After a trip to Bloomington IL this weekend, we decided it would be fun to write a little guide to flea market shopping. We 've been going to flea markets for a long time so we've learned a few tricks that we wish we'd known in the beginning.
- Go REALLY early. This picture I took was well after we'd gotten there and bought a bunch of things. As you can see, the sun is coming up. My mom always says, "The early bird gets the vanity!"
2. Wear tennis shoes. Most flea markets are on dirt or gravel roads. You will really regret wearing a pair of flip flops while trying to navigate a flea market, especially if you find a great piece of furniture that you have to carry to your truck or van. See my mom below? She has on tennis shoes and loose, comfy clothing.
3. Bring a van or a truck! There is nothing worse than spotting a really cool piece and realizing that you have no way of getting it home. Every once in a while, you can offer a dealer extra money to deliver a large item for you but you definitely shouldn't count on it. This is a picture of our junk from the weekend piled into the minivan. To the right is a picture of my mom driving the truck with some goodies in the back!
4. Just about everything at a flea market is negotiable. We pretty much never pay what's on the tags. Dealers will almost always accept a reasonable offer. We like to point out a particular item and ask, "what's your best price on this?" The last thing they want to do is go home with everything they just loaded and unloaded, so chances are, you'll get a great deal if you ask. This cubby piece pictured below was a little more than we wanted to pay so we found a few more things in the dealer's booth and made a package deal.
5. Be willing to look past dirt, bugs, and minor imperfections. We have learned to look at the "bones" of a piece rather than the finish or the layers of grime covering it. Sometimes really cute pieces have been painted hideous colors or have mud daubers in them. The door pictured below was really yucky before we cleaned it.
6. Bring a friend! My mom and I always go as a team and call each other periodically to make sure that what we've bought will fit in our vehicle. We also bring a tape measure if we don't have an open truck just to make sure that each piece will fit into the back of the van.
This is a little piece I found in Bloomington.
7. Bring cash! It's very rare that you can pay with anything else.
8. Bring a little notebook so you don't forget what you bought. I cannot even begin to count all the times we've been driving away from a flea market and been in a panic about whether or not we forgot something. My mom has a red cart that she pushes around too. It helps her to not leave anything behind. I prefer to go without a cart. It just slows me down!
Here's the cart!
9. Sniff everything. Yeah, I know it looks a little weird, but you've gotta see if things smell like mold or smoke. We have ended up with musty dressers and moth ball infused armoires in the past that just could not be cleaned. People tell us all the time about tricks they use to get the smell out, but to be honest, we have never found anything that truly works. I even sniffed the hat box in the picture below.
10. Keep your eyes peeled for celebrities! While my mom was in Texas, she saw Tori Spelling (See below) and while we were in Bloomington, we saw Mike from American Pickers.
This Monday is Gypsy Caravan so get your tennis shoes, your cash, and your pickup trucks ready! We'll see you there!
One of our Gypsy Caravan booths. It was busy!!