13 tips for visiting a flea market for the first time

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Nothing like going to a meeting or a flea market when spring or summer arrives! You can find anything and everything. These fun events often include food and entertainment.

At Litchfield Pickers Market, for example, you can shop while a musician scratches bluegrass, and you can find lunch at a variety of food trucks.

At a flea market, you can find vintage advertising, sports memorabilia, estate jewelry, a Victorian bedroom set, homemade jelly, produce from the garden, a cool hat, a set of antique dishes, a potato planter, craft garden art, tablecloths, a part for your broken lawn mower, or the Beanie Baby that your granddaughter is missing from her collection. You might stumble upon the book you read that you fell in love with when you were 10 years old. You might find a cast iron skillet, gardening gloves, or a handmade sweater. Flea markets are more than just places to find spare parts – you can find unique gifts, collectibles and more!

My husband collects pocket registers (registers that have been distributed by farm equipment dealers) and I collect cool jewelry. We’re always on the lookout for these when we attend flea markets and swap meets.

There are subtle differences between flea markets and exchange exchanges. A swap meet is a flea market where you’ll find tractor, automobile, engine, and sometimes truck parts. Exchange meetings generally take place in the spring or fall and are annual events. Flea markets are usually held monthly starting in May and ending in October, depending on location and weather. You can search for flea markets by State. Many flea markets, such as Bloomington’s Third Sunday Market, take place on certain weekends.

My husband and I love to attend the Meet Pioneer Power Swap in Le Sueur, Minnesota. Usually held on the third weekend in April, this event has a bit of everything from tractors and skis to plants and yard art. Another of our favorites is the Three-State Exchange Meeting on Gasoline Engines and Tractors in Portland, Indiana, which takes place the third full weekend in May.

Going to a flea market or swap meeting for the first time can be intimidating, as these events can attract thousands of visitors. Here are some tips we’ve learned over the years that can help a first-time visitor prepare.

1. Check the website and plan ahead

Before you go, make sure the event is taking place. Check the website for updates. Find where to park and look for directions. If you are going to the market and staying in a hotel, don’t assume that you are the only one going. These are big events and accommodations can be booked quickly. Make your reservations in advance.

If you are planning to attend a big event like the Florida flywheels, a huge flea market and trade fair held in February with a village and tractor fair, book a golf cart well in advance. This is also true for events like the A spectacle of half a century of progress which takes place every two years in August in Rantoul, Illinois. The grounds for these events are large and golf carts can be booked quickly. If you want to bring your own golf cart, be prepared to bring your insurance card and pay a cart fee.

Many flea markets also charge entrance fees, so check the website to see what it can cost.

Pro tip: When looking for the flea market you want to attend, look for nearby attractions. When we went to Le Sueur, we took time for the neighbor Minneopa State Park, which had bison, waterfalls and a cool historic windmill!

2. Prepare your vehicle

Before you leave, make sure your vehicle is ready for the road. Are your tires up to par? (I recently had an apartment after returning from a trip!) Have you changed your oil recently? Are you ready to take home whatever you might buy? Make sure to clean your vehicle and make room for larger items. You don’t know what you might find, and it would be sad if you had to leave a neat item because you don’t have enough room to take it home. Also bring a mat or plastic for plants or items that may be dirty or covered in oil. You don’t want them to discolor your vehicle’s carpet or upholstery.

3. Dress appropriately

These events are outside, at least in part. Make sure to bring a hat to protect yourself from the sun. Also use sunscreen. Comfortable shoes are a must! At the Pioneer show, we recorded over 15,000 steps in one day. Wear loose, comfortable clothing – flea markets are usually held in the warmer months. Keep an umbrella in your car in case of rain, and also bring a raincoat.

4. Bring a collapsible bag or cart for shopping

If you plan on purchasing a lot of items, bring something to convey your purchases. Cindy Bastyr, who sold jewelry at the Pioneer Power Swap Meet, recommended bringing a wagon or collapsible bag on wheels so you don’t have to get back to your car right away. It’s more fun to keep shopping!

5. Bring money

Cindy added that it was important to bring cash, as some vendors don’t accept credit cards or debit cards. While many sellers accept checks, cash is king! Make sure to bring some extra cash in case you see the item you are dying for.

6. Have a list

If you’re a collector looking for specific items – for example, my husband often searches for John Deere paperbacks from certain years – have a list. This will prevent you from buying something that you already have in your home.

7. Know what things are worth

If you plan to buy collectibles or antiques, check what you plan to buy online before you go to get an idea of ​​what the items are worth. You want to know if you are getting a good deal, if you are paying an acceptable price, or if you are spending a lot more than you should. Most sellers will at least negotiate a bit.

8. Cross first, but don’t miss

Once you get to a flea market, quickly walk through to see what’s there. That way, you won’t buy something right away and see the same item on sale 15 minutes later for half the price. However, if there is something – a beaded handbag that you’ve always been looking for, a handmade pin that you can’t live without, etc. – don’t let it pass. It might be gone when you come back!

9. Keep an eye out for unique gifts

Whether you are shopping for others or for yourself, flea markets can look like Christmas in July. Flea markets are opportunities to find jewelry, art, and other handmade items that are not available in other places. For years, my mom has bought beautiful jewelry at flea markets for my sister and I, much to our joy and satisfaction.

10. Remember where you parked

When you arrive at a flea market or swap meet, be sure to note where you are parked. Most of the prizes are organized by numbers or letters. Take a photo with your phone or write down the credentials. People come and go, and the terrain will be different when you need to find your vehicle!

11. Arrive sooner or later

The saying “the early bird catches the worm” is especially true when it comes to shopping at a flea market. The items you are looking for can be purchased quickly. However, the reverse can also be true. Sometimes the sellers don’t want to take the items home and you can do a huge deal in the last hours of the day. I once gave my kids a very cool tent for pennies on the dollar because the seller didn’t want to load it up and haul it home!

12. Bring water and snacks

You will usually find food and water for sale, but not always, and sometimes these events (especially exchange gatherings) can be far from any city. I try to bring water and a healthy snack like almonds or fruit. If you have diabetes or just don’t want to be hungry, keep something in the car just in case. Better to be prepared.

13. Be nice

Cindy offered another piece of advice. She said, “Have patience and be kind. There are a lot of dogs and children. Many providers are retirees who do this to stay active. “

These are just a few tips to help you improve your first flea market experience. Expect to be at the event for at least 3 hours and cover long distances. While many flea markets are in areas that are accessible to people with disabilities, swap meets usually are not. Enjoy shopping and finding bargains!

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