Saturday, May 16, 2009

Flea Marketing 101 and An Actual Conversation

I went to the mother ship of flea markets this weekend in Elkhorn Wisconsin. I was there all day long and I highly doubt that I saw even 75% of what's there. It's touted as an antique flea market but I don't think everything there was antique - some people try to sneak in newer stuff to get rid of as well (that Polly Pocket in with the old toys? Not fooling anyone). However, since I am a huge fan of late 60's early 70's decor I was in heaven at some of the booths and found an awesome white dinner table complete with green shag covered chairs and a grapes lamp.
Being flea market, garage sale, and estate sale season I thought I'd do a little guide for anyone venturing out.
1) Go to the big ones. If you're new to the whole flea market thing you should know that a lot of it is bona fide, class A, junk! To give yourself the best odds of finding cool things locate the biggest ones and go to those. Also, find the garage sales in the nice neighborhoods (they tend to get rid of nicer quality stuff) You'll spend more time at the big ones but it will probably yield more quality finds.
2) Get up very, very early. I complain and complain about this but it's truly worth it. Here's how it will go: you'll get up at an ungodly hour, Starbucks won't be open even though you see workers in the window refusing to take pity on your coffee-less self. You'll freeze while you wait in line until the mother-ship of flea markets opens and there will be coffee at this point but it will be like dirty water heated up. Here's the good part though, you'll browse around the nice stuff without competition and ultimately make most of your best purchases at this time. When the crowds come, you'll be carrying the good stuff to the car.
3) Have a plan. Do NOT show up not knowing what you want. Have some kind of plan even if you don't think you'll find it. For example: If you want to replace the lamp in your living room and maybe get something cool for your bathroom wall. Keep this in the back of your mind the whole time. It will keep you from buying junk you don't need and gives your search a purpose. If you really don't need anything - take my plan and look for picture frames to re purpose (more on that later).
4) Inspect. Make sure nothing is really broken or worn. Things you buy should be clean, working, and not totally worn out. If you can't fix it then don't buy it.
5) If you like it, buy it. But make sure and barter for it. This is a flea market folks and they price their wares expecting you to haggle. My grandfather is so good that he routinely gets things at around 75% off of the price. I am not that brave but I do my best to get a couple bucks off.
Also, if you see something and like it, get it right away! This isn't the place to think about it for hours and come back because if it really is a good deal on a nice item, someone else will snap it up.
6) If you're a creative - Get things that you can refinish or re-purpose. Look for a dated night stand that you can buy nicer hardware for or wooden boxes you can repaint and use as shelving. The easiest thing to start with is frames. I bought these: They were ugly and all kinds of colors when I got them.
7) Finish your project immediately when you get home. This is the hard part because I was totally exhausted when I got home. The New Jersey-ite and I had tons of frames that we bought to spray paint and I wanted to go to bed but he insisted that we finish and this morning I have everything totally completed. Generally, I set this stuff in my garage and "try" to get it finished and maybe a month later I will. Make repairs right away while your project is still fresh in your mind.

What I got: The stars above (I got 5) were metal gray but cool - I painted them gold and black. Total cost: $15
Frames: 2 huge ones and 3 small. I repainted them black. Total Cost: $35Bonus points: Flea markets provide some of the best overheard conversations ever. Here are a couple:
guy excitedly to woman " I mean, this is real Cedar Joanna, real Cedar!"

Over a walkie talkie from security "we're getting a lot of complaints about no paper towels and toilet paper in the restrooms"

In a HEAVY Wisconsin accent "If you don't like it, then why did you buy it?"
That last one my sister, the New Jersey-ite, and I decided should be the tag line for flea marketing.

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Blogger brooklyn said...

amen to spray paint.

i finally hung up my spray painted cork boards in the "office" this weekend.

another great way to revive flea market finds is replacing the hardware, new knobs on drawers (like the ones at anthropologie) can give anything new life. I have to tackle my mirrors next. hope fully this week.

May 18, 2009 at 7:45 AM  

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