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How to Shop a Flea Market: 5 Failproof Tips

Vintage Goods from Vintage Retriever, at Brimfield Fair

There is nothing like the thrill of the hunt and fall is a fabulous time to hit the flea markets. Whether your quest takes you to Paris, Northern California, Brooklyn or Brimfield, the following tips can help you unearth the piece you’ve been searching for or take home that get-lucky item you stumble upon and lovvvve

Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen

Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen, considered by many to be the best hunting ground in Paris.

Many of the following pointers come courtesy of Brimfield Shows insider Julie McNamara of The Vintage Retriever. McNamara shows her vintage wares, antiques, textiles, plants and more in Brimfield three times a year, as well as at her Holden, Mass., storefront. Happy hunting!

1) Come early for the best selection. Vendors’ booths get picked over as the fair/market goes on, so the earlier in the week/show you can get there, the better.

2) Enlist a professional. If you can, accompany an antiques collector who can help you determine the quality and worth of your newfound treasure. An interior designer is also a good bet; they have a knack for curating, after all, and can identify a find from a hard pass.

Shopping the Brimfield Antiques Flea Market with a pro

BDG publisher Melanie Perillo with friend and antiques expert Keith Funston at Brimfield Antique Flea Markets.

3) If you see something you can’t live without, buy it! It won’t be there when you come back.

Vintage Goods from Vintage Retriever, at Brimfield Antiques Flea Market

The Vintage Retriever's Brimfield Fair setup; photos courtesy of The Vintage Retriever.

4) Prepare to haggle. Negotiation is part of the dance; so don’t start with the price tag. Bring cash for a little more pocket power—vendors are likely to give you a better deal. 

5) Be courteous to vendors. When negotiating, know that vendors put a lot of time and money into their inventory and booth. And it goes without saying, that they’d much prefer their goods land in good hands, over packing it all up again at the end of the show.

For those of you headed to the Brimfield Antique Flea Market—up through Sept. 8—Michelle and Isabelle Palmer of Laurel Grove, Sudbury’s vintage and farmhouse chic shop, share some additional advice…. For a successful, fun-filled day, wear comfortable shoes (since you will walk a few miles) and download the Brimfield Flea Finder app. “It’s an amazing tool to have in your back pocket.” And, if you can’t hit Brimfield, try the pro.found Vintage Market in Lancaster, MA, Sept. 21-22, for a smaller, more intimate flea market experience.

Main image: The Vintage Retriever's candles, soft goods and vintage furnishings; photo courtesy of The Vintage Retriever

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