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  • Writer's pictureMia Hable

Favorite Flea Market Finds

Summer is the season of flea markets, so before everyone heads back to school and time runs out, I decided to hit up the Sunday at Sandwich Antique Fair in Sandwich, Illinois. This antiques fair has made its mark as a great place to find some incredible deals for both collectors and casual visitors. Mastering the art of flea market shopping can be daunting if you have never been before. Booths are set up everywhere and its hard to know where to find the best stuff, so I have comprised some tips to navigate and some of my favorite finds to never pass up.

Arriving early is a must for antiquing. You will definately find some good pieces later in the day, but by arriving early (8:30, no later) you increase your chances of finding something incredible. The later in the day you arrive the higher the chance that someone else has snapped up your desired piece. Thats not to say you won't find something awesome at 3 pm, but you might have to use a little creative energy to see its full potential.

Make a plan before you arrive. Sit down and create a list of items you are searching for and a budget. So many booths and so much stuff can be over whelming, in order to make sure I am not distracted I create a list of items that will work for me. Then I make a budget and stick to it! Cash is king when antiquing and to make sure I don't overspend, and give myself the best negotiating tactics I always bring cash.

Once you are at the market, look high and low, have fun and dig around. Some of my favorite pieces have been hiding under tables or other pieces. Don't be afraid to think outside the box or rather inside boxes. Sometimes cool things can be found inside boxes that are used as storage containers for the vendor, ask if you can take a peak inside and I'm sure they will oblige.

Let's tackle the art of haggling. This is fun and can be the part that causes people to break out in a sweat. Heres your biggest and most obvious tip: be respectful. If you find something you love look at the price, but also look at surrounding pieces that are similar. Make note of any defects, decide how much you are willing to pay and then ask the vendor for their best price ( you never know it might be lower than you think.) If it is still not as low as you want, feel free politely point out any defects and counter. Cash will give you a leg up in negotiations. Offer the cash you have on hand, often I like to take out the cash I am willing to pay and put it in my pocket before negotiations even begin. If you find multiple things from the same vendor bundling items will also give you a better deal. I found books, an apple basket and stoneware all from the same vendor and bundled it for $30, what a great deal!

Whenever I am at an antique fair there are several things I look for that I can't seem to pass up.

1. Creative Storage: Find baskets, boxes, tool chests or galvanized buckets that are pretty but also functional. You can hide any number of toys or extra throw pillows or blankets in these adorable items. Your home will look uncluttered and cute while you still have access to the things you use daily.

2. Vintage Fans: These are a stylish way to stay cool and add a little industrial charm to your decor. I like to find ones that actually work. They are a little more expensive that those that are more or less just for show. I find that the added functionality is worth it. If you have an amazing air conditioner, no need for a working fan and you just like the look; feel free to point out that the fan is inoperable and haggle your way down to a great price!

3. Vintage Books: As a hardcore bibliophile, I love both the look and smell of old books. These small items can make a large impact on your shelves and tables. I like to look for ones with blue, green or cream covers, so that that can be used in many of my stagings, but feel free to mix it up and buy any colors you like. Or for a different look face them backwards so that you only see the pages not the bindings. If you have seen Fixer- Upper than you know Joanna Gains is the queen of vintage book styling, as it is my life's goal to be her, I grab all the books I can carry.

4. Collectibles: I always like to find some small item that can be part of a collection. This can be anything you desire. Some people love blue Ball canning jars, others plates or rolling pins. I am partial to door knobs. Yes, old door knobs that will not fit a single door in my house. I just love how intricate and fun they can be. They come in all shapes and materials ranging from wood to porcelain. I keep mine in a glass bowl so that they can be seen. Find what works for you and display it proudly!

5. Stoneware: Stoneware crocks come in many sizes and are in my opinion perfect for holding cookies, flowers or kitchen utensils. They are usually glazed in cream and blue and have the makers mark or signature on them; this will let you know where it was manufactured, giving you a story and a fun storage piece.

6: Furniture: If you are shopping for large pieces of furniture bring your measuring tape. You want to be sure it will not only fit in your home, but in your car as well. I am partial to finding chairs. They are often less expensive than tables or dressers, easy to transport and if you can find a matching set a total win! Don't be afraid of a little work when it comes to furniture. Look for shapes rather than color. I like to re-stain or paint chairs and reupholster them in more modern fabric. You will be shocked at how different a piece of furniture can look with a little elbow grease and imagination. Be aware of the additional costs that comes with refurbishing a piece of furniture, take that into account when negotiating your price.

There you have the ins and outs of negotiating a flea market or antique fair. If you want some incredible deals and find it a thrill to hunt for the perfect thing, find a place near you before October or you will have to wait until next summer. If you wait, no worries, Vendors will spend the winter months picking out all new items for the next round. I know I will be back and I might just see you there!

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