Dear Lee,

There’s nothing I like better than going to a flea market. That sense of anticipation as you approach a field filled with tents and tables is amazing. From the beginning of our marriage, Ralph and I had fun exploring flea markets across the country and close to home, like the twice-a-year Burton Antiques Market in Ohio that we attended for decades and I still go to. I still have many of our “finds” in my house, including a wooden pedestal that holds plants in my living room.

With some advanced planning, your flea market experience can be successful and fun. Start by wearing something your companions can spot from a distance, like a bright red hat. You’ll be glad you do that because inevitably, you will get separated from your group. In the summer, bring sunscreen, checks and cash, just in case sellers don’t accept credit cards. It also helps when you want to try to negotiate the price.

Here are some other tips that will help maximize your success. And don’t forget to call ahead or check online to make sure the event is still taking place and to see if there are new rules or regulations for attending. If it’s far from home, reserve a room ahead of time nearby.

*  If you are looking for furniture, pictures or other large items, be sure to measure the spot that needs filling. Measure your doorways and stairs to make sure any furniture that you buy will fit through the doorways and up or down stairs. If you forget to take a ruler, a dollar bill is 6 inches long. If you are taking the furniture home, be sure it can fit in the car.
* If you want to buy a large, heavy piece, you might be able to get the dealer to deliver it for a low price or even free.
* If buying clothes, wear a form-fitting outfit so flea market outfits will slide on easily if you want to try them.
* Check for damage, fading, missing parts or tears in anything you want to buy.
* This is one of my favorite tips: Bring batteries if you are looking at toys so you can make sure they work.
* Another great tip because it is so logical: Don’t buy a rug or coat or any fabric that has a smell. The odor will probably never go away.
* Look at marks, makers and signatures. You may find a famous maker. For jewelry, check for gold or sterling marks as well.
* Download an app like SitorSquat, ToiletFinder of Flush that tells where the nearest bathroom is.
* Don’t try to beat down the price by insulting the piece or the dealer. Admiration works better.
* No one wants to spend too much money for something. Bring the most recent Kovels’ Antiques & Collectibles Price Guide or search online at to help price and identify your finds.

Happy shopping! And Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

Terry Kovel

St. Patrick's Day postcard


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