Yes, for some, “doing the fleas” is a treasure hunt. It is no doubt a far cry from a trip to the mall, because, like I always say, you never know what you’ll find. So, to stay one step ahead of this fun and unpredictable shopping experience, here are a few tips from the one and only, “Flea Market Fanatic.”
Do arrive early. If it opens at 8:00am, be there. Especially if you’re shopping for something in particular. Inevitably, it’s there, somewhere. And if you strike up a nice rapport with the vendor, you may get a price break. You can even ask for it to be held if you want it bad enough, and a $10 bill will do the trick. Walk around, enjoy the rest of the market place, then pick up your items at the end of the day, so you don‘t have to carry them around.
Do bring your own beverage and a snack. Unless I am at the Brooklyn Flea where I know the truck food is going to be good and interesting, American flea food isn’t worth eating. It tends to be what I call “sugar fried salt” food. Bring a nice Fage Yoghurt and Honey or a veggie wrap. You’ll feel better.
Do buy something you must have, but for a specific reason. Is this purchase practical? Like lighting, or accessorizing elements of a room?
Do haggle but if you really think that tchotchke is not worth $30 and you can buy the same thing cheaper at Target, new, walk away. I love flea markets more than anyone, but use your head.
Do know your style. Buying an antique phonograph sounds romantic, but if your home is all about Mid–Century Modern, for heaven’s sake, put it back.
Do look for interesting or unusual fabric and textiles that catch your eye for color or texture. Brocade and silks are my weakness. Chances are you won’t see anything like it new. Sadly, the craftsmanship is just not there. If you have a yen for glass and door knobs, colored drawer pulls, dusty chandeliers, vintage table cloths, really old maps, or vintage brooches like I do, there is never a shortage of what you can do to repurpose these types of flea market finds. They never fail to add just the right touch to any room. Unintentional charm. You will achieve a greater decorating flair with the less is more approach of casual charm and elegance when you add one of these elements about the house.
Do restore, recycle, and repurpose, but only if you love working with your hands. I know if you had suggested DIY projects even five years ago, I would have balked. I wasn’t ready or interested. These types of projects have got to be a labor of love. It is a lot of research, creativity, elbow grease, and experience of trial and error to get “it” right. So my advice is leave the DIY and restoration to the experts, until you are really ready.
Do shop what I call the “outliers.” Get out, way out, beyond the main are and where the crowds are. I like to start at the end then work my way back. It’s often these outer areas that are not only less crowded, but they very often have terrific antique and vintage pieces. Perfect locations for bargain hunters!
Do take cash, and although a lot of small bills are a good idea, many indoor fleas and antique shows or vintage cooperatives have a central pay station to run any kind of transaction. What’s more, yes there are ATM’s, but I am finding more and more sellers like myself, who can swipe debit and credit cards right on their smart phone. Worse comes to worse, if you’re low on cash, ask if they’ll take a check (most do) or send your payment to them through PayPal.
Do wear comfortable walking shoes. I get sore feet easily. I love my Tory Birch flip flops in good weather. They are a little pricey but they are sturdy. One pair in 4 years! When it’s cold, I wear the pair of raspberry colored Uggs I bought in 2005. Nothing else will do. Don’t have to wear socks either. Yes, both are new. I personally don’t like second hand shoes. But I would never pay full price! Can you say www.Overstock.com or www.Zappos.com?
Do wear layers, but even on the coldest New Jersey day, I leave most everything behind and opt for less. I don’t want to be weighted down by heavy coats or scarves and gloves. With so many people generating body heat, I’ve learned my lesson.
Don’t buy something because you think it’s a collectable item. Antiques Roadshow Twins, most of are not. I tell my clients, the last thing you want your home to look like is a garage sale. Less is more, put it back unless you absolutely need it. Resist consuming impulses. A bargain is no longer cheap when you’ve bought ten of them, or it’s going to sit in your closet.
Don’t take a folding cart with wheels. Too much jostling and crowds. I don’t want to tow that barge. For me, I want to enjoy the day. Leave the heavy day handbag at home, and simply take an over the shoulder flea bag like this with your iPhone and wallet.