Are you intrigued by the idea of flea markets and antique shops? Have you been thinking about venturing into the wilderness that is the aisles of booths? I’m going to share with you my best tips for getting through one in less than an hour and some of the best things to look for, especially if you’re a beginner!
This trunk, vintage books and old wooden printing stamp are all from flea markets!
1. Learn to pause and scan each booth focusing only on things that catch your eye. You can spend an eternity in some of these markets if you don’t implement the pause and scan, I know, my mom is the worst at this! (love ya mom ; )) And when you want to shop as many as possible it’s essential to practice time management.
I found this old silver ice bucket and books at flea markets for next to nothing. I like to put a vase of flowers inside this ice bucket for extra flair, so many possibilities.
2. You won’t always find incredible pieces or awesome steals. For every 5 trips I make I might find a couple of cool things. The thrill of the hunt is what keeps me going back because when you do stumble on those amazing finds it’s seriously worth it. Go regularly, since turnover is high and the booths are typically individually owned so they are always bringing in new stuff.
Here’s an old trunk/box with some beautiful wood detailing, I’ve got it sitting by the sofa acting as a side table.
3. Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate. Most of these stores will be willing to entertain offers or at least call the owners to make your offer. One market I frequent has a flat 10% off rate just for asking. The worst they can say is no and then you can decide if it’s worth it to you. But at least you know you tried to get the absolute best price you could on it.
This is an old cigar press I found for only $10! It’s sitting on one my favorite book finds. an old atlas.
4. There will be LOTS of stuff and over half of it won’t be of any interest to you. Be ready to dig, to do the pause and scan and be prepared to leave empty handed, this all applies here. Some of the markets have lots of random stuff, like a big garage sale and less antiquey cool stuff but every now and then there’s a jewel in there.
The beloved aluminum stencil sign thingy. I don’t care what it was for, it’s a centerpiece!
5. They do have SALES! Especially around holidays, but year round you can find individual booths will have 20-50% off either all of their items or most with the exception of those marked firm. So not only can you find super cool stuff cheaper than retail but you can also get it on sale and possibly negotiated further! Not much better deals can be found.
Some of the old books I found for $2 mixed with some other pieces like my rad thumbs up. I mean who can’t smile at a thumbs up?!
6. If you stumble on a high priced item that you love and then leave without but can’t stop thinking about, do a google search and see what the same item is going for online. Check places like ebay, etsy and craigslist this will give you a good idea of whether that item is worth the higher price tag or not.
An old bench that’s still super solid with all of it’s lovely wear on display.
7. Don’t go expecting to find furniture or other items in new, like new or pristine condition. Flea markets and antique shops are all about the patina. The life these items had before, the character they carry and display and the uniqueness that accompanies them. For me, the chippier, more abused and worn the better. If you’re looking for new, hit up your local discount stores like Home Goods, Marshalls, etc or your local furniture stores.
Here the market finds are: the bench under the mirror, the art next to the mirror, the books on the tray, the metal basket, the art on the ladder, the ladder and the wooden pieces hanging on the ladder.
8. Go with a loose idea of things you want to keep an eye out for. This goes hand in hand with the pause and scan. Side table, accessories, old silver, etc. It will help you focus and make your pause and scan more efficient. However, be open to the wonder and mystery of the unknown that the booths carry. You really never know what you will find so be prepared to leave with a camel saddle instead of a side table (true story I found a camel saddle and it’s fab!!)
This is the vintage turkish runner I found in the corner of a booth, it’s in awesome shape!
9. If you’re new to shopping at flea markets and antique stores start small. By that I mean accessory items, they are inexpensive to start with and will start to give you an idea of what style you have and if necessary ease you into the oldies but goodies! What exactly do I mean by accessories? Vintage books, old metal items (silver, brass, etc), baskets, artwork, kitchen items, frames, etc. These are all small pieces that will give life to any space and are so easy to find and very little $$. I picked up some amazing old books from the early 1900’s for $2 a piece the other day!
The ladder I picked up at a flea market in my ORC space, I’m using it as a bookshelf!
10. A dive head first and look back later kind of person? Skip #9 and go for the incredible statement stuff. Some of my favorite things to look for are; old trunks that double as side or coffee tables and give additional storage, dressers (I have an amazing old set of a dresser and 2 nightstands I picked up for $150, so gorgeous!), buffets and china cabinets, vintage rugs, desks, post office boxes (can easily double as a wine cabinet), bed frames and signs. Really there is no limit to the incredible pieces you can find. This list is just a few of the amazing things I’ve found but there’s so much more out there. You’re only limited by your imagination!
The daisy vases and old books are market finds too. The black book on the right is a super old German bible.
Now print this out or remember these tips and go to some local stores and see what kind of treasures await you. Once you score that first incredible piece, you will be hooked. It’s like crack only legal, and way better for you. And you’re home will be one cool conversation piece after another with a story attached to those amazing finds.
Have some incredible pieces or awesome stories about what you’ve found at flea markets or antique stores? Please share them with me! I love to hear all about fellow flarketers (flea marketers) jackpots, and I totally just made that word up. And don’t forget to hit up Mr. Subscribe over in the sidebar, you won’t miss any of my ramblings that way!
Happy Hunting and Treasure Seeking!!