Many people reach out to us, asking what it takes to become a successful flea market shopper, who’s able to spot a great deal in the blink of an eye, and skillfully haggle its price.
Our answer is invariably the same: practice, dedication and constancy.
Learning by doing, is undoubtedly the best way to teach yourself. But there are dozens of other great tips out there, that can help you improve your shopping skills and increase the probability of finding a diamond in the rough!
Every now and then, we receive lovely emails from passionate flea market shoppers and merchants from around the world. And sometimes, those emails are true gold mines! Like this one we received recently from an enthusiastic flea market shopper & merchant in North East Pennsylvania, who was kind enough to share with us some of his very own flea market shopping tips.
Tip #1. The earlier you get there, the better your chances of getting “The Good Stuff”
And that also covers Garage Sale! Years ago I started to realize that if you got to a Garage Sale at the start time, say 8 AM, the best items were walking off as I was walking in. Now I get to most Garage Sales 15 minutes early.
Tip #2. The later in the day, the better the deal you can get.
Because many flea market sellers are there for just one day, and want to take as little as possible back home.
Tip #3. Church sales rule!
I Love, Love, Love! Church Sales! I’ve found that at local, and somewhat distant church sales things can go cheap! Really cheap! But, the same rule applies, the earlier you get there, and or get in line, the better items are available.
Tip #4. Garage sales can also rule!
I’ve gotten some mighty amazing items for 25 cents – $1.00. Why? Because the children of parents who have either died, or are going into a care facility just want to get rid of everything! No Matter How Little They Get For It! “That? Gimme 25 cents, actually take 6 for a dollar! I just want to get rid of them”
Tip #5. Unlike the “American Pickers” I never offer more for an item if I know it’s worth a lot more.
Hey, if someone’s willing to sell me a Tiffany lamp for $5.00, so be it! (Not that that actually happened, just an example) I think about the real bargains like this – I have bought so many items that I either can’t get sold, or can’t get what I even paid for them that, when I get something for 25 cents that’s worth $50.00, it just evens things out, in the long run. And hey, who am I to tell someone that…NO! I’m going to give you $100 for that, not the $2.00 that you’re asking for it! It’s all part of the game…getting a real, bonafide bargain.
Tip #6. It took me years to gain the knowledge of all of those things.
There certainly were a lot of “Bad Purchases” along the way, to pay for that knowledge. If it were truly as easy as some people make it seem, everyone would be doing it. And sometimes it’s a hunch you’re going on, why? Because you may not have cell service, or you can’t find the exact item that you want to research on eBay, but you just know it’s a good piece! And it’s cheap!
Tip #7. Sometimes buying broken stuff is a really good bet.
Furniture is a prime example. So what if the veneer is damaged? Just look at the drawer pulls on that baby! Yes, the hardware that is ON the item may actually be worth more than the item. Same thing holds true of “Broken Toys” I once bought a huge lot of “Not So Perfect” Pressed Metal Toys, I think I paid about $60, or maybe $80 for all of it. I sold those broken toys for well over $350, it may have even been around $425. These were late 1950’s – early 1960’s Tonka, Ertl and other assorted makers. Nobody saw the value in them broken toys…But I did! I took a chance on them, and it paid off. Or you can re-purpose pieces from one item and mix them with another item to make something really different and cool! I took an old typewriter that didn’t work, and I put a light inside of it, it’s now a TyperLighter! It throws off really interesting shadows from within the typewriter guts!
Tip #8. Friday is the new Saturday, for Garage Sales… at least in North East Pennsylvania.
And…not too many people can get to those Friday Garage Sales! But I Can! Also, keep in mind that there’s usually a Flea Market, Church Sale, Garage Sale or Thrift Store close enough to most Everyone. So you have no excuse for not trying!
One last tip, which is so obvious, that we decided to label it as a “half tip”: Attend flea markets as often as possible!
Shoppers who wish to improve their “great deal spotting” ability, should definitely attend flea markets as regularly as possible. There is pretty much nothing like that to sharpen the eye.
The “problem” with flea markets, is that they can quickly become overwhelming: lots of people, lots of booths crammed with tiny objects, and not enough time to browse them in details. Attending flea markets regularly, helps develop a selective eye and the ability to create abstraction around a particular item. Because it is drowned in the mass, an item might go unnoticed. A trained eye will immediately see its potential. Combine this with some literature on a particular topic (furniture, jewels, collectibles, paintings, stamps, vintage clothing, accessories, vintage video games, etc.), and you’ll quickly get a sharper eye when it comes to finding valuable items.
Featured image: Flea market Zurich © H. von Vogelsang