Don't waste time searching through dusty bins for buried treasure. Vendors display their top finds in plain view. Here's how to make the most of your next treasure hunt.
Flea market objects
Credit: Charles Masters

Get on the vendor’s good side. If you regularly shop a market, visit the same booths over and over, says Chip Cordelli, a collector and a prop stylist in Brooklyn: “Once you develop a relationship with a seller, you can get better deals based on repeat business—and they’ll put aside items they think you’ll like.” If you only occasionally go flea-ing, make conversation with the vendor about your similar tastes and the history of the item you’re interested in before starting negotiations.

Don’t expect perfection. Flea markets sell secondhand items, so don’t point out a defect in the hopes of getting a discount. This implies that the vendor is dishonest, says Keith Johnson, a buyer-at-large for Anthropologie and the host of Man Shops Globe on the Sundance Channel.

Learn how to haggle. Many people get tongue-tied when negotiating, so keep it simple. Johnson suggests saying, “This is what I’m prepared to pay. Can you part with it for X dollars?” and give your starting price, which shouldn’t be a ridiculously low offer. “And never say, ‘I don’t want to pay that much—I really don’t need it,’ as though that will compel the seller to lower the price,” says Cordelli. “Merchants are more likely to discount items to people who are genuinely interested in their wares, so act as if you really want it rather than dismissing it as overpriced junk.”

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