Flea markets are really trendy these days, more and more people are visiting them in the hope to find treasures or just to have fun. Buying second-hand items has many advantages. First, it’s good for our planet. Second, items from the flea market have that kind of authenticity and quality that is not easy to come by these days. They can really help you curate a home you’ll love. Lastly, going to the flea market can be very surprising. You never know what you will stumble upon. Nevertheless, some people seem to be a little scared to buy from these markets. So I thought it would be convenient to make a little list of what I’ve learned so far from browsing there.
1. Go early
Not a surprise but truer than ever, go there early to make sure you don’t miss the best pieces. This is especially true for furniture and big items. Because if it’s a gem you can be sure that someone else will score it before you even had your coffee.
2. Know why you are going there
It’s one thing to go to a flea market just for fun but it’s another to go there with a real end goal. If you are going there because you need to find a sideboard or an armchair, make sure you don’t lose sight of it. It’s easy to get distracted by all the shiny knick-knacks you’ll find there. So keep your end-goal in mind, stay focused. Also, be prepared to not find what you are looking for. We cannot get lucky every time.
3. Bring cash
A lot of vendors (maybe all of them) don’t take credit or debit card, at least in Europe. So bring cash (small banknotes would be best) because you’ll be very annoyed if you have to find an ATM to be able to close the deal. As for how much you should take? I’d say it depends on what you are planning to buy. I personally take on average from 50 to 100 euros when I’m going there just for fun. And 400 if I’m going there to find a specific piece of furniture.
4. Don’t pay too much for a piece unless it’s very special
As I mentioned just above, spending more than 400 euros on a piece is kind of too much in my opinion. Of course, it depends on the piece of furniture (a sideboard will be more expensive than a chair) but in general, you didn’t come to the flea market to pay the price you would pay for a brand new designer piece. If you came it’s because you are looking to add some character to a room but at an affordable price. So don’t overpay a boring mid-century modern piece just because it’s trendy.
Of course, this doesn’t apply to very special designer pieces.
5. It’s okay if it’s not a bargain
Lots of people believe that buying at the flea market equals cheap. But truth be told, it’s not necessarily. Vendors at the flea market know their stuff and are passionate about artefacts and their history. So, you’ll probably pay the right price if you know how to haggle a bit. But, it’s very unlikely that you’ll spot an original Arco Floor Lamp for a 100 euros. For that kind of bargain, you’d better skim garage sales because people don’t always know the value of what they are selling.
6. Haggle but with respect
As I said, it’s okay to haggle a bit, after all, it’s a market and that’s part of the game. But keep in mind that these people put a lot of time to collect all these items and that they are deeply passionate about it. So try to not offend them by making a too low offer. It’s always better to first ask the price for a specific item and if you find the price too high, try to say that you love it but that it’s not in your budget. Often, the vendor will lower his price a little and then you can meet him halfway. Also, asking questions about the objects is a good way to learn more about the item that you are interested in and help you evaluate the right price. It’s also a way to create complicity with the vendor and so he/she might be more prone to sell it to you at a lower price.
7. Seek for statement pieces
Statement pieces are sometimes scary to buy but once in situ, they can totally make the difference. When I say statement pieces, I mean furniture or items with character. For example an armchair with an original shape, a very bling-bling side table or a ceramic vase with a pattern that speaks to you. A few of these statement pieces disseminate here and there can really add personality to a home.
8. Don’t think too much if you love something
Over-thinking it, won’t play in your favor here. If you like something and that you can feel it in your guts then go for it otherwise you’ll regret it. It’s not like you could go online later and buy it anyway. it’s a one time chance. If you leave it, consider it gone because if you like it, chances are that someones else will as well and that someone will buy it. I cannot count the number of times I’ve missed some real gems just because I was over-thinking it… So if you love it just go with it or you’ll regret it.
Here is a link to all the flea market and garage sales in France, Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg
[…] Every town has a sort of flea market where you can buy antiques, so don’t be shy and check out your local flea market. You might find exactly what you are looking for there. It’s not always fruitful but it is a fun activity to do. Also if you are a bit unsure of what and how to buy at a flea market, I share my tips to score the best vintage pieces here. […]