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Navigating Antique Fairs & Flea Markets
Cynthia Bogart
Navigating Antique Fairs & Flea Markets
Photo Credit: Maison Decor
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‘Tis the season to put on your sneakers and head out to the antique fairs of your choice. There are hundreds of them all over the country where you can step back in time looking for treasures. One of the best things I love about these fairs and flea markets is the dealers—they are a certain breed who buy and sell the past and live their lives that way, too. It shouldn’t surprise you that many of them don’t have websites or even email addresses. Don’t let that fool you. These people know their stuff and what it’s worth.

Depending on the size of your fair, you can expect to find everything from pottery and jewelry to furniture, maps, vintage textiles, and more!

Photo Credit: Cindy Bogart

The big question is how to navigate this. Here are a few tips.

1. Educate. Treat your time at the antique fair as a learning experience. Pick the brains of the dealers. They are fantastic teachers and are filled with information you might never find in a book or online. People become experts by learning from the experts.

2. Make Your List. Have some kind of an idea of what you are looking to buy. DON’T stop at every booth. Learn to assess quickly to see if they have what you are looking for, and if they don’t, move on. Stay true to your list.

3. Haggle. Dealers expect to negotiate. Don’t insult them; be reasonable, but don’t pay the listed amount right off the bat.

4. Shipping. If it is a big fair, make sure you bring a vehicle large enough to carry all of your goodies. If you know you are looking for hefty items such as furniture, check on shipping options with the dealer before you hand over your credit card or cash. Another smart option is to rent a U-Haul.

5. Parking. Arrive bright and early at the fair. Parking is hard to get, and you want to be close to the fairgrounds so you won’t have to haul your loot miles to your car later.

6. Toting. Bring something to carry all of your purchases. Big tote bags or wire shopping carts are the best ideas.

7. Clothing. Wear comfy clothing, walking shoes, a sunhat, and appropriate weather gear, including a poncho, if raining.

8. What to Bring. Bring your cell phone/charger, calculator, notebook, and business or contact cards to hand out. Use a fanny pack—I know, not your look, but it will free your hands up and keep your valuables safely attached to you.

9. Food. Pack water and food unless you know for sure that there will be food trucks or booths set up.

10. Weather. Do not let the rain deter you! Many outdoor fairs have tents and are rain-or-shine events. Those are the shows where you can find some of the best deals!

Photo Credit: Cindy Bogart

If you are wondering how I know all of this, it’s because every year, my website, The Daily Basics (along with Fashion + Decor) co-sponsors the Brimfield Tweet-up at the Brimfield Antiques Fair in Massachussets. This fair boasts over 6,000 antique vendors set up in tents in open fields off of Route 20. My co-host and I started it as a place for us to meet our Twitter friends who have the same passion for antiques as we do. It has blossomed to a point where we have our own tent as a place to rest your tootsies, grab a drink, and relax in between all of the shopping. This year we are expecting 250 friends from all over the world to join us on May 10-12. If you tweet, take a look at our website and join in the fun!

- Cindy

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Leave Your Thoughts (2 Comments)

  1. Barbara Elza Hirsch ·

    Oh, thank you, thank you, for all the tips! I will make sure to come to #Brimfield prepared! Can’t wait to see you and everyone else!

  2. Kate Smith ·

    I’m looking forward to Brimfield! I’ll certainly use your tips while navigating my way through the millions of wares.