Story: Second-hand trade

Charity-run op shops with their dusty piles of second-hand clothing and bric-a-brac have long been a treasure trove for fans of vintage items – as well as a source of cheap goods for people on a budget. Second-hand trade has also gone high-tech in the 2000s, with the huge popularity of online auction site Trade Me.

Story by Kerryn Pollock and Bronwyn Labrum
Main image: Butterflies hospice shop, Dunedin

Story summary

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Commercial shops and trading

In the early days of European settlement in New Zealand, most new goods had to be imported from Britain, so second-hand goods were very useful. Antique shops sold valuable furniture, china and silverware, and junk shops stocked basic household items and clothing. Auction houses sold household goods, and sometimes antiques and art.

Pawnshops lent money to people who left goods in the shop as security. When they repaid the loan and interest, they could take their belongings back.

Some second-hand shops specialised in books, music, furniture or vintage clothes.

Used cars

For most of the 20th century new cars were very expensive, and many people bought second-hand cars instead, either privately or through a dealer. From the 1990s used Japanese cars were also imported for sale.

Op shops

Opportunity (op) shops, run by churches and other organisations, sell donated goods – mostly clothes – to raise funds for charity. Their cheap prices attract people on a budget, while treasure hunters enjoy digging through the masses of goods in search of something special. Op shops are mostly run by volunteers. In the 2000s some were becoming more professional. They looked like boutiques, and charged higher prices than before.


Schools, churches and other groups run fundraising fairs and jumble sales. In the 2000s schools held gala days and car-boot sales to top up government funding.

Garage sales

People held garage sales on Saturday mornings to sell off unwanted items and make pocket money. In the 2000s garage sales were less common, as people sold things on the internet instead.

Online trading

New Zealanders started selling goods on the internet in the 1990s. The Trade Me website, where people sell items in online auctions, was set up in 1999 and became hugely popular. More than half of the goods sold on Trade Me in 2009 were second hand.

How to cite this page:

Kerryn Pollock and Bronwyn Labrum, 'Second-hand trade', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 16 June 2024)

Story by Kerryn Pollock and Bronwyn Labrum, published 11 March 2010