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The Most Popular Flea Market Products & Items

Updated on February 28, 2013

Never been to a flea market before? Don't know what to expect? You might be surprised by what you encounter. Check out the overview below to get a taste of what flea markets commonly have to offer. When you finally visit one in person, you'll know what to look for- and you'll also know when to skip out on buying things new or online - after all, flea market alternatives are cheaper and better than mainstream alternates!

Vintage Clothing

I used to think of flea markets as places for old doodads and tchotchkes- not clothing! Nevertheless, some of the best deals I've gotten on vintage clothing - from petticoats (which are surprisingly expensive online, when one buys a real one and not a Halloween costume wannabe) to 1930s-50s dresses, to all sorts of accessories- have been at flea markets.

The benefit of shopping for vintage clothing at a flea market is that you can get more help from vendors if you're looking for something specific, plus you can haggle.

Here are some of the most popular vintage clothing items and accessories to look for at flea markets - they're very common:

  • Hats - especially military hats and 1950s-60s style hats
  • Gloves - from driving gloves to formal styles
  • Dresses
  • Coats
  • Skirts
  • Blouses
  • Coats - especially fur coats
  • Modified vintage clothing - Because vendors are often displaying smaller collections, you're more likely to find interesting pieces that have been customized, updated and modified. These are especially interesting finds!

TIP: If you buy clothing at a flea market, check for damage first- it could be a haggling point and you can leverage imperfections to get a lower price. Also, wash your clothes once you bring them home. They often smell pretty odd, but mostly it's due to being kept in boxes for years on end.

Musical Instruments

While one can find some amazingly priced vintage clothing finds at flea markets, Wesman Todd Shaw clued me in to how valuable these gatherings can be for those hunting for musical instruments- specifically guitars.

Says Wesman: "GUITARS are what you go to such places to find! I swear - sometimes for a $50 spot you can score a thousand dollar instrument."

I can totally see how a really high quality instrument might end up at a flea market and not be seen for what it really is. I'll have to bring some of my instrument-savvy friends to the next flea market I visit... perhaps they'll be able to point out some pieces of value! Wesman Todd Shaw said he wouldn't take advantage of incredibly undervalued pricing... but I know I would!

Fixtures

Flea markets also offer wide arrays of fixtures for furniture and other elements of your house.

If you're looking to replace faucets, drawer pulls, knobs, hardware, hinges, or hooks, you'll find a great volume of options to choose from at flea market booths, and most of them are at once interesting and inexpensive.  

Consider coming with a digital camera of the doors, drawers, sinks or other features you're looking to get new fixtures for so that you can see if they match when you're browsing.  Also make sure that the knobs, pulls, and hooks you get are compatible with the elements to which you wish to affix them. 

Furniture

It should come as no surprise that antiques faires are wonderful sources of vintage furniture. From bedsteads to couches to odd stools, bureaus, and appliances, your local flea market should have you covered.

If you're looking to purchase furniture at a flea market, be sure to know the dimensions of the space for which this furniture is intended, and come equipped with measuring tape to make sure that you're not getting something inappropriate for your space.

Also check furniture for any scratches, water damage, rips, or other imperfections, as this will influence the amount of refurbishing you'll need to do and will also give you leverage from a bargaining standpoint.

Holiday Decorations

Vintage holiday decorations are surprisingly popular at flea markets, and you will find some booths and stands that specialize in them.

Often, these are more expensive items, so it is best to do online research before you come to the faire by searching for the general going price of these items on sites like eBay.  

Also, consider the timing with which you make your vintage holiday item purchases.  Prices tend to go up as holidays approach and get somewhat depressed when holidays have just passed.  If you plan ahead, you can use this timing to your advantage.

Vintage Toys and Games

Antiques faires and flea markets are chock full of old dolls, games, and toys.

While some of these things are collectors items, most are just... well, junk, so if you're looking to accrue valuable artifacts, you'll need to do your homework and know what you're looking for.  

You don't have to ignore toys and games if you're not a collector, however.  Consider the amazing scary appeal of old dolls; the campy value of vintage games; the odd feel of a child's favorite stuffed bear, dislocated over time and space.

All of these items could find new use in your life- either as interesting decorating elements, artistic inspiration, or novelty conversation starters and fun games to be used at an informal party with old friends. If nothing else, these items can provide a decent amount of amusement at the faire itself, so be sure to have a closer look.

Art and Decorative Elements

A great number of shoppers come to flea markets looking for interesting art for their homes.  Interestingly, art tends to be some of the more expensive stuff at antiques fairs; prints being especially steep.

For this reason, again, it helps to do your homework if you are seriously interested in making a big purchase.

If you're looking for art but don't want to pay steep prices, consider other items at the faire - from discarded family photos to old magazines and odd bits of machinery - as alternatives.  When framed or mounted in an interesting way, these elements could make a far more fascinating impact than any old print or painting.

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Replacement Parts

If you have an old or antique item that is broken, chances are you'll be able to find a replacement part at a flea market or antiques faire.  These places are brimming with not only parts but other broken items, so you'll either be able to find the element you need or an entire unit from which you can steal parts.

Common replacement-part-relevant items at flea markets include

  • Watches
  • Cameras
  • Dolls
Consider bringing the broken object of concern with you to the faire to make sure you get the right replacement parts!

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    • profile image

      Anatoliy 4 years ago

      Its so funny that you mentioned your "uniform." My frneid claims that I have a uniform as well and we refer to the look always as "the uniform." It began with a simple pair of skinny J Brand jeans (originally Paige, but I've since upgraded), American Apparel t - shirt and Chuck Taylors (then, Sue London flats, but those wear quickly). Now, it includes denim cutoffs for when its hot, a hoodie for when its cold...mix and match and never any color.

    • profile image

      athian wilson pa. 4 years ago

      love fla. flea markets finding unique decorating items to decorate the manufactured homes i sell people stop to get ideas. love to use animal themes with unusual kitchen canesters, rugs,wall hangings etc. lots of fun!

    • Simone Smith profile image
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      Simone Haruko Smith 6 years ago from San Francisco

      Whoah! I wouldn't expect to see wheelchairs at flea markets! How cool!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 6 years ago from North America

      Some times we go to Gibralter Trade Center in Mt. Clemens, Michigan - 600K sq ft; every Fri-Sat-Sun. Lots of interesting things. A friend even got a new wheelchair, cheap.

    • Simone Smith profile image
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      Simone Haruko Smith 6 years ago from San Francisco

      Thanks Ebower! Whether creepy, fascinating, or just downright hilarious, vintage toys are indeed cool.

    • Ebower profile image

      Erin Bower 6 years ago from Georgia

      One man's trash is another man's treasure! I really love the picture of the giant troll. The vintage baby doll looks a little creepy, but I think any old toys are cool. I voted this up and interesting!

    • Simone Smith profile image
      Author

      Simone Haruko Smith 6 years ago from San Francisco

      Whoah- that sounds incredible!!

      And WHAAAT?? Guitars? Really? That's incredible! I'll amend my Hub to mention that- crediting you, of course!

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 6 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      Flea markets are a treasure. So far as I know the one near by in Canton, Texas "First Monday" is the largest Flea Market in the entire world. It's about 30 miles East of me, and represents the weekend of the First Monday of every month.

      . . . . .But Simone. . . GUITARS are what you go to such places to find! I swear - sometimes for a $50 spot you can score a thousand dollar instrument. . . not that I'd ever take advantage of anyone. . .but. . .

    • Simone Smith profile image
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      Simone Haruko Smith 6 years ago from San Francisco

      Thanks so much, fastfreta! I really hope to do more furniture shopping at flea markets someday - the prices are great and all the furniture is so interesting!

    • fastfreta profile image

      Alfreta Sailor 6 years ago from Southern California

      Oh I love flea markets, furniture is my favorite thing to find at them. Loved this hub Simone.

    • Simone Smith profile image
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      Simone Haruko Smith 6 years ago from San Francisco

      That's so cool, imatellmuva! I've been in the market for some floor cushions myself- I'll have to visit my local flea market again and see if I might duplicate your lucky find!

    • imatellmuva profile image

      imatellmuva 6 years ago from Somewhere in Baltimore

      You're right on Simone Smith...the Flea Market is a happening place! There are quite a few where I live, both indoor and out, and I love them all.

      I wanted large floor pillows for my living room, but couldn't find any affordable, went to the flea market and bought sofa cushions. Yup!! This dude had sofa cushions, but no sofa!! I made covers for two, and bought covers for the other two (discounted of course). The pillows are AWESOME!!!!

    • Simone Smith profile image
      Author

      Simone Haruko Smith 6 years ago from San Francisco

      It definitely is! I hope you can check yours out one of these weekends - flea markets are fabulous for people and object-watching alike!

    • angela_michelle profile image

      Angela Michelle Schultz 6 years ago from United States

      There is a flea market that is close by I've always wanted to go to. Someday I hope to go. I heard it's just a really really neat experience.

    • Simone Smith profile image
      Author

      Simone Haruko Smith 6 years ago from San Francisco

      I know exactly what you mean! Hence my pith helmet... @_@

    • schoolmarm profile image

      schoolmarm 6 years ago from Florida

      I have a huge flea market near my house that I love to visit. I almost always find something I don't need at a price I just can't resist!