In my last article, I wrote about how I love yard sales, flea markets, antique and thrift stores. I’m always looking for items that are great in value and less in cost. Also, I tell myself that this is a way I can do my part, for conservation and protecting Mother Earth.
Whether you are searching for treasures just on the weekends or making it a part of your vacation travels, here are some tools you might bring with you on your shopping adventures.
Tools of the trade
• Tape measure. Before you go shopping, measure the area where the new item would be placed. Also, measure your vehicle to check to see if you indeed have room for what you are looking to buy. These two details might influence what you purchase.
• Be sure to note where you bought your new item. The larger the event or venue, the more you can lose track of where you were. I learned this lesson just last week when I couldn’t find my car in a huge parking lot. Had to have security assist in finding it. Embarrassing, and preys on the notion that I am losing my mind. Better yet, take a picture of the location.
• Magnifying glass or loop (as I get older this is a must).
• Flashlight (for the early or late birds). As the saying goes “the early bird gets the worm.” This is often true, but you can get some great deals at the end of the day, as well, because the sellers don’t want to have to haul their stuff back home.
• Wear a hat, and put on sunscreen
• Wear comfortable shoes
• Always bring food and water. Nothing ruins a day of fun if you’re hungry and parched.
• Have a list of items you are looking for. If not, you might get overwhelmed.
• Be sure to do your homework. This is especially true if you are looking for a specific item. I like reference materials such as the book The Garage Sale & Flea Market Annual. Have a rough idea of how much the item you’re contemplating sells for in different venues. Also, use your phone to access the Internet or call a friend for advice. If you or anyone in your party go their own way stay in touch by cell phone or a walkie-talkie.
• Bring bags to hold your purchases. Planning on getting some bigger items? I have seen people with small shopping carts and wagons. Have some small towels, newspaper or bubble wrap to keep your finds separate and safe.
• Bring cash, preferably small denominations. Most vendors do not accept personal checks or credit cards. Have a place to stash the cash and small purchases. I have both a fanny pack that I can rotate to the front of my waist, and a purse that has a long strap that goes across my chest. Both allow me to be hands-free and, I hope, will prevent theft.
• If you see something, and you really love it, buy it. This is a lesson I learned from experience. I ask myself, if I buy this item how will I feel? Or more importantly, how will I feel if I don’t buy it? I have also noticed other shoppers waiting to see if I will purchase the item or put it back, so they can snag it for themselves.
How to haggle
I have to admit, this is one area that has always caused me a little stress. Here are some tips on getting what you want at a fair price and what will be a win-win for seller and buyer.
• In all situations, from flea markets to big-city antiques shows, simply ask the dealer, “Is this your best price?” Neither buyer nor seller should be embarrassed, and 75 percent of the time you can, in fact, get a better buy.
• “Firm” on the ticket means the dealer must have that amount.
• Multi-item purchases may bring a better price for the entire lot.
Where to find great stuff
There are so many places to go for treasures. I try to go once a month to either yard sales, or stores, in my area. I love supporting my local vendors. The following are some antique and flea markets in our area:
• RG Canning Attractions— Rose Bowl, San Bernardino, Beaumont (rgcshows.com)
• The Groves Antique Market in Irvine— ocgp.org
• Pasadena City College Flea Market— pasadena.edu/fleamarket
• Santa Monica Airport Outdoor Antique & Collectible Market— santamonicaairportantiquemarket.com/home
Throughout the country
Because my cousins are antique jewelers in New York, I have gone to some great places with them to buy and check out stores in different areas of the country. If you ever watch Antiques Roadshow on TV, you know that each area of the country features items from that region.
Here is a list of some of the largest garage or flea markets in the country. Whatever your destination, check out the local events and the location of stores.
• World’s Largest Garage Sale— Warrensburg, NY, on the Schroon and Hudson rivers (warrensburgchamber.com)
• 46th Annual Fall Antiques Fair— Smithville, Texas (roundtoptexasantiques.com)
• Renniger Antique Fairs— Kutztown and Adamstown, Pennsylvania; Mt. Dora and Melbourne, Florida (renningers.com)
• Michigan’s Longest Garage Sale (us12heritagetrail.org/garagesale.asp)
• Brimfield Antique Show, Brimfield, Massachusetts (brimfieldshow.com)
Shoshanah Siegel provides color consulting as well as space planning, remodeling, upgrading and staging through her firm Your Color Diva. She can be contacted at (562) 427-0440 or at email@example.com. More of Siegel’s writing can be found at thebright.com .