By Lauren Flynn Kelly

bakelite pin
This vintage bakelite pin holds a special place in singer Janine Wilson’s heart.
Photo credit: Courtesy of Janine Wilson

Every avid thrifter has a story (or two or 50) of how they connected with their favorite secondhand finds. For this month’s “Thrifting with … ” feature, Ohio native and local musician Janine Wilson shares her best 69-cent purchase, her love of “all things French” and her quest for the ultimate turquoise necklace. Follow her through the Instagram handle, @janinewilsonband.

When or how did you first get into thrifting? 

Wilson: I’m originally from Columbus, Ohio, and Columbus has great thrift stores! I first discovered thrifting through my 7th-grade best friend’s dad. He would take us along on his trips to the Salvation Army or Goodwill, flea markets, and yard sales. I remember especially the South High Flea Market, which takes place on the weekends at a drive-in movie theatre. I found my first treasures there. Happily, the flea market still exists.

What are some of your favorites places to buy second hand?

Wilson: I love going to estate sales! It does feel a little odd and intrusive, sifting through a life’s worth of belongings and mementos, but I love knowing where items came from. I visited a sale in University Park last year and found a copy of A Christmas Carol, where I found an inscription saying, “Merry Christmas to Barbara from Daddy. Christmas 1938.” That meant more to me than the book, honestly. 

What kinds of things are you always on the lookout for? Is there anything you’re looking for that you never find?

Wilson: I always look out for vintage turquoise jewelry and items with French writing or made in France. (I have deep French roots and a love for just about all things French!) I’ve been collecting old silver champagne buckets or small creamers or pitchers to put plants and flowers in. The one thing I may never find is a turquoise squash blossom necklace for under $100. I haven’t found one online for under $500 or $600, and most of the very cool ones are around $1,000 and up!

You are a musician (and have a lovely new song out, by the way!). Have you purchased any memorable musical items over the years?

Wilson: Aww, thanks on the song! When I went to an estate sale some years ago in Alexandria, I bought a kid’s tiny “grand” piano and super funky piece of fabric on cardboard, framed in a beautiful vintage gold frame. It resides above my desk as a vision/idea/inspiration board of sorts. The folks having the sale were the sons of a music teacher, so they were happy to see some of their mom’s belongings go to a musician. Later on, one of them contacted me about an antique couch they were selling, and I bought it. And now they are fans of my music as well! I love making those sorts of connections.

Are there any beloved holiday-themed items you’ve collected over the years?

Wilson: For years, I collected vintage Christmas decorations, though I’ve had to put the kibosh on that as it was starting to look as if Christmas exploded in my small bungalow! My most treasured ornaments are those from my Grandma — she would give me and my sister an ornament every year. When she passed away at the age of 101, many of her ornaments, dating back to the 1920s and ’30s, were passed along to me. 

What is one of your all-time thrifted scores?

Wilson: Years ago, I went into the big Salvation Army house in a late 1800s brick building in downtown Columbus, and as I was walking up and down the aisles of bric-a-brac, my eye spotted something red among piles of dishware. As I looked more closely, I silently freaked out and grabbed a red bakelite pin of dangling apples. I walked around the store holding it tightly, wondering what to do because at the time there were signs that said “no price tag, no sale,” because people would rip off a tag and then ask the price in the hopes of getting a cheaper one. I walked up to the cashier and said I knew it didn’t have a price on it and came just short of begging her to “let me buy it, or I’ll die.” She said, “How about 69 cents?” I thanked her profusely and ran down the concrete stairs to my aunt and jumped up and down at my find. Our next stop was an indoor flea market where a woman sold bakelite. I showed her the pin, and she said she’d have sold that for $75! That was a huge deal to me then. I still have it!