Goodwill, Badwill, Questionable-will — Clowns, Clowns & More Clowns!

by Katy on April 5, 2018 · 41 comments

When a person thrifts as much as I do, they start to see patterns. For example, unwanted souvenirs from travels near and far, such as wooden clogs from the Netherlands, double decker busses from London and mugs from each and every gift shop spread across our great green earth.

I consider Goodwill to be an anthropological study of what people buy and conversely what they no longer wish to own. It’s all quite fascinating when viewed from this standpoint.

One category that I come across quite frequently is “clown.”

Some are classy, such as this Portrait of Paulo as Pierrot by Pablo Picasso. Yes, it’s a bit smudged, but a low grit artist’s eraser would slick up that piece in a Spanish minute.

Of course, there’s always an abundance of hobo clown knick-knackery. I’m not sure how the category of the benign inebriated hobo clown came to be popular, although I’m pretty happy that this trend has run its course.

Other times, it might be a garment such as this adult sized costume. And before you ask, yes . . . I somehow resisted buying this clown costume, despite it being a bargain as it was from a pay-by-the-pound Goodwill Outlet. (Then again, this forgiving item could be the perfect solution for what to wear on Thanksgiving, as the tailoring would definitely allow for any pie related spread!)

Handmade clown crafts seem to pepper the shelves as well, as evidenced by this cheerful specimen:

Hardly the stuff of nightmares, which is how clowns seem to have devolved in our popular culture where not one but two (!!) “It” movies (plus a miniseries) have been produced, and there are enough sicko clowns to warrant clickbait articles such as The 20 Creepiest Clowns in Movie and TV.

Is it any wonder when clowns such as this vintage piece were produced in a non-ironic manner? Seriously, this clown isn’t officially trying to be frightening, yet would haunt the dreams of any child unlucky enough to find this object d’art under their Christmas tree.

Seriously, who on earth designed this face thinking it would be a welcome addition to anyone’s decor?!

No wonder it got donated to Goodwill . . . and likely snapped up by some lucky buyer before the day was over.

I absolutely ❤️ the surprise element of shopping from thrift stores. As much as I’ll often leave empty handed from Goodwill, I rarely leave without taking a photo or two to document the good stuff, the bad stuff and the certainly the questionable stuff. As befits any thrift anthropologist.

Want to know more about Goodwill Industries of the Columbia Willamette? Check out and to learn more about the important services that they provide for our community.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 41 comments… read them below or add one }

Isitaneedorawant April 5, 2018 at 2:56 pm

My MIL purchased a very creepy clown painting in the Montmartre district in the ‘60’s. No one wants to inherit this painting. My kids think it’s eyes are disturbing and it’s painted on a red background. It’s buried somewhere in my in laws basement. Yep, there will be no fighting over that item. Can’t wait to drop it at Goodwill.


Katy April 5, 2018 at 3:21 pm

And someone else will be delighted to find it!


Lee April 5, 2018 at 3:16 pm

I was at the bins yesterday and it looked like a doll collector’s estate had been donated. There was literally an entire section of bins FULL of large dolls (3-4 feet tall, new in their boxes). I commented to someone that the collector probably thought the heirs were going to be thrilled to get all those dolls, and he sighed about how his mother has a basement full of the things and they’ll just end up at the bins as well.


Katy April 5, 2018 at 3:17 pm

It’s an interesting perspective to recognize that what makes something hold value is very subjective.


Lee April 5, 2018 at 3:39 pm

Yeah. It makes me realize that I shouldn’t “collect” things for anyone’s enjoyment other than my own. I’m not a minimalist, but I do like to keep the purely decorative items to a minimum.


Lee April 5, 2018 at 7:28 pm

I just washed the vintage dish towel I bought on the scary doll bins excursion and I notice that the image embroidered on it is a roller skating clown! (Cute! Not scary!)


Katy April 5, 2018 at 7:35 pm

That is hilarious!

Lindsey April 5, 2018 at 3:23 pm

When my grandmother died, we donated at least a dozen Jesus portraits to Goodwill. She was born in 1901 and lived to 2000 so she had those really old pictures of Caucasian Christ with the blood red heart and bloody drips of blood on his face from the crown of thorns. I prefer pictures that are less vivid, shall we say. We didn’t know what to do with them. Throwing them out seemed somehow wrong but no one we knew wanted them, so Goodwill it was. The lady there said they would be snapped up, thus once again proving that there is no accounting for taste.


yvette from down under April 5, 2018 at 3:24 pm

Just returned from trip to Texas to see family and a quickie visit to Portland Oregon to see daughter and meet her new husband. (did not have time to call in to goodwill to see you in action Katie!!)
After long haul flight back to Australia I realised how much we all love going home and resettling after trips!!!
Once over the jet lag, life looks good here although little rain has the contrast between what I saw in USA appear major. Frugal wise I only spent $1k Aus. (Plus airfares) This was mainly treating others to meals and gifts, entrance fees to tourist areas etc Family supplied accommodation and transport so I am not in debt for the trip. My tomatoes and zucchinis and herbs are still giving out , even though they have been left to themselves. Life is good, cherish every moment you have with loved ones, we can’t predict the future or where family moves too. I miss them all very much !!


Alison April 5, 2018 at 4:08 pm

I was given, as a wedding present 29 years ago, a print of a clown walking a goose on a leash! Needless to say that ended up being donated. I thought it was a very strange gift.


Katy April 5, 2018 at 6:39 pm
Alison April 5, 2018 at 8:43 pm

Yup, that’s it!


Lee April 5, 2018 at 9:22 pm

How funny!


Liz B. April 6, 2018 at 7:28 am

Ummmm…..that *is* a very strange gift to give…unless you’re really into clowns.

Dori April 6, 2018 at 10:01 am

Bahahahaha! What a hideous wedding gift. You can’t make this stuff up. LOL


Teresa April 6, 2018 at 3:57 pm

Oh good lord, it must have been quite a surprise when you opened THAT gift. 😉


Liz B. April 6, 2018 at 5:59 pm

Lol! What were they thinking?


Alison April 7, 2018 at 7:14 am

Well, to be completely fair, the theme of my kitchen back then (remember, we’re talking late 80s) was country goose kinda theme.
The mom of the person who gave me the print was into ceramics at the time,and she made me a set of canisters that had the goose decal on them. I liked them, they were practical. I guess her daughter thought the print would go well with them!

Betty Winslow April 5, 2018 at 4:15 pm

My dad had a bunch of clown things – luckily, a friend of his wanted them. Why? No idea……


A. Marie April 5, 2018 at 5:00 pm

Because my thrifting time has been drastically curtailed by DH’s recent cognitive issues, I appreciate all the reports from the field I can get. (But, seriously, if some of these clowns ever showed up at my local thrifts, I think I’d be cutting my thrifting short voluntarily!)

Fortunately, as I have overbought at the thrifts on clothing for ourselves in the past, I think we can comfortably ride out the current dry spell. In fact, I used to say that we had enough clothes on hand to last us till the Last Trump blows. (And, no, I didn’t mean you-know-who; this was several years before the present-day state of the nation!)


JennyS April 5, 2018 at 6:54 pm



Jennifer@thefrugaldribble April 5, 2018 at 5:54 pm

Gosh, I love these goodwill posts! Every time I hear the Goodwill commercial on the radio that’s about talking rock’n roll t-shirt telling his owner to take him to Goodwill because he still has some rock left in him, I immediately think of Katy.


Katy April 5, 2018 at 6:38 pm

I need to hear that ad! My son scours the Goodwill racks for old rock shirts, so this is perfect!


Jennifer April 5, 2018 at 8:09 pm

Badwill post! After looking at those clowns, I have the exact same feeling I have when I leave our local (Salinas, California) pay-by-the-pound Goodwill Outlet, like I need to wash myself from head to toe in hand sanitizer! Eek!

On a better note, I thought of you and chuckled today when I was at Bed, Bath and Beyond and saw some macrame-style throw pillows. Nice find and sell.


patricia April 6, 2018 at 2:23 am

So enjoy your blog, Katy. Thank you.


Sam April 6, 2018 at 2:54 am

That clown face. Shudder.


Jenelle April 6, 2018 at 4:19 am

Though I can’t think I’ve seen any “clown” items at the goodwill recently, I”m sure I will soon! Funny story about Goodwill…my mother still uses vintage curlers in her hair and on a recent trip to the Goodwill, my son found a bag of them and took them to her and told her to go to the bathroom and use them!!! Oh my…my mother was mortified to think that her grandson would tell her “her hair was bad”!! I ended up buying the bag and listing them on Ebay!


Angela @ Tread Lightly Retire Early April 6, 2018 at 4:41 am

I wonder if part of the reason I’ve never been so enamored with souvenirs is because of how many I’ve seen at the thrift store. Food for thought.


MW April 6, 2018 at 11:47 am

I’ve taken to buying souvenirs at local thrift stores when I travel. I’ve found a few good t-shirts that are part of my regular rotation. Beyond that, anything I buy as a souvenir is edible, and not in the weird novelty sort of way.


Roberta April 7, 2018 at 5:23 am

We usually buy jam on vacation. When we open the jar, it really does remind us of where we bought it and …well, jam!


Diane C April 6, 2018 at 5:27 am

That last clown would make a great White Elephant gift, as long as you were on the giving end,


ouvickie April 6, 2018 at 8:21 am

ROFL! That last one looks like a clown monkey, definitely creepy!
Back in the 60s & 70s, Red Skelton’s Hobo clown character “Freddy the Freeloader” clown character was popular. I remember seeing a lot of the hobo clowns that looked like his character and like that figurine you have pictured.

I decided several years ago that buying a fridge magnet and/or a postcard on our vacation destinations was much better than t-shirts, mugs, etc.
I work in a University town and when people mention buying University souvenirs


tia April 6, 2018 at 2:57 pm

I like souvenir t-shirts and baseball caps and I buy mine at Goodwill for $1.25. I wear them hiking, working in the yard, goofing off, and if I ever go to those places I’m all ready with my vacation gear.


Teresa April 6, 2018 at 3:58 pm

This was a great post. Thanks for making me laugh– free comedy! 🙂 <3


FrannyandDanny April 6, 2018 at 6:50 pm

In the words of Carrie Bradshaw ” Nothing scarier than a clown!”


Dusty April 7, 2018 at 10:36 am

Years ago I visited a Navy buddy and his wife…who collected clown paintings, etc….every wall was covered…..I didn’t sleep at all with all the creepy clowns staring at me…..I left in a hurry the next day.


Rosanne April 7, 2018 at 12:56 pm

I don’t thrift very often. I do occasionally go to estate sales when the online pictures look promising and it is nearby. I like to show up the last couple of hours on the last day. Honestly, the reason I don’t thrift too much is that I have noticed a pattern too. Cars belonging to obvious hoarders int he parking lot of the thrift shops. Somehow it always disturbs me and gets me down. I noticed it once or twice, and then I couldn’t help but search for them. Then I noticed two or three int he same parking lot. Cars so filled with stuff there is only room for the driver, barely. It makes me sad and I cant help but feel I really don’t need another thing.


Ruby April 7, 2018 at 3:28 pm

I was in line at the Salvation Army one day behind a woman who spent almost $70 buying stuff off the clearance racks. It turned out she had an entire room filled with clothes she bought at thrift stores that she did not wear. It was some kind of strange impulse shopping when she got her Social Security check every month. It was very sad and the ladies working there knew about her habit.


Susanne G April 7, 2018 at 5:43 pm

It’s funny, I have bought souvenirs from thrift stores too, but not in the city I wanted souvenirs from! A great Portland Rose garden tile trivet and Sitka Alaska sweatshirt from my current hometown in upstate NY, and a Washington DC big Starbucks mug in Sitka Alaska! All $1 or under.


Ash April 8, 2018 at 1:15 pm

I started collecting magnets and pressed pennies for my souvenirs from trips taken. Magnets are useful and I am reminded every time of where we went and they are inexpensive. Pressed pennies are super cheap, don’t take up space and are fun to make and hunt down the machines for.


Maria Ehlers April 10, 2018 at 6:38 pm

I think that last “vintage” clown was a racist humor piece from the 50’s or 60’s; banana hair, thick lips, animal-like nose.
The Hobo clown is the legacy of Emmett Kelly. My parents had tales of kids being terrified by him in live performances, while the adults thought it was great.


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