How to Shop a Flea Market like a Pro

How to Shop a Flea Market like a Pro


There are an increasing number of flea markets, both upscale to low popping up throughout the country (and really worldwide) and for good reason.  These events typically include a plethora of vintage dealers, handmade artists and local foods which means you can find unique items, help the earth by recycling treasures and support the local economy all while getting a pretty good deal and maybe filling your belly. They’re often wonderful neighborhood social occasions too.   My local market The Cleveland Flea where I also sell at often has a bar, live music, places to sit and chat and plenty of people watching.

With the growing scale of these events though there are some things to keep in mind if you want to come away happy instead of exhausted or empty-handed. Having been both a buyer and seller at these events for years I've got a few tips to make the most of your visit to a flea.



Take a look at social media to find vendors who are selling at events you want to attend.  I know several vintage dealers (myself included) who will post items on our social media accounts online to have them snapped up by a savvy buyer before they even hit the pavement. You might even be able to pay in advance and merely pick the item up at your convenience during the flea, or possibly even have it shipped depending on the size of the item. I personally like to share previews and do flash sales on my Instagram page.


Get up early

If you are looking for the most unique pieces or one of a kind items don’t snooze. Many of these items are one of a kind so they're first dibs!


Bring a bag

A lot of dealers will still have shopping bags but if you are making multiple purchases it’s easier to bring yourself a sturdy market bag that can hold a lot and won’t rip. If you’re really serious about shopping you might even want to consider a small rolling market cart.


Dress for the occasion

Wear good walking shoes, bring sunblock and a hat or a coat and scarf depending on the forecast.  Shopping is no fun when you are uncomfortable.


Bring cash

While many vendors nowadays take cards some still have minimum purchases and others may cut you a deal if they can save on credit card fees. Be polite if you bargain though, as dealers don’t always have items as marked up as much you may think and they still need to get paid for all their time and effort too. Also, don’t expect much of a discount (if any) at the beginning of an event or on lower priced items where there probably isn’t wiggle room. 


Don’t overthink

If you see something you love…BUY IT!  Absolutely every single flea I’ve sold at I’ve had customers take time to ponder only to come back an hour or even mere minutes later to find the item has been snapped up by someone else.

Get a business card and feel free to chat

Don’t be afraid to get to know your favorite vintage sellers.  If there is something you are looking for feel free to ask.  You might just be missing seeing something in their booth or they may have some in inventory elsewhere.  Sometimes a dealer will even keep their eye out for items and contact you if they find it.

Want to be a SUPER pro?

Bring a wants list, paint swatches, measuring tape, rope and/or blankets for securing items in your vehicle.  You don’t want to pass on an item because you don’t know if it will fit in your home or car and you also don’t want to purchase a non-returnable item only to find out it’s not going to work for you at all.

Be creative

Think outside the box.  There are often unique and unusual items to be found at a flea you will rarely find elsewhere.  You can re-purpose some of these items in a variety of ways such as using an old scale as a plant stand or ladders as a blanket holder, glass apothecary jars as small vases or old brass ashtrays as a shiny new trinket dish.  Sometimes all it takes is a coat of paint. You can check out my Pinterest board for lots of crafty DIY ideas.


Looking for a flea near you?

Here's a round up of a few in Ohio

Plus a few diverse ones nation wide

 Is there a local flea market near you I should absolutely know about or have a tip I haven't thought of?  Tell me in the comments.