Pickin' Part One: Clues and Tips for Flea Market Shopping

Where do you find stuff? That is absolutely the most commonly asked question when we share R7 Reclaimed Vintage. It's a tough question to answer because the answer is everywhere
Nothing is off limits.
Flea markets, garage sales, thrift stores, estate sales, auctions, burn piles and trash day!

But...there is a better question to ask that I think might help...
HOW do you find your stuff?


It's a little like looking for treasure. 
The clues you find along the way will guide you to where to start digging.

After a little practice you will be able to sniff out the bargains...

So the first step to gatherer clues is to understand the lay of the land. 
In other words know the kind of shop, event, or market... 
    • Is it a "vetted" or "juried" event? These usually have fancier names, lots of online advertising, vendors styled beautifully and made to be an experience. At this sort of market you are likely to fall in love with many items. Prices will be mid-range with many custom pieces but also similar items among vendors. At this type of market do a quick scan around looking for the most unique vendors with one of a kind items that catch your eye and then come back to shop signs, furniture, pallet goods and such. 
    • Is it an old fashioned flea market? This may look like junk piles, animals might be sold, and the rows and rows of tables might be easy to look past. Prices will range greatly at this kind of market....from true antique show prices down to garage sale prices. At this kind of market you need the most strategy and it's not such a good idea to browse because most items are one of a kind.
    • Is it an antiques show or shop? These can be presented in so many different ways from carefully curated to borderline hoarder style. The items are typically authentic and prices well researched. Theses are becoming unique treasures and splurging for something and learning all you can is well worth it from time to time. 

So once you have clues about where you are it's time to pay attention to more specific details.
I think the best way to describe what I do next is "sorting" -- not physically but mentally.
  • Dishes, glassware and collectibles are quickly scanned and price range noted. These take a little more time to browse through and because it has to match each person's individual taste or collection it's more likely to be there when I come back through. The exception would be if I note especially good prices and then I will shop right away.
  • At all times, I keep my eyes alert to really unique items or very functional furniture.
  •  I also sort out by textures and materials...such as enamels here, galvanized there, wood over there and so on. (I take a quick peek at prices too just to get an idea in my head.)
  • I also note unique handmade or really inspiring pieces

*Note -- this isn't a long process, just something I do quickly in my head.*
As an example with these pieces I would quickly categorize galvanized farmhouse (the feeder), barn wood primitive (the gate), shabby chic vintage (wicker), personalized (custom letters)  

And this chair is an example of something that I would stop in my tracks and ask about because I know if it's a good price it will go quickly.

So once I have a map in my mind I begin gathering the next set of clues.
  • I move through a booth seeing what is really unique. If I was writing an article about the vendor what would I say? Whatever makes them special -- that's probably what I want from them.
  • I make friendly conversation. Understanding one's personality makes it easier to have a conversation and sealing the deal. Most vendors WANT to talk with you.
  • I don't dwell. If I'm not instantly intrigued or in love with it. I move on. 
  • Does it have a place and a purpose?
  • Have I seen one before? If so how does the price and condition compare?
  • Does it have a purpose? Could it be used to store or organize or is it strictly decorative?
If I'm stuck I try to imagine a place where it would look great. For example this feeder is easy to instantly think of a Jo-Jo style "Fixer Upper." Once I have one of those rooms in my mind then I see it --- perhaps files or papers in the upright section and pencils or pens in the tray. Little magnets on the front to hold a memo. Now I know....in a kitchen, office, playroom -- it has potential!

This is first in a series, so come back and I will give more tips on treasure hunting including how to pick a hoarders pile, how to negotiate respectfully, and how to bring home the right mix!

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Be a blessing.

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Trisha said...

Great tips! I love the color of that shovel, I may have to find one for myself and paint it!


Debra Pashkowsky said...

Great tips. I like the galvanized thing you thought could hold papers.

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