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Flea Market!

Updated on July 24, 2011

Flea market! What an odd name for any market…unless, of course, for some weird reason they happen to be selling them. Actually the name originated from the French Marché aux Puces, a name of a market in Paris in the 1860s. It is thought to be the first original flea market. It got its’ unusual name because the poor, often flea infested, were usually customers. These large, outdoor bazaars sold second-hand clothing and goods. The earliest English use of the name in a dictionary was found to date from around 1922.

Today, flea markets are commonplace and a booming worldwide business. Although they have been around for over a hundred years, they are still doing business, but usually only on weekends during the spring and summer months. It is estimated there are over 20,000 flea markets in America, totaling more than $5 billion dollars in sales.

Flea markets are a little different in the US.In fact, they are like huge garage sales. Garage sales are free, but many flea markets charge an admission price.They have been described as “…part discount store and part carnival.” How are they different in the US? A German tourist told this story:

A Hilarious Video

It seems the tourist was having a talk with a vendor at a local flea market. He was selling a lot of memorabilia from WWII such as German army helmets, uniforms and medals. The vendor was explaining how he loved and collected German war items from that period and how he was planning to go to Germany to buy more for his collection. The tourist was puzzled because obviously the American didn’t realize selling such items from that time period in Germany (according to the tourist) had been outlawed. The tourist explained it was a sensitive and embarrassing subject for many Germans.

However, flea markets continue to be popular for a variety of reasons. In today’s hard economic times consumers are turning to new shopping venues. Some people patronize them simply because they are a form of inexpensive entertainment. They are also a treasure hunter’s dream where the thrill of the hunt adds a little spice to the shopping experience.

Regardless of its’ origins it has somehow become a unique American pastime.People find nostalgic childhood items, valuable antiques, bargain basement prices and almost anything else one can imagine. But that’s only from a customer’s viewpoint. There are also the dealers and vendors.

According to the National Flea Market Association attendance at flea markets and swap meets has been continuously increasing. Interest from those wanting to sell has increased to the point many flea markets have actually "sold out" vending spaces.

The association explains several factors are at the root of the phenomenon. Mainly it is lower prices, but where can people wander around all day for the price of entry? True, many sellers are of the yard sale variety, palming off things they no longer want or need and just trying to make a few extra bucks. But, on the other hand, there are professionals who do it for a living.

No matter whether economic times are good or bad, flea markets remain America’s favorite place to buy almost anything at affordable prices. That's why before sun up on days flea markets are open crowds of customers have already arrived carrying flashlights and waiting in eager anticipation, even before vendors have set up their displays. Experienced shoppers realize by 9 AM most of the valuable items will have been found and bought. But the carnival like atmosphere will keep customers hanging around and more coming.

If you have something to sell,setting up a booth at a flea market might be a good way of exposing your products to a new audience…especially if you’re already selling on the internet. If you are your booth should prominently feature your website URL and have business cards handy with it also.They also offer a great low-cost option to make money.

You can rent a booth at a flea market fairly inexpensively, so becoming a flea market vendor is simple. Generally, selecting what to sell is the hardest part of setting up a flea market business. Items to sell at flea markets are numerous. They can be items from your own garage, found at yard sales or bought from wholesalers specializing in flea market products. Many vendors purchase new products below wholesale prices.

Find more indepth tips on setting up a flea market business at: and

But whether you are a shopper or a vendor it helps to know a little about antiques and collectibles and their "history." An item having a history is usually worth more money.

Visit a flea market, take the family, have some fun. There’s one near you.


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    • JY3502 profile image

      John Young 6 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

      Pam, we have one just down the road with produce also, much fresher than the store. Lucky, don't ya know by now, I know everything there is to know about you. I got web cams, aerial photography, private investigators, search hounds and hidden microphones everywhere in your area. (I'm a stalker.) LOL

    • Lucky Cats profile image

      Kathy 6 years ago from The beautiful Napa Valley, California

      Hi John! You've come upon another aspect of one of my favorite 'hobbies,' passtimes and means of income. I became interested in garage/yard/rummage sales about a decade ago, when I found I had to be rid of many items left to me by family. At first, I consigned the majority of these w/an antique shop. That worked out perfectly for the nicer items but, alas, I still had more to move. So, I had a 'garage' sale. Oh My Goodness! Just as you indicate here, the knowledgable patrons began to show up hours before the official opening. Suffice it to say; you are 100% correct when you say that "most of the valuable items will have been found and bought..." So true. I began going to yard/garage sales to pick up items I could renovate in "shabby chic" style or refinished natural woods and...I was in business! I never actually participated in a flea market, per se, but there was (and still is, I think) one on the Southern end of Napa Valley..always thriving and always packed w/parking on Hy. 29 only (dangerous). I had a friend who tried it once and decided to do it on a semi regular basis.

      Thank you for an illuminating, helpful, informative, useful and fun hub!

      GREAT!! as always, JY!!

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

      This is a very good hub. Flea markets are a great place to find good deals on a variety of items. The one near up has some fresh produce that is sold by farmers straight off their trucks so you know you are getting something fresh. Rated up and useful.

    • JY3502 profile image

      John Young 6 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

      I really didn't want to get into that aspect of it Ginn. Too depressing, Thanks for the vote up.

    • profile image

      Becky 6 years ago

      All right Ginn, I voted. Up, of course.

    • Ginn Navarre profile image

      Ginn Navarre 6 years ago

      Very interesting but saddly in today's economics I notice some are just selling their last possessions in order to survive. (no jobs--no food.)


    • profile image

      Fiddleman 6 years ago

      Always an adventure.