Going to flea markets is one of my all time favorite past times. I am starting to see pictures from this year's May Brimfield flea market roll in on Instagram and it's making me super jealous! The Brimfield Antiques Show in Brimfield, Massachusetts is the mecca of all American flea markets, and thinking about it is making me extra antsy to get out there and pick!
When I was a kid my parents took us all over the New Jersey and Pennsylvania area to various different fleas - I mostly remember my dad digging through cardboard boxes looking for various different gadgets, "as seen on TV" products, or packages of socks. I remember that the flea markets we went to were mostly about cheap new goods, but there were pockets of cool old stuff.
One particular flea market that we went to all the time when I was a teenager was the Pocono Bazaar Flea Market in Pennsylvania. Again, lots of packages of new socks and "designer fragrances," but there was a small area of tables with vendors just selling old junk - of course, those were my favorites. Even at a young age I liked looking for treasures amidst other people's junk. I liked hearing my parents say "I remember that thing from when I was a kid!" It was like a free museum of days gone by.
After I moved in with my then boyfriend, now husband my love for flea marketing grew significantly. My mission was to turn his bachelor pad into our love nest, and I needed pieces with charm and character to balance out the sea of Ikea and Pier One furniture he owned. I don't think Bob would ever say that he enjoys going to flea markets now, but in the early stages of our relationship he tagged along with me to any flea I could find - with a smile on.
I did have the pleasure of going to the big Brimfield flea market a couple times for work buying trips. It was so fun to drive a big truck up there and spend HOURS (like 10 hour days) walking the endless paths lined with treasures - especially with a couple thousand dollars of someone else's money! What a treat! The times I went it was either super hot, dry, and dusty or rainy and soggy - either way I would end the day disgustingly dirty. I know - if you're not into flea markets this probably sounds like self-inflicted torture, but if you do love a junk hunt then you know that the long, dirty days were well worth it! My Brimfield trips were pretty awesome, and if you love going to flea markets, you definitely have to plan a trip there! I do hope to get up there again one day - who's down for a girl's trip?
I am lucky that I live relatively close to some other great flea markets. These are my favorite local fleas:
- Allaire State Park, Wall Township, NJ: Allaire hosts flea markets 8 times a year, and they keep getting better and better! I always find the best deals here - nothing is overpriced. Follow them on Facebook to see all of the upcoming dates and tell me if you plan on going because I live close by!
- The Golden Nugget Flea, Lambertville, NJ: This is my favorite flea in the state! They are 100% old stuff, no packages of socks, and on a good day there are so many vendors! The prices are all over the place - some vendors "know" that what they are selling is cool and it's over priced while other vendors just cleaned out their attic and they just want to make a few bucks ( aka cheap). The market is open on Wednesdays and Weekends during the season. When I go I usually make a day out of it and have lunch in downtown Lambertville or New Hope, PA. Cute area!
- Collingwood Auction & Flea Market, Farmingdale, NJ: This flea market is 80% "vendors who just cleaned out their attic and want to make a few bucks" and 20% packages of socks. If you go to Collingwood to shop the old stuff be prepared to pick through boxes of junk. It's dirty. However, you will find the best deals if you dig through all of the junk. I found an antique Jenny Lind headboard and footboard for my daughter and I paid $2 for it. TWO DOLLARS.
First time flea marketer? Here are my tips to having a great flea market trip;
- Check the weather, dress appropriately, and wear sunscreen! Your shoe choice is also super important - flea markets can be in parking lots, in dirty lots, or in grassy fields. Will you need sneakers or rain boots?
- Bring cash. Most of the time the markets will have an ATM machine, but they're always in inconvenient areas and they always charge you surcharges. Do yourself a favor and the next time the debit card cash back option pops up at Target or the grocery store, get it then!
- Go early! The early bird catches the worm - get there early and you'll find the best stuff. However, if you do shop later in the day you may be more likely to get rock bottom prices. Sellers rarely like to pack stuff up to bring it home - late in the day they'd rather you take it home!
- Ask if the seller will do any better on the price, UNLESS it's marked "firm." You are doing yourself an injustice if you do not ask for a better price! Don't be shy, the seller expects haggling. If something is marked "firm," don't bother haggling the price - it's actually rude to do that.
- Bring your own bag or rolling cart. For smaller flea markets I like bringing a big canvas bag to carry my purchases - believe it or not, but many sellers will not have bags to offer you. For larger flea markets (like Brimfield) invest in a small laundry cart or wagon. You're not going to want to make a lot of trips back to the car to drop off your finds - wait until you fill up your cart to make the trip back.
Good luck and share your finds with me. I love to see what treasures you find!