Flea markets can be a very daunting place, piles of clothes, tables crammed with knick-knacks, jewellery knotted together. To make your vintage shopping experience a bit easier and help you spot that amazing bargain, Angel Cutsforth has compiled a list of top tips.

1. Make a list of what you are looking for, and check if that’s the sort of item that will be there. For instance there are speciality markets where they only sell ceramics or clothes for example. When I find a market I like to do an inventory of my wardrobe  and then decide what I’m looking for. At the moment I’d love to get a pink cotton sun dress, some comfy sandals and cardigans. Once you’ve decided what you’re looking for, write it down and make sure you take your list with you to keep yourself focused.

2. OK, so you’ve decided what you’re looking for, now it’s time to research prices. You definitely don’t want to get ripped off, so a few days before you head out of the door, log onto  Google, eBay and Etsy and look for the things on your list. Similar cardigans to the one I’m looking for for example cost around $20 on Etsy.

3. On the day of the market, make sure you have cash in your wallet. Set yourself a budget, and stick to it! If there’s something you can’t resist and it’s out of your price or evaluation range, leave it. You’ll probably find something similar for less. Also, make sure you’re dressed in comfy clothes and shoes and bring a handbag that isn’t easy to pickpocket.

4. Strategy: Once you arrive at the market, take a walk around, mentally marking who’s cheap and who’s expensive. If you see something you like, leave it where it is until you’ve finished looking everywhere. Once you’ve finished your first sweep, go back to the items you liked and thoroughly inspect them. You want to look for damage, fading or anything that you can use to haggle down the price, or that might just make you leave it alone.

fleas-market5. Once you’ve decided you want something, it’s time to barter. I don’t normally like to go too low, but it’s best to ask if they can sell it a bit cheaper and then say what price you were thinking of. I usually go for around a third cheaper and always, always a round number.

6. On your second sweep and rummage around the market it’s time to look at the stuff you might have missed, the boxes of clothes you didn’t look thorough or piles of jewellery you left alone. Again, take your time inspecting everything thoroughly and barter your heart out.

These tips are for flea markets, yard sales, and car boot sales but they can also apply to shopping in vintage shops since you want to get the most for your money.

3 Responses

  1. Mary Kincaid

    Lots of good information here but I have to disagree with your strategy of walking around the market and if you see something you like, leaving it until you’ve finished looking everywhere first.

    At the most popular flea markets out here in LA, if you employ this strategy, your item will be long gone by the time you circle back around to it.

    That’s why I advise my blog readers is to always “buy it when you find it.” If you really, really love an item, don’t walk away hoping it will be there later. You’ll regret the “ones that got away” a whole lot more than you’ll regret buying something and then “trading up” to a better item later.

    And here’s one additional tip if you’re looking for vintage clothes at a flea market:

    Bring a tape measure. Very often tags will not be marked with measurements and there may not be any way to try items on. But if you know your measurements and bring a tape measure, you’ll know if an item’s fit will be in the ballpark for you and you can let your seamstress take care of the rest.

  2. Zoe

    I’ve just got back from a flea market today where I bought a vintage leather YSL wallet. I can’t find it anywhere on the net and would love to find out more about it e.g what year its from etc. Does anyone know where I can find out more about it? I’d be really grateful! 🙂