I've been thrifting for almost two decades now, and have amassed a good collection of vintage gold as a result. So I thought I'd pass along some of my best tips for finding your own vintage goodness at the thrift store.
1. You've got to dig. This one is pretty much a no-brainer, but you've got to be willing to dig through and look under everything. Sometimes things are in odd places. And don't let yourself feel self-conscious, everyone else in the store is on the hunt, too.
2. Look for markings. Oftentimes you'll find stuff that was made to look old, but isn't. So look for store brand price or made in China stickers (a big non-vintage giveaway). Look for marks, or brand logos that may help you track down it's true age (you can easily research them online).
3. Look for the obvious. Most thrift stores will display items that they know are antiques or vintage in a prominent place in the store (like at the checkout counter or in a locked display case). Don't write them off as too expensive, sometimes you can still find a great deal in those glass cases.
4. If in doubt, Google it. If you were to follow me around at the thrift store, chances are you'll catch me looking something up on my phone--is that cool looking tin really from the 20's? Is that odd knick knack really worth anything? Google (and Etsy and Ebay) are your friends when trying to find what's vintage or not. And yes, vintage covers a pretty broad time spectrum these days, but even items from the 80's are pretty fun to find.
5. Trust your instinct. I recently found a pair of old aprons in the display case at Goodwill. They're likely handmade, so I have no way of really dating them, but vintage aprons just have this look and feel to them--and I've seen enough of them that I can tell if they're vintage quality or not.
6. Shop often. Thrift stores put out new wares daily, so the best way to score that vintage find is to visit regularly. Not that you have to go everyday, but stopping by your favorite store once a week or so will up your chances of finding the good stuff.