Autumn marks the time for the true collectors to shop for their collections. You can get great items and good deals at this season’s flea markets.
At every flea market (originally named for the insects that were attracted to old objects that were pulled from musty attics and damp basements in 19th-century France) there are some bargains and some bologna. When shopping at a big outdoor flea market event, for a couple hours or an entire weekend, remember to be prepared. Even if you aren’t shopping for Boy Scout memorabilia, this is a good motto.
Be prepared with comfortable shoes, a good sun hat or umbrella, canvas shopping bags, bottled water to ward off dehydration, some snack food and cash in small bills.
Get the lay of the land first before you buy. I coined the phrase “walk with your wallet” when it comes to flea market shopping. Before you buy anything, take a lap around the entire outdoor flea market. I do not just start shopping right out of the shoot. I always look before I leap. I know it sounds like a big job, but your personal trainer will commend you for the extra exercise, and your financial adviser will be thrilled at all the money you save.
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This walk with your wallet method will help you see what’s available for sale and stick to your budget, too. Look at each table or booth carefully. Talk to the sellers to see what you might like to negotiate for and how willing they are to deal. Look at how the booth is organized, consider the condition of the sellers’ offerings and see just how much inventory they expect to sell off at the seasonal flea market. Collect information and get the lay of the land as you look at the antiques offered for sale. Don’t get too invested in any of the objects just yet. Don’t buy too quickly, and hone in on quality stuff and good bargains.
If you aren’t sure about the authenticity of a piece, take a pass and reconsider it later. You can use your smartphone to send a photo to me, so I can tell you what a particular object is and what you should pay for that flea market find. It’s easy: visit www.DrLoriV.com.
During your shopping, if you think something should be priced lower than its asking price considering its condition or other factors, just don’t buy it. Wait to see if there is something more attractive to your collector’s eye and to your wallet. Converse with the seller; he or she may be willing to offer a reduced price or more information. Then, once you know your path, ask for a discount. Odds are you will get what you ask for if you are paying with cash and if you are reasonable and polite.
Don’t worry about missing out on an item when you are walking the market. Many people don’t think a specific antique will still be available if you don’t act fast, but I find that as a shopper you are better served if you know what is available before you buy. This gives you greater negotiating power too. Getting information about the inventory at a flea market will help you spot the good stuff at a good price. Slow and steady wins the autumn flea market race. Happy hunting!
Lori Verderame is an antiques appraiser, internationally syndicated columnist and author and award-winning TV personality who stars on History channel’s “The Curse of Oak Island” and Discovery’s “Auction Kings.” With a Ph.D. from Penn State and experience appraising 20,000 antiques every year, “Dr. Lori” presents antique appraisal events to worldwide audiences. Visit www.DrLoriV.com/events or call 888-431-1010.