If you love deals on quality, vintage stuff, summer is an excellent time to start hunting – especially around Fourth of July. Most neighborhoods have weekend flea markets then. The biggest draw to shopping at a flea market lies in the amazing finds and deals possible – vintage toys, clothes, furniture, champagne flutes, Jiffy-Way Egg Scales, records and so on, each one at less than $50 or so, usually.
Flea markets aren’t organized or overseen by the authorities though. Finding quality merchandise and good deals can come down to how well you learn the tricks of flea market shopping.
Pick the right flea market
Flea markets in artsy or hipster neighborhoods tend to have no bargains. If a neighborhood has art boutiques, cute little boulangeries and art rock venues, you can be sure that their flea market mainly deals in handcrafted furniture, jewelry and other expensive products whose prices start at approximately $100 and upwards. These markets are best left to those who don’t care about deals.
Look up every flea market on Google before you go
Many flea markets specialize in specific niches – furniture, jewelry, clothing and so on. It can be a wasted trip if you end up visiting the wrong flea market for the kind of merchandise you need. Fortunately, many markets post their vendor lists on the Internet. Looking up the market you plan to visit can help you plan trips just to the markets you need.
Show up late
It may seem to make sense to think that you should time your flea market visits as early in the day as possible – you’d see the best choice of products before everyone bought all the stocks up. In reality, it doesn’t work out this way.
The problem with showing up early is that flea market vendors tend to be less flexible with their prices at that hour. They hope for better customers through the day. As the day wears on, though, they become open to some haggling.
Since most experienced flea market shoppers do know about price flexibility, they aren’t likely to show up early. You won’t miss too much merchandise coming in late, then. You will likely get great merchandise as well as flexible pricing.
Look out for counterfeit articles
There is no authority inspecting the merchandise available for sale at flea markets. You may see what looks like antique furniture by a well-recognized, classic designer, for instance. You can’t assume that it’s real, though. It could well be a carefully-made counterfeit that uses particle board. Whatever you buy, you need to closely inspect it to make sure that it is the genuine article.
If you don’t know how to haggle, buy multiple items by the same seller
Haggling can be difficult at flea markets – sellers can dig in their heels. If you’re too embarrassed about starting a back-and-forth to work the price down, you can consider finding out if the seller has multiple items that you might need. When you buy multiple articles from one seller, you have some negotiating power. You only need to ask for a discount to get it.
Become chatty with sellers who carry your favorite stuff
Whatever special tastes in vintage items you may have, it’s usually a good idea to keep an eye out for flea market vendors who seem to know where to find them. If you befriend them, you’ll be assured of tip offs when new merchandise arrives. This way you won’t need to constantly be on the lookout.
If you are serious about flea market shopping, you need to learn about how to appraise articles for value
The Internet is full of websites that offer advice on vintage article evaluations – magazines like Country Living, for instance, offer detailed guidance. The more you read up, the more you’ll learn what makes a vintage article valuable. Armed with expert knowledge, you’ll be more confident nailing good deals.