10 Flea Market Rules To Live By

Full Frontal

Flea market merchandise

Its summer! Time to hit the flea markets! So get out there and spend money! The flea dealers need a financial boost far more than the giant discount stores you usually patronize.

Feel like the other guy always gets the bargain no matter how hard you try? Just adhere to the following Ten Flea Market Rules to Live By, and soon your arms, too, will be laden with useless clutter.

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The Brooklyn Flea at Williamsburg Savings Bank

1. Bring lots of cash: You dont want to have to look around for an ATM when you are under a tent in the middle of a cow pasture. Unless an item is quite expensive, its not chic to bargain hard and then pull out a check. And bear in mind nobody likes credit cards except the credit-card companies.

2. Negotiate wisely: If you say Will you take XX dollars? and the dealer agrees, you are honor-bound by the unwritten ethics of flea market land to purchase the item. Try to remember to say instead What is your best price? This doesnt obligate you in the least while taking advantage of some serious bargain shopping.

3. Keep shipping in mind: Dont assume that if the item is too humongous to be crammed into a taxi you have to let it go. Dealers have trucks. They are frequently more than happy to schlep your new 18-foot armoire or copper bathtub to your house, just to get rid of the thing.

4. Be ready to try things on: If youre shopping for vintage clothes, wear a leotard and leggings so you can strip down. Always try everything on, and then wander around the market until you find a big mirror. (Leave your purse with the dealer as collateral if you have to.) Youd be surprised how awful and, okay, occasionally thrilling a new-old ensemble can look.

5. Be a real stickler for condition: Hold fabric up to the light to search for moth holes; check china for chips; make sure wood isnt rotted; examine rugs for stains; etc. Practically everything vintage has some kind of flaw. Your job is to find it, decide how much it bothers you if at all and then bargain like crazy.

6. Dont insult the merchandise: Sneering at the items, calling them junk, hooting when you hear the price (no matter how ridiculous) is just plain rude. And guess what? The dealer doesnt want to hear about how you owned this gewgaw in your past life and your mom tossed it out 20 years ago.

7. Try not to be too enthusiastic: Fainting with desire, panting, swooning when you see something you love (I am guilty of this all too often) does not result in a lower price.

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Weekend flea market

8. Know when to call it quits: Walk away if your heart doesnt skip a beat. Bear in mind that you dont actually need any of this stuff.

9. Go early: The best items are snapped up by dealers who get there at dawn, shop by flashlight, and scoop up these treasures long before the casual retail customer swings by. (Just one example: I saw a Mickey Mouse lobby card at the Garage on 25th Street a few weeks ago I would appreciate it if you didnt judge me too harshly for my interest in this and the seller wanted $100 for it. Then he told me hed bought it at the Garage that very morning! Wonder what he paid for it?)

10. Alternatively, go late: Prices tumble as the sun sets. The dealer doesnt want to take this stuff home; in fact, he or she doesnt want to ever see it again. Take out all that cash youve brought and wave it over the item you desire the vendor will melt like the witch in The Wizard of Oz.

By Lynn Yaeger for Full Frontal Fashion

Photos: Anniebee, Ed Brydon, xxooox

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