I’ve been shopping flea markets and antique stores for years now and have learned quiet a bit over that time. When I first started shopping for vintage I really didn’t know what I was doing or what to look for in items. I simply shopped and bought pieces that I was attracted to. Since then, I shop both for personal decor and also for items that I can resell in my Etsy shop and new Instagram shop, The Vintage Box.
Here are 10 tips that I’ve learned over the years that will help you go from a novice flea market shopper to a pro.
- Research flea markets and antique stores before you travel to a new city. Online reviews and Facebook photos will tell you a lot about a shop and help you pick the places with the most items and best selection. And don’t pass up those small cities you pass along the way because they often have antique stores filled with items that haven’t been picked over.
- If you love it, buy it or at least put it in your bag! I’ve walked away from items before telling myself that I’ll come back to look at it when I finish walking the entire market or store. Of course when I return the item has been snagged by someone else. If you see something you like, put it in your cart or bag and consider it as you continue to shop. If you decide not to purchase it, let the vendor or the store cashier know when you’re paying and they can put the item back on the shelf.
- Trust your gut. This goes along with pt. #2 above. Just like most things in life, you gut will tell you if an item is meant to be or not. If you have an immediate reaction to an item than most likely the piece is something that you’d love having in your home or would be able to sell.
- Engage in a conversation with the vendor BEFORE asking for a deal. Taking the time to engage in idle conversation and show interest in the sellers booth and wares will set the tone for price negotiations. If I’m alone shopping I always make eye contact with the seller, compliment them on their items and ask a question or two to break the ice. If my husband is with me, that’s his job so I can spend time looking.
- Group items from one vendor or booth together and request the seller’s best price. The more you buy the better the deal you’ll get from the seller. And when asking for prices always ask ‘Is this the best price you can offer?” instead of “what kind of discount can you give me?”. You want the vendor to feel they have control when negotiating so how you ask for a better price matters.
- Don’t discount an item if some of the parts and pieces are missing. Jars without lids can be used for vases, you can mix and match linens and related items like milk glass or brass can be sold in groupings so look at the value instead of the flaw.
- If you’re looking for a particular type of item, ask vendors who carry similar pieces because you never know what they may have in storage or can bring to the next market.
- Check the quality of each prices before you buy it. There are usually no returns or exchanges at antique stores and flea markets so know what you’re buying before you lay down your money. Look for hair-line cracks, sturdiness of furniture and makers marks which will help you assess the quality of a piece.
- Shop early for the best selection. This is especially true at flea markets which tend to attract a large number of people early in the day. If you’re looking for highly collectible pieces, you want to shop early before items are picked over and sold.
- Shop late for the best prices. Shopping late in the day and on the last day of the sale will often yield you the best prices. Vendors don’t want to pack things up and take them back home so they are much more likely to offer discounted prices at the end of the day or end of a show.
You can find lots of amazing items at flea markets and antique stores so use these tips to help you snag some great bargain the next time you head out to shop.
Want to know what essentials you need to carry when thrifting? Check out my post Thrift Shopping 101.