Flea market: A beginners guide to shopping at flea markets

Flea markets are the perfect place to pick up a truly unique vintage item, whether it’s a beautiful 20s flapper dress, a vintage vase or even a stunning brooch. What so many people love about vintage items is that they have character and a story behind them, which certainly makes them a conversation starter. However, if you’re a first time flea market shopper, then you should be aware that there are both gems and junk at flea markets.

If you are ever bored on the weekend, visiting a flea market certainly makes a change from going to your local mall or staying home to shop online. Why settle for commercial items when you can explore a flea market and scoop yourself a one-of-a-kind item. Below are a few tips on how you can prepare for your day of shopping at a flea market.

Flea market tip #1: Wrap up warmly

All flea markets are outside which means in the winter, temperatures can drop rapidly especially if you arrive very early to nab the good items.

Flea market tip #2: Dress down

Don’t flaunt your designer bag or wear a flashy Rolex. Not only will you attract the attention of pick-pocketers, but you might find it harder to negotiate on a low price because the seller knows you have cash to spare.

Flea market tip #3: Wear comfy shoes

If you are really dedicated to bagging a bargain then be prepared to run when you see something you like! Eager shoppers will literally race to a booth once the show has opened. Flea markets are often quite big which means there’s a lot of walking and standing around, so comfortable shoes are recommended.

Flea market tip #4: Bring a friend

Two sets of eyes is better than one which is why it’s a good idea to bring a friend with you. You can split up and cover more ground.

Flea market tip #5: Bring cash

Even though most shops have chip and pin machines, flea markets won’t. Always bring cash because this not only gives you a spending limit, but it will force you to prioritise what you really want instead of buying spontaneously or for the sake of it.


  1. Philadelphia Flea Market News

    Very good tips. Number 4 says Bring Cash and that is till the general rule but in the US at least more and more flea market vendors can accept credit card payments with their smart phones or tablets. Cash is still King at flea markets but if you run short, ask the vendor if they accept cards.

    • You’re right, thanks for highlighting this! Though being able to pay your flea market purchase with credit card is slowly spreading in the US (thanks to e-card readers that can be plugged to/synced with regular iOS/Android smartphones), this technique is still far from spreading to European flea markets; people still love real cash there! The other thing is that older merchants don’t trust technologies and that they mostly don’t declare to the IRS what they sell (or don’t declare the “real” price…). However, remember that if you are offered the possibility to pay with credit card, that’s an extra chance for you to haggle a bit more on the item price (you can easily get an extra 10% off on the item price as the merchant would have anyway to pay in the end at least a 15% tax on the item sold) by offering to pay it cash; the contrary also work in case a merchant appears a bit reluctant to lower the price of an item: when you’re about to pay, show your credit card, and if he argues he’d rather have cash, suggest you could indeed pay him in cash for an extra… 10% discount ;) win-win situation (unless merchant is REALLY greedy; in that case, just leave the venue). To my opinion, merchants who don’t accept negociation are not worse it. But that’s my opinion only.

  2. Mark Davies

    http://www.fleamarket247.com is the USA’s first Virtual Flea Market. Sellers get their own virtual
    booth which runs for the whole week with new booths starting every Sunday at
    3pm PDT. The site is completely unique and a great alternative for people that
    can’t get out to the real thing.

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