry store, an item that’s going to cost you normally $10,000 at a jewelry store, you’d be lucky to pay $2,000 usually from a pawnshop,” Rizer said.

Rizer’s son, Alex, said the jewelry sold at the shops are cleaned thoroughly until they look brand-new. The shop sells them in jewelry boxes that bear no markings.

Another very popular item at the pawnshop are coins. Rizer attributes coins’ popularity with the price of gold.

“A lot of adults are starting to get their kids into collecting coins, saving for the future; and coins are a great way to get started,” Rizer said.

The pawnshop, which has branches in Alexandria, Vienna and Arlington, also sell artwork, sports memorabilia and musical instruments, among other items.

If you’re a little skeptical that your kid would actually stick to playing guitar, maybe see what your local pawnshop has in store before plunking down hundreds of dollars at a music store.

guitars, pawn shop
Guitars and musical instruments are some of the items you can buy at Royal Pawn in Alexandria, Virginia. (WTOP/Abigail Constantino)

Rizer wants to clear up the misconception that people have about pawnshops.

“If you come to our stores, and you see, they’re not a junk shop at all. We get beautiful items. Some of the items that we get are fantastic,” he said.

Worried that your secondhand gift might not be well-received? Etiquette expert Judith Martin, Miss Manners, herself told Chicago Tribune that whether a vintage or a secondhand gift is appropriate or not is in the eye of the recipient.

“The whole idea of presents,” she told the newspaper, “is to say, ‘I’ve observed you. I’m interested enough in you to have an idea of what you like.'”

Abigail Constantino

Abigail Constantino started her journalism career writing for a local newspaper in Fairfax County, Virginia. She is a graduate of American University and The George Washington University.

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