Fall is for Flea Markets

September 29th, 2015 Flea Market Finds

For some people, the term “flea market” might conjure up some uninspiring images: a guy selling a crate of forgettable movies on VHS, or a shoebox full of Happy Meal toys.

But there are real gems waiting to be unearthed at a fall flea markets. This isn’t a “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” situation. We’re saying that you can find treasures among the things other people are ready to give away.


So we want to use this post to help you scour your local flea market to find primitive decor that can work as unique gifts for friends and family.

Here are a few steps to take to find prizes the next time you go to a flea market:

1. Get There Early

“At flea markets and antique shows, a lot of the action happens in the parking lot during the setup before the show opens,” author Maureen Stanton wrote in a piece for NPR. According to Stanton, flea market shoppers who arrive early have a chance to compete for the better pieces that might otherwise be snatched up by antique dealers.

2. …Or Get There Late

For every expert that advocates arriving at flea markets early, there are others who argue for getting there late, when sellers are more willing to negotiate, or have already marked down their goods. Your best bet may be to follow this rule of thumb from Martha Stewart: “The earlier you arrive, the greater the selection. The later you go, the better the bargain.”

3. Come Prepared

Stanton recommends bringing a whole kit for separating junk from gold. A loupe or small magnifying lens if you know you’ll be examining jewelry, a magnet to detect real silver – real silver won’t stick – a flashlight to better see objects, and a notebook and smart phone to help you research.

4. Be Comfortable

You might be doing a lot of walking on your search for primitive decorations, so wear comfortable shoes. As flea market expert Scott Sanders told ElleDecor, “People run!” to find bargains. Fall weather can be unpredictable. Will it be hot, will it be cold? So dress in layers, in case things warm up or cool off as the day goes on. Sanders also recommends bringing water, a snack, sunscreen and a hat.

5. Follow your senses

“There are ways to assess an object beyond just looking at it,” Stanton writes. “Use all your senses.” That means tapping glass or ceramics – hairline cracks resonate a specific sound – or smelling wood to see if it’s been “smoked” in order to make it seem older than it really is.

6. Bring cash, but don’t bring your best clothes

Some flea market merchants may take credit or debit cards, but most of them prefer to use cash. Cash makes it easier to stay focused on not spending too much. Sanders also suggests leaving expensive clothes, jewelry or watches at home. You’ll have a better chance of negotiating if you’re dressed down.

7. Bring a friend

Sanders says that by having a companion with them, flea market shoppers can cover more ground. He’s even used a walkie-talkie to communicate at larger events.

8. They expect you to haggle

But do so politely. Dealers want to make a profit, and might feel insulted if you haggle too much. Ask “Would you consider less?” and not “What’s your best price?” If you’re not comfortable with haggling, consider buying a few items. The dealer might be more likely to knock some money off the final total.

9. Make a leap of faith

Stanton says that buyers need to take chances and buy things they only think might be valuable. “If it turns out to be a fake, then chalk it up to the cost of your education. If you leave it behind, not only have you potentially missed a great thing, but you may have also lost the chance to take the piece home and do some research.”

10. If you love it, it’s not junk

This advice comes from antiques expert Toma Clark Haines, speaking to Chicago Magazine last year. They asked “What kind of junk should we be avoiding?” Her response: “It’s all fair game! If you want it and it’s the price you’re willing to pay, then it’s the right purchase for you.”

Once you’ve found your newest treasure, let Piper Classics help you frame it in a true country primitive style. Our curtains, bedding, and country décor can help serve as a backdrop for the primitive decorations you’ve unearthed on your flea market journey. Happy hunting!