Wheelin' and Dealin': The Art of Antiquing

It feels good for me to be back at antiquing. I come from a long line of antique dealers. One of my maternal aunts owned an antique store for over thirty years, while another maternal aunt kept a booth in a bustling antique mall located in a large city. I started the habit as a young bride in the late 1970s, and would later find mutual friends who also shared the same love of "junquing." Saturday mornings were made for grabbing a cup of coffee and heading out to find treasures. We would stay local or take a day trip out of town, and even a long weekend in the spring checking out one of the largest antique shows in America on the west coast.

Then divorce happens and who has time to go junquing when you need to slip into the single survival mode with two jobs and college classes? When a close friend said to me, "I miss the person that I first met. When we met you were into antiquing and collecting, and then you stopped." I had to think about this for a while. I missed "me," too. I did miss the art of the "hunt." The buried treasure. Something "new" (but old) and pretty on my shelves. However, I didn't want anything else in my house to dust. What to do - - what to do? Finally, it dawned on me - - buy stuff to sell. Buy what I like and would enjoy having in my home, but buy with the intent to sell - - and that is what I am doing.

Love of Junk*

Pop-up flea markets have become the newest thing. Actually, they have always been around, but more people are paying attention to them. We are now into collecting things that never went out of style: country primitives, art deco, retro, shabby chic, and now we are "upcycling." Upcycling is making use of the former rusty, the broken and bent, and the homely; then giving it some love with a fresh new purpose or design. Television shows like Chip and Joanna Gaines' Fixer Upper leave us wanting for more. The only thing that I see differently now is the behavior of the buyers. A little flea market etiquette can go a long way, and sometimes can even help you score the deal.  Here are some handy tips, or more like some tough love:

1.) First and foremost, have fun. Remember, this is fun! There is no time for being rude to vendors and other customers. If you don't like crowds then find a time to visit when you think it will be quieter or just stay home. There is nothing at a flea market that you really "need." Just remember the basic differences between "need" and "want." Just slow down, relax, and enjoy. What was purchased before you got there, you will never know about it. Or as we use to say, "It wasn't meant to be mine." 
 Love of Junk*
2.) Plan ahead. Wear comfy clothes and shoes and dress accordingly to the weather. If it's a bit cloudy, pack some light rain gear. Pack a measuring tape, a pen and paper (small notebooks are great), shopping bags, hand wipes, drinking water, and even picnic or snack food, unless you know there will be food trucks or booths available. Don't act all shocked if you cannot find a booth that is vegan-gluten-free-kosher and produced only by Franciscan nuns. Pack your own. If all the food that the vendors are serving is fried, give yourself a break and enjoy. Just tell yourself you will work it off with the laps you will take around the venue. 

3.) Dress for Success. Along with comfy wear, do don yourself in something distinctive so you don't blend in with the crowd. Why? Just in case your children or friends need to find you. We all have a way of separating from our tribe. Maybe a vendor remembered you liked something or you inquired about something. A hat or bright top or even just basic white, you will want to be seen. Or even push or pull a colorful wagon for your treasures. 
Love of Junk*
4.) Plan your bank. If possible bring cash and make it lots of small bills. Small bills will also give you a better edge when haggling. A wise old antique vendor once told me that when haggling, haggle according to the change in your pocket and don't expect change back. Confused? If you found a $20 item but want to haggle it down to $15. Then you better have the correct change of $15 in your pockets, and not give the vendor a $20 bill. You just asked the vendor to come down in price from his original $20 tag, and you want him to make the change, too? "Back in the day," when I was attending lots of fleas, debit/credit cards were not used. It was all cash only. Remember, if you use your cards, the vendor will lose some money on the bank transaction, so be mindful if you want to haggle, but the vendor may give you the price you want, but with an added $1.00 for the bank fee.  

5.) Make it a family day or spend it with special shopping friends? The answer is yes. Flea markets are a great way to spend a day with the family. What better way to get kids enthused about their own personal collections, to be outdoors and active, as well as maybe learn a little history, too. However, please be mindful of the little one's attention span, and when they become tired, please listen to them. It's time for a change of scenery with a cool drink and a little rest before the next go-around of visiting vendors. Believe that vendors and other customers do not want to hear crying and temper tantrums, not only from the child but especially a meltdown from the parent. Chances are other customers left their own kids' home for some "Adult RnR," so why do they want to listen to someone else's kids?
Love of Junk* 
6.) Just say no to bow wow. Leave them at home, and especially leave the four-legged fur babies home if the flea market lists, "No dogs allowed." Yeah, we get it. Your dogs are special. Your pooches are the exception. So are my two little girl woofers. They are very special, but they will be happier at home. Hey, we are on a mission here and we don't need to be hindered by stopping to give them treats, water, pick up poopy-pile-ups, and their leashes won't get tangled around a stack of glassware perched in stacks of precarious apple boxes or other customers won't be tripping over their leashes. And no matter what, do not leave the Woofer in the car during a warm day. You may come back to a broken car window - and yes, it is becoming legal in many states to bust a window to save an over-heated pet. 

7.) Get the lay of the land. In other words, read where you are going, who are the vendors, and know the days and times. Once you arrive, you will feel compelled to run through like a crazy person and buy and buy every little rusty and quaint thing you can find - - but don't - - if you can help it. View from afar. Take a quick jaunt around the venue. Grab a vendor map, if one is available, and stand back and soak it all in. Make notes, compare prices, and then go back around and this time with purpose and buy. You will be sure to be in a better position to find your best prices and bargains. 
Love of Junk*
8.) The art of haggling. Just be nice about it. As a vendor, I had a couple of recent incidents that surprised me, but then again nothing should surprise me anymore. Picture this: it was the first day of a show, and the show started at 9:00 am. The time was 9:15 am and a woman was interested in a new item I just put out for the show. First of all, she was way overdressed for a flea and looked like she came out of the dressing room of the original Neiman Marcus in Dallas, Texas. The item she wanted was marked $25 and she wanted to haggle me down under $20. When I told her it was the first time the item had been at a show, we were just into our first morning of a two-day show, therefore I wasn't quite ready to haggle on it. However, I did tell her if she wanted to come back the next day around noon and if I still had the item I would be happy to sell it to her for $20. Well, long story short, she became indignant and marched away griping to her friend outside of our tent that I wouldn't come down on the item. How dare me! Others could hear her gripe. Later, within a half-hour, another woman wanted to haggle on another $25 item. Again, I told her we were just half-hour into the show, it was a new item for the show, and I wasn't quite ready to haggle, which came about more indignity. The truth of the matter is if both women would have purchased several items I would have haggled with them on one or all items that I had from previous shows. Long story short, before noon I sold both of the items for full price  - - which I knew I would, as they were great and very popular items. 

Again. Be nice. It was later pointed out to me by another vendor, there is nothing wrong with finding a good deal. We all love a good deal, and as she pointed out, we also have to remember that the vendor is not in the business to lose money. We may have a lot of second-hand "junque" but it is our junque. We have made an investment in it. We have sought it out, purchased it, carted it to either our home or to our shop (sometimes both), often cleaned it up, and done some research on the pricing. The markups are often not huge. We pay a flea market vendor fee, and then we pack it up and cart it to a flea market with the hopes someone will not only buy it for our original asking price but give us some appreciation for our good eye. The best deals are to be made towards the end of the show, or in multiples. And again, a friendly reminder that if you are going to haggle, don't talk the vendor down from $40 to $10 and give them a $50 dollar bill and have them make the change. Give them a $10 bill. The same thing goes if you exhausted the dealer down to a bottom price of $10, and then give them a credit/debit card and make them work for that $10 on the merchant program. Give them a $10 bill - cash. Be prepared. 
Love of Junk*
9.) Did I mention eating and hydrating? Come on. Live a little. It's like being at the county fair. Eat all of the fried foods, and then do another lap around the show. Just don't forget to hydrate-hydrate-hydrate. Come on. You can do it and just think of all of the cool stuff you didn't see the first time around. 

10.) Be like Elvis and know how to leave the stadium. This is not the time to bring the Mini-Cooper. Bring a vehicle large enough to leave with all of your treasures. If you have rather large items, many vendors will gladly hold the larger "sold" items that you purchased from them until you are ready to pack them into your vehicle and leave. Also, do be mindful of "Do not park" signs. They do not say, "Do not park unless it's you there wearing the colorful shirt with the cutesy saying while loading the great old door." 

Now go home. Run along now, put your feet up, and relax. You did a great job!  You ate junk food all day as it is, so why bother cooking? Order in some salad! Enjoy the rest of your evening, and you have some great stories to tell, and most of all - - you brought home some of the coolest junque - - ever! 
Love of Junk*
*Photos from Love of Junk in Walla Walla, Washington, and taken by Glena Dunn, Publisher of The Country Register of S. NV and owner of Back in Thyme Antiques in Boulder City, NV.  Mark your calendars for  Fifth Annual in June, 2017  Summer 2023, June 16 - 17.


  1. So you're saying I can have a corn dog?! Fantastic!

    1. Yes! You can haz corn dog. Watch for the Corn Dogs of the World booth coming to a flea market near you.

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks! And thank you for stopping by. The photos are a great memory and thanks to Love of Junk!


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