What is an Antique Flea Market?

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

When it comes to selling unwanted household items, a traditional garage sale or yard sale will usually suffice. Some people may choose to display their wares at an open air flea market or consignment store. However, collectors of genuine antiques and other valuable collectibles often rent booths at a specialized venue known as an antique flea market.

Comics can be found at flea markets.
Comics can be found at flea markets.

An antique flea market is a shopping venue in which antique dealers rent booth space in order to sell genuine antiques and collectibles. Instead of offering a box filled with vinyl albums from the 1980s, for example, a vendor at an antique flea market may sell carefully preserved 78 rpm records from the 1920s. Decorative glassware may be from the 1880s instead of the 1970s at an antique flea market.

Some great deals can be found at antique flea markets.
Some great deals can be found at antique flea markets.

One reason many antique dealers and collectors prefer to sell their goods at this type of flea market is the informal atmosphere. Collectors are free to browse through others' booths in search of a hard-to-find collectible or a rare piece of an incomplete set. Trading and bartering among vendors is often encouraged at an antique flea market, unlike many traditional antique stores.

Old quilts may be for sale at an antique flea market.
Old quilts may be for sale at an antique flea market.

Many customers prefer to browse for antiques and collectibles at specialized flea markets instead of rummaging through boxes and boxes of mundane household items. Professional antique dealers often bring a portion of their collections from their regular stores to an antique flea market in order to generate more business. If a collector likes what he sees at a booth, he may want to visit the booth owner's store for even more interesting items.

Traditional garage sales will suffice when a person wishes to get rid of unwanted household items.
Traditional garage sales will suffice when a person wishes to get rid of unwanted household items.

Generally speaking, the operator of an antique flea market rents selling space to individual vendors, but he or she is not responsible for the authenticity or condition of the merchandise. Sometimes the owner of the flea market will act as an agent for vendors who cannot attend their own booths, and may even have his or her own merchandise on display throughout the store.

Vendors at an antique flea market often specialize in a certain era or type of antique.
Vendors at an antique flea market often specialize in a certain era or type of antique.

There may also be a consignment arrangement between the operator and an individual vendor, which means that part of the sale goes directly to the seller and another part remains with the owner of the flea market, generally to defray operating expenses. Some antiques dealers may negotiate prices with customers, while others price their wares according to current market conditions. Vendors may also offer significant discounts at their own discretion.

Antique picture frames may be found at a flea market.
Antique picture frames may be found at a flea market.

An antique flea market can be a very fascinating place to visit, since vendors tend to bring an eclectic mix of merchandise they believe will sell quickly. Pop culture collectibles such as comic books, lunch boxes and vintage toys may sit next to traditional antiques such as furniture and glassware. Most vendors are very knowledgeable about their merchandise, and most customers can find at least one affordable collectible or antique to take home.

Antique dishware may be found at flea markets.
Antique dishware may be found at flea markets.
Antique jewelry may be sold at a flea market.
Antique jewelry may be sold at a flea market.
Old books might be found at an antique flea market.
Old books might be found at an antique flea market.
Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

A regular wiseGEEK contributor, Michael enjoys doing research in order to satisfy his wide-ranging curiosity about a variety of arcane topics. Before becoming a professional writer, Michael worked as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

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Discussion Comments

istria

I always go to antique flea markets during Halloween to shop for costumes. They are the best places to shop for Halloween and costume parties, and you can barter with the booth owners. Even if you already have a costume, you can usually find some costume jewelry or props to accessorize your costume. The goods you find here are also much more authentic than most of the costumes you can find in stores.

Babalaas

I live in Phoenix, and we have a ton of antique flea markets spread across the valley. They are fun places to just take a walk and kill some time. Everything in these places is like a blast form the past, bringing back nostalgic memories of childhood days.

They are also a great place to get unique items to make nice homemade gifts. Last year I went to one of these places and bought an old elixir bottle from times past, and made a great Valentine’s Day card for my girlfriend. I wrote a nice letter on some hand-made paper and stuffed it in the bottle tied with a piece of string. I added a little sand to the bottom of the bottle. The bottle even came with an old weathered cork that I fitted in the bottle and voila, I had the best Valentine’s Day card ever, all for less than ten dollars.

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