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Insider Flea Market Shopping Tips

Insider Flea Market Shopping Tips

White living room with neutral furniture, purple blanket and vintage finds

Ready for flea market shopping tips from an inside expert? Scouring flea markets, estate sales and antiques shows is more than just a job for antiques dealer Sandra Linderman. “It’s a passion,” she says. She’s fortunate to live near many options in California, but flea markets and antiques malls are located across the country.

Flea markets are a dependable place to find vintage textiles, old books, ironstone bowls and art-related items. If you’re wanting to hunt for your own antique treasures, Sandra shares her top 8 tips for staying comfortable and scoring the best deals.

(For the whole tour of Sandra’s house, check out our August/September 2020 issue!)

Vintage cubby cabinet with old mirror on top
Sandra’s home is full of the vintage items she buys, and she often tests them out in her own home before selling them. Styling by Sunday Hendrickson.

1. Arrive Early

Flea markets are often more crowded later in the day, so the best finds are available early. “The early bird gets the worm,” says Sandra. She’s usually finished with her flea market visit before things get too busy.

2. Bring a Flashlight

If you take Sandra’s first flea market shopping tip to heart and plan to arrive early, you may also be there before the sun is up. Bring a flashlight so you don’t have trouble seeing the items. You want to be able to gauge their quality.

Deconstructed bench with vintage bakery sign and old teddy bear
One of Sandra’s first vintage loves is antique toys. She suggests starting a collection with an item you love, “and try to implement them into your home.”

3. Wear Comfortable Shoes

Sandra says she walks 4.5 miles when she visits the Rose Bowl Flea Market. “It’s a lot of good exercise too while we’re at it,” she says. But for that much walking, you’ll want to take these flea market shopping tips and wear good walking shoes.

4. Walk the Area Twice

This allows you to gauge what’s available at the whole show. Sandra says she goes past all the vendors once quickly, then makes another pass to take another look at items that were interesting.

Art table with palette, paint brushes and artwork for flea market shopping tips
Sandra’s office incorporates artist tools like brushes, easels and both finished and unfinished paintings for inspiration and function.

5. Bring a Cart

This way, you can carry multiple items easily. Bring a cart to transport the items you’ve purchased. With so much walking, it’s difficult to carry purchases.

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Woodland Christmas theme coffee table with cookies and a small Christmas tree.

6. Bring Cash

While most of us use plastic these days, take these flea market shopping tips and bring cash. It’s easier to negotiate. But remember that the vendors work hard to find items. So also be considerate of not bargaining too low.

Vintage cubby cabinet and deconstructed chair with other vintage items for flea market shopping tips
In her master bedroom, Sandra shows off a vintage cubby cabinet, alongside a deconstructed chair and other vintage and antique items. Styling by Sunday Hendrickson.

7. Make Friends

When possible, get to know the vendors. Buying from certain booths with frequency builds trust. Those vendors can also keep an eye out for specific items and make suggestions. Some vendors will be willing to hold items for customers they know.

8. Don’t Hesitate.

If you see something you love, grab it. “If you’re iffy or questioning it, then it’s probably better to hold off and think about it,” says Sandra. “And not be too emotional.”


Want more flea market shopping tips? Head here! Of course, don’t forget to follow us on InstagramFacebook and Pinterest to get your daily dose of farmhouse inspiration! 

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