From the Magazine

5 Tips for Nabbing the Best Deals at Flea Markets


Spring is in the air, and that means flea-market season is getting into full swing — you can be sure to walk away with the best deals with these savvy insider secrets.

1. Play your hunt with a strategic ‘two-way’ walk.

Like scanning a buffet before you dine, it’s a good idea to first walk around all the tables to get an idea of what everyone is offering, says Aaron LaPedis, author of The Garage Sale Millionaire ($8.88, Amazon). “When you’re done, repeat the walk, but this time go in the opposite direction — it’ll help you pinpoint any items that might have been hidden from view in the direction you first went in.”

2. Uncover overlooked gems by seeking out clutter.

The best finds aren’t always in plain sight — you have to search. Where to look? “Target booths or tables on the messier side,” suggests LaPedis. “Neater stalls are less likely to hide high-value items, and since the owners have probably categorized everything, there may be less wiggle room on prices.” And be sure to home in on bins with jumbles of items: They’re often the result of bulk buys and are packed with overlooked treasures.

3. Nab big bargains by timing it right.

The early bird gets the worm, right? Yes and no. The ideal time to head out to the flea market depends on what you’re after: “If you’re looking for antiques or specialty items, try to arrive as early as possible,” urges LaPedis. “But if you don’t have anything specific in mind or are interested in a large item like furniture, you’re better off showing up right before the sale closes — sellers are more likely to give you a deal at the end of the day because they don’t want to lug heavier goods back to their homes or storefronts.”

4. Negotiate like a pro with the 85 percent rule.

Whatever the listed price, check what similar goods are going for on eBay with your smartphone, then make the first offer — a good rule of thumb is 85 percent of an item’s worth. “You can also get a better deal by ‘bundling,’” says LaPedis. “If you buy, say, three items from one booth, the seller will often give you a break.” Also key? Be yourself! Says LaPedis, “I’ve gotten the best deals by offering a smile and a few friendly words!”

5. Find valuable jewelry with this simple tool.

A magnifying glass is a must-have,” LaPedis says. You can use it to see inscriptions on silverware, coins and more. Some things to look for? On metal items, the letter “S” or the numbers 92.5 or 925 indicate they’re made from sterling silver, while SOL means a piece is made with a genuine diamond, and a number followed by “k” typically indicated the item is made from gold. 

This article originally appeared in our print magazine. 

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