Navigating your way around a flea market is often a fun and exciting experience. There’s no telling what you may find or how many great bargains you’ll discover. It’s the thrill of the hunt that makes it fun and offers the ideal weekend excursion. However, if you’re not used to going to flea markets or feel overwhelmed not knowing what to buy, here are a few helpful tips to keep it all in perspective and help you with your flea market navigation.
• Carry a Tape Measure - Every savvy flea market shopper carries a tape measure. If you’re looking for something in particular, be sure you know ahead of time, the exact dimensions of the space you intend to put your item, and the general specs of the item itself. In fact, it’s best if you jot it down. Just toss a small tape measure and the info into your bag so you won’t end up buying something too big or too small that ultimately won’t work for you.
• Look for a Label - How well do you know your designers? A label is a key clue in helping you determine if something is a genuine find or a cheap knockoff. Check for original details as well to give you more clues to the item’s origins. Before you leave with the item, Google it using your smartphone.
• Look for Damage - Inspect an item thoroughly before making a purchase. Look for any torn seams, rotting wood, rust, or cracks. While aged patina is a desirable look, it’s best to avoid any issues that will literally affect the usability of an item or break it with minimal pressure. Also, check for any signs of insect infestation or mold since these are conditions you definitely do not want to introduce into your home.
• Pay Attention to Foul Odors - Be sure to smell your potential buys. Does something have a subtle smoky scent? Once you get it inside, that same scent will likely overwhelm your personal space. Keep in mind that many odors are the result of years and years of exposure and aren’t always easy to eliminate.
• Craftsmanship Counts - Check every inch of your flea market find since craftsmanship counts, especially when shopping for furniture. Look for high quality elements such as solid hard wood, dovetailed joints, and authentic hand-stitched seams. These are all indicators of high quality and stellar craftsmanship that directly affects the item’s value and price. Many inexperienced people fall prey to investing in ‘vintage Ikea’ when they thought it was the real thing.
• Does the Piece have Good Bones? - Don’t be deterred by a poor paint job or unsightly upholstery. Just like beautiful hardwood floors sometimes lay beneath ugly carpet, many flea market pieces are masterpieces once the layers of debris and dirt are gone and the piece is refinished.
• Consider the Expense of Refinishing and Restoring - Before you set your heart on something that you’re sure is a bargain but needs a bit of restoring, consider how much it’s going to actually cost in terms of materials, labor, and any other expenses overall. When it’s all said and done, it may not be much of a bargain after all.
• Think Outside the Box - Some of the best and most interesting décor pieces are actually repurposed into something else. For instance, some creative shoppers have turned wire egg baskets into elegant pendant lighting or used vintage typeface to spell out inspiring words. Creative ideas seem to flourish at flea markets.
• Timing is Everything - When it comes to flea markets, timing is crucial. For instance, serious flea market shoppers like to get there as early as possible, so by afternoon most great finds are gone. On the other hand, once it gets closer to the time to start wrapping it up, sellers will likely start slashing prices or at least be more open to negotiation in an effort to clear their inventory.
Now that you know how to navigate around flea markets and what to expect, visit the Marquette Flea Market on August 30 – September 1 to find that special piece you’ve been searching for - don’t forget to bring plenty of cash. For more information, call 563-873-3735.