Monthly Thrift Tip // Flea Markets

Today's Thrift Tip is brought to you by my awesome thrifty boyfriend, Zach.  I think I have to be the luckiest gal in the world to have a guy that loves to go antiquing & thrifting.  He's going to share with you some info + tips about Flea Markets today.  Hope you enjoy!

Hello, I am Zach and Moe has asked me to do a guest post about flea markets today. I want to start by talking about the different kinds of flea markets.  They all sort of run together, but there are some different types that fit into the style of flea markets:

The Traditional Style Flea Market // Firstly is the most well-known description of flea market like the bazaars of old. I've found that these are filled with many low quality items at a cheap price. You can find all sorts of cheap plastic toys from china, t-shirts, and counterfeit CDs. I do not prefer these & won't be talking too much about them.

The Craft Fair Type //  Here you will find a lot of handmade items from jewelry to primitive style decorations, here is where you will find a lot of art & other handmade things.  You don't really do too much negotiating here but you can find a lot of unique things handmade by others.

The Art Show Type // These are not to be confused with an art gallery. Art shows are gatherings of artists to sell their art; you will probably not find power tools here for example.  There isn't a lot of junk  here, mainly artists selling their quality work.

The Swap Meet //  These markets are going to be located at conventions and are going to be full of items central to that convention. I was just at Hamfest in Dayton, Ohio (a Ham radio convention) & everything for sale was related to radios and electronics.

Area Sales //  An area sale is when a group of people have a garage sale all at the same time this is much more time efficient than locating single sales and spending your weekend driving all over.

Estate Sales // These are different from a garage sale because everything is for sale.  Sometimes this is in the form of an auction & you should expect to pay more than you would at a garage sale.
A bottle I (Moe) bought for Zach for his collection

When you go to these places you don’t need to be looking for anything specific I have a running list (as mentioned in last month's tip!) of things that I am looking for including old apothecary bottles that contained poison & old electronics (mostly radio related but occasionally I might find a telephone or something else). I look for cold war era civil defense and atomic propaganda or interesting conversation pieces though I have not found anything very good yet.  Appraisal skills & being able to judge the quality and workmanship of an item is important. I am going to talk about older items because it is what I collect so I will talk about what I know.

Whenever I see something that I like I try to examine it as much as possible. When it is electronic, plug it in see if it works & do not take the seller's word that it is functional.  They might think functional is one light turning on. Look for manufacturers marks. On the same note never ever ever accept someones claim as genuine.  If they say that they have Charlie Chaplin’s hat they had better have a certificate of authenticity. A certificate can be faked but it takes effort. If there is no certificate buy only what you see, a stylish bowler hat. Look for missing pieces & try to decide if they can be replaced or if you can live with the missing parts. Look for damage. Scratches are not a serious problem on older items & you should expect a little wear. Rot is very bad, so is mold and animal damage.  Think very hard about how badly you want an item that is in this condition.

Appraisal also includes assigning value. Most places I go,the price tag on the item means very little. Look at the item and think about all of the similar items you have seen and what they were being sold for. If you have never seen one for sale think about if you have ever seen one in general. This is just a gauge of how common it might be. Do not underestimate your smart phone! Many people have one now do some research. This is one of the only times I will recommend not reading books. There are lots of collectables books they can be used for identification of items but the market fluctuates too much for them to be a reliable price guide. Also keep up with current trends right now “industrial” is very big in d├ęcor this apparently is all sorts of hideous rusty metal. Last weekend I found a very cool old military speaker in a rusty metal box the man selling it said he could get $20 even if he took the speaker out of it. Had it been a different environment I would have taken him up on that because I only wanted the speaker, which he apparently put zero value on . Much of what I buy requires repair so I will be paying less for it because I need to put money into it. Once you have an general price in your head it is time to start negotiating.

When you are negotiating there are a few types of sellers you will find. The first are the resellers & they usually do not know too much about the items they are selling. They fall into three categories: very firm on pricing (typically pricing items much too high, normally happens when people are new to reselling and think everything is a treasure. Don't spend too much time with these people you will not get anywhere), the more seasoned seller (who knows that the best way to resell is through a volume of sales.  They want to get rid of stuff so that they can make room for more stuff.  These people are much more likely to work with you on pricing.) & the owner. I prefer to deal with the direct owner they are usually very knowledgeable about their items and understand the items actual value.

Negotiation is very simple: a seller wants to sell an item for a million dollars and you want to receive and item for zero dollars, the negotiation that takes place meets somewhere between these two extremes. For unpriced items I try to always have the seller give their asking price first then work down from there sometimes it is far less than I thought I would have to pay so gladly accepted their price. If the listed price is not something you want to pay, use the information you gained form your examination & appraisal of the item to bring the price down.  Talk intelligently about what is wrong with the piece. This will show that you are knowledgeable and that you are a serious buyer. Another negotiation tactic is called bundling. Use bundling when there are multiple items you want & this works very well for books and other lower value items, something along the lines of "I will buy these two and you throw in this third one." People are more likely to strike a deal with you at the end of the day because they do not want to move their inventory from site to site. If you follow my rules above, you will also have been there all day too.

Morgan tells me this went entirely too long so I will finish with some extra tips.
- Always get there first, all of the good stuff will most likely be gone by noon
- Always look inside boxes! I found a very cool speaker hidden inside a rusty steel box.  My greatest find was also hidden in a box: a very cool apothecary kit from the early 1900s was in what looked like a humidor
- Always carry a strong magnet.  Refrigerator magnets do not count. Gold and silver are not magnetic but steel is.  This will help you find real metals.
- If you rub real pearls against your teeth it feels gritty, fake pearls will feel smooth

That’s all I have for you guys I hope it was informative.

I hope you enjoyed this little post from Zach! He is such a better haggler than I am & a better thrifter I would even say! He always finds something awesome & takes his time.  If you have any questions, please let me know & I'll ask him!

The Monthly Thrift Tip is a monthly feature showcasing tips & tricks when you are on the hunt for great thrifty finds.  If you are interested in knowing the tip before everyone else, sign up for the newsletter!

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  1. I love all kinds of sales! I think he pretty much got it right. I think my favorite kind of sales are church rummage sales. Usually they are full of little old ladies getting rid of fabric for SUPER cheap. Score!

  2. What a nifty market! And those old cameras are so beautiful! I wish I could own a trunk full of them. :D


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