Naturally, there's times when custom framing is needed, such as for an unusual size picture, or a very special artwork that deserves to be set off by a very special frame. But for small, more casual wall hangings, thrift store frames are more than adequate. There's usually a good choice of sizes and framing materials, so you're bound to find something that will work.
I'll show off some examples of my thrift store frames now, beginning with:
I paid $4.00 for a 16x20 frame (included the glass). Hmm, maybe I should have gotten a wider frame, but it still looks nice enough. The print is from a neighbor's watercolor of a now-closed local school.
For a dollar, I scored the above 16x13 frame. The scene depicts the Capitol building area around Lansing, MI during the 1870's. My husband and I bought this print decades ago at the long-gone Trapper's Alley shopping center in Detroit. Trapper's Alley was a pretty cool place once upon a time, and we used to enjoy the historical scenes sold by artist Constance Powell at a shop there.
Close-up of Powell's work:
A 5x7 frame sets off a postcard purchased at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts:
Not sure which cost more, the frame or the postcard, but neither one cost much. The postcard is of a painting that depicts the Boston Common section of town in the Victorian era.
A bit fancier frame, but it didn't come at a fancy price:
Like the frame/postcard combination above it, this 8x10 frame/print pairing set me back around $1.00 total. The print is of a Paris neighborhood scene.
Looks like a lively place!
Now on to a plainer frame again:
An 8x10 frame for a softly-colored Asian-themed print.
I'll sometimes go into periods where different wall hanging themes appeal to me, whether it be florals, landscapes, old buildings, etc. This print is from an Asian design period. But at low thrift store prices (I paid less than a dollar total for the above print and frame), I suffer no buyer's remorse when my decorating whims change.
Another frame to show off:
I mentioned this print here, and also how I bought its frame at a thrift store. In no more time than it would have taken to peruse the framing department at a big box store, I found and paid a mere 50c for the frame. It goes perfectly with the print, I think.
One last frame to show off:
Again, I think the above are a good match: a frame with some corner detailing paired with a "bouquet" of paper quill flowers and leaves. The price also matched: 50 cents each, a very nice price for a very nice 5x7 frame and a hand-crafted picture.
By now, I think you've gotten the point that there's a wide variety of frames to be had at thrift stores - enough variety that you can avoid the ones that are beat up. My other bit of advice is to carry a small ruler - or the piece you want to frame - with you so you can make sure the frame you select is the right size. Some thrift store frames come with their dimensions indicated, but most do not.
I've shown off wood frames, but you can also find ones made of metal, acrylic, frames labeled as being for a parent, baby, graduate or pet, or DIY versions decked out in paints, glued-on shells, or other bits of whimsy. I tend to steer clear of those DIY frames, but like the wooden ones I've brought home!